The head of the World Health Organization has sent a message to young people about the new coronavirus: “You’re not invincible.”
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus says health officials are continuing to learn about the virus that causes COVID-19 disease. He said older people are hardest hit but “younger people are not spared.”
He said data from many countries shows people aged 50 and under make up a “significant proportion” of patients who need hospitalization.
“Today I have a message for young people: You’re not invincible,” Tedros said. “This virus could put you in hospital for weeks or even kill you. Even if you don’t get sick, the choices you make about where you go could be the difference between life and death for someone else.”
He also advised people to be mindful of mental health at a time of rising anxiety about the outbreak, offering some suggestions.
“Listen to music. Read a book or play a game, and try not to read or watch too much news if it makes you anxious,” Tedros said.
The warning came as Illinois and New York state joined California on Friday in ordering all residents to stay in their homes unless they have vital reasons to go out, restricting the movement of more than 70 million people in the most sweeping efforts yet in the US to contain the spread of the coronavirus.
Exceptions were made for vital jobs and errands, such as grocery shopping and obtaining medicine, as well as exercise.
The increasingly drastic measures in the US came as gasping patients filled the wards of hospitals in Spain and Italy, and the global death toll surpassed 11,000, with the virus gaining footholds in new corners of the world.
Italy, the hardest-hit country in Europe, reported 627 new deaths Friday, its biggest day-to-day rise since the outbreak began, and said new cases also shot up. Italy now has seen over 4,000 deaths — more even than China — and 47,000 infections. The soaring numbers came despite a nationwide lockdown.
The World Health Organization noted the epidemic’s dramatic speed, pointing out that it took more than three months to reach the first 100,000 confirmed cases but only 12 days to reach the next 100,000. As of Friday, Johns Hopkins University counted more than 260,000 infections worldwide.
Across the US, governors and public health officials watched the crisis in Europe with mounting alarm and warned of critical shortages of ventilators, masks and other protective gear at home.
The majority of people with the coronavirus only experience mild symptoms like a fever, dry cough and fatigue, and recover. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.