By Aaron Allen, The Seattle Medium
Health experts are warning that the spread of COVID-19 among young people is something that we all should be concerned about. And while the numbers continue to rise, many young people are finding out the hard way that COVID-19 is real, and Antonio Stephens, a 28-year old grocery worker and aspiring real estate entrepreneur in Portland, is no exception.
A short time ago, Stephens headed to work for his graveyard shift. While at work Stephens began to feel sick. While it had been known throughout the store that a fellow worker had contracted the COVID-19 virus, it was the furthest reason in his mind that the virus could be the cause of his discomfort.
“I hadn’t been sick for almost thirteen years, so I thought at most it was possibly the flu because the symptoms were similar,” recalled Stephens.
Not feeling well, Stephens addressed the issue with his supervisor. They took his temperature, and at 98 degrees they decided to send him home. By the time he got home, Stephens’ temperature had risen to one-hundred and two degrees and he immediately called 911.
“I went home, showered and the body aches became severe and my temperature shot up from 100 degrees to 102 degrees as well as a terrible headache,” says Stephens. “I also began sweating as if someone poured water on me.”
“I called 911 and described my symptoms,” continued Stephens. “At that moment they sent an ambulance to take me to emergency where I was placed in quarantined room for several hours.”
Raised in the Pacific Northwest, Stephens went to Renton High school only to relocate and finish his high school career in Mississippi graduating in 2011 from Northeast Jones High School. He had dreams, like most young African American boys, of playing professional sports, but relocation curtailed that dream. Four months ago, looking for a new start and a new beginning Stephens moved to Portland, Oregon to begin a new life.
During the beginning stages of the virus the country was reeling from national protest and gatherings of thousands of people, particularly young people. During that same time, young people across the country were a bit careless in activities as they were under the impression that this disease targeted the elderly as the country was still learning about the virus.
Because of inconsistent information relating to the virus, Stephens, like many other young people in America, admits that he didn’t take the threat of the virus seriously.
“As a young person I didn’t take it seriously,” says Stephens. “I never get sick and didn’t think I would now.”
Recognizing the need to get the proper message to people under the age of 40, Dr. Jeff Duchin of the King County Health Department says that it is important for everyone, regardless of their age, to take this crisis seriously to protect one’s health in these dire times, especially younger populations who feel that they might not be vulnerable to the virus.
“Currently, King County is averaging approximately 130 cases of COVID-19 each day,” says Duchin. “Younger residents (those less than 40 years old) remain the largest proportion of cases in King County.”
“While younger people with COVID-19 are less likely to require hospital care, some will develop severe illness and we know that infections can spread from this younger group to older community members,” added Duchin.
Taking the advice of doctors, Stephens quarantined himself for 14 days.
During his quarantine, Stephens had to rely on his aunt, Julia Marshall, to help him. Marshall says that she helped her nephew in any way possible, including delivering groceries and other essential items that he needed.
“My experience with Antonio contracting the virus was at first Antonio was nervous and anxious, a bit scared, honestly not understanding what was going on with his body,” explains Marshall.
“Immediately I suggested let’s get your temperature and he listened and let’s take the advice of the doctors your seeing,” said Marshall.
Marshall says that Stephens is lucky because he caught it early, otherwise she believes that “it could have been worse than what it was.”
While Stephens did not experience all of the known symptoms associated with the virus like losing your sense of smell and taste or breathing problems, he did admit that his symptoms were pretty severe.
“I could still taste and smell, I could still breathe, but the body aches where very bad,” recalls Stephens.
As the COVID pandemic spread throughout all demographics most young 20-year-olds did not take it seriously enough and as Stephens discovered being young does not grant you immunity.
Stephens followed the advice of his physicians, he remained as calm as anyone could under these circumstances and through quarantine waited it out. Marshall in her diligence witnessed how her nephew handle this adversity.
“Anyone would be scared living alone at home and hearing about people dying from this virus,” says Marshall. “But he [Stephens] didn’t freak out, he held his composure and he did what he had to do. He listened to the advice and he followed instructions.”
Stephens is recovering now. His physicians have advised him, after his 14 days quarantine, to give another 72 hours as a “just in case” precautionary measure.
Antonio Stephens is blessed this day as he takes his healing a day at time. So many others, over 160,000 here in the US and over 700,000 worldwide, do not have this luxury and as Marshall put it, “young or not you just can’t always be in control. So, young people take it seriously.”