Young Winnipeggers say they’re trying to stop spread, but some ‘have trouble understanding’ COVID-19 risks

Bars and licensed restaurants in Winnipeg will be closing early this weekend due to new government regulations. 

The new rules, which came into effect earlier this week, are in part aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19 among young adults between the age of 20-29 — the age group that has the highest number of cases so far in Manitoba, according to provincial data.

Osani Balkaran is a 21-year-old rapper and producer in Winnipeg who was performing twice a week before the pandemic. That’s now stopped.

“Before COVID, if I wanted to go see people, I would go to a show. If I want to go see people now, I can’t see a bunch of people in one place. I stick to mainly just texting them,” he said.  

These days, he’s avoiding crowds and only performs on Zoom for fundraisers. 

For people in his age demographic, “Life isn’t that slow. You’re moving. You’re trying to get to a certain place,” he said. 

“People that I know that are in their 20s are super focused.… They are thinking about what they want to accomplish.”

But that drive to grow social networks and careers might be one reason why young adults have comparatively high rates of COVID-19, he says.

WATCH | Young adults on having the highest rates of COVID-19 cases:

Young adults speak on why people age 20-29 have the highest number of COVID-19 cases in Manitoba. 1:40

Beverley Fehr, a professor of psychology at the University of Winnipeg who studies relationships, agrees that drive for social interaction is part of the reason for the high case numbers among young adults. But she says the pandemic creates unique challenges for them, given where they are in their development.

“I think that the pandemic is particularly challenging for young people, when it’s a stage of the life span when social ties and social connection is really important,” she said.

“It’s also a stage in the life span when the research shows people are likely to feel lonely, and the conditions under which we’re living now certainly are ripe for people to experience loneliness.” 

Social pressures to grow networks, form relationships and have plans on the weekends make young adults more prone to feeling lonely, she says, and that has likely driven people in their 20s to take risks and go out to restaurants and bars. 

Young adults in the 20-29 age range also make up a large percentage of restaurant and bar workers, she said — all the more reason for them to be cautious.

And if young people are socializing, she strongly advises being very careful with alcohol consumption. 

“When people are under the influence of alcohol, it can be too easy to lose sight of safety issues and to just not wear that mask, or not sanitize your hands and so on.”

It’s vital for young people to stay in touch with friends and family, she says, but they should do so in safe ways — keeping lines of communication with each other open through social media, for example.

Risk extends to others

Young people engaging in risky behaviours should consider they danger they pose to those family and friends, says Manitoba’s chief public health officer.

There have already been cases of people in their 20s and 30s admitted to intensive care with COVID-19, Dr. Brent Roussin has said, but added on Thursday that “no one’s risk is their own.”

That’s a consideration for second-year university student Seraphine Crowe.

‘A lot of people have trouble understanding how serious everything is right now,’ said Seraphine Crowe, a second-year university student. (Jonathan Ventura/CBC)

She sees people gathering in large groups, but out of concern for her grandmother, she maintains visits with her friends on video chat.

“I definitely see on social media a lot of people going out, kind of, and even advertising that everyone should come out this week. And definitely people having large gatherings in their own spaces,” she said. 

“I think a lot of people have trouble understanding how serious everything is. I feel like now more than ever, it’s important to keep our distance from each other.”

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