Leibee: How COVID-19 affects populations differently

Katrina Leibee

Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by The Collegian or its editorial board.

Although we may be growing tired of hearing about COVID-19, it’s still the most relevant topic in our daily lives right now. It feels like every news story is about it or at least related to it, and every conversation seems to circle back to it. This is because the virus affects everyone — and it affects everyone differently.


Some Colorado State University students see it as the horrible virus that forced them out of their dorm rooms, postponed their graduation and made them move back home with their parents. It negatively affected their study abroad trips and other events they were looking forward to. However, there are populations we aren’t even thinking about that are affected differently by this pandemic.

One New York Times article details the struggles of the elderly population in Manhattan’s Upper East Side, where the community center that older people frequent canceled group activities. For lots of older Americans living alone, going to their community center where they can gather with others their age, taking walks through public spaces or running errands is a large percentage of their daily socialization and human contact. Without those options, they are truly isolated. 

The National Institute on Aging reports that some of the physical health effects of social isolation can include high blood pressure, heart disease and even a weakened immune system. The Pew Research Center said in 2019, “Americans ages 60 and older are alone for more than half of their daily measured time,” and this was before an outbreak required people to stay at home. 

Younger generations likely still have living spouses, kids that are coming home from college to stay with them and other ways of keeping up human contact. For the elderly population, the effects of this outbreak on their physical and mental health could be detrimental.

Another population affected differently by this — which could affect our CSU community — is the population of undocumented immigrants. USA Today reports that the United States currently houses 11 million undocumented immigrants. An undocumented immigrant experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 has to make the choice of getting medical care and possibly running into trouble with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Undocumented immigrants that go to the hospital fear questions about their immigration status or being asked for documentation or insurance that they don’t have. 

With so many jobs closed until further notice, many undocumented immigrants don’t have an employer’s or company’s health insurance, and if the government did give out financial support to Americans, they would not benefit. Economically, undocumented immigrants are at extreme financial risk, and they don’t have a lot of options for getting health care either. 

Anyone who doesn’t have access to health care at this time is a risk to everyone, as inadequate health care is what keeps an outbreak like this moving and spreading. Immigration Attorney Cesar Vargas said, “(Immigrants) are the ones bearing the full weight of this crisis.”


The unfortunate truth is that there are some populations that will experience the impact of a crisis like this more severely than others. This might be a time to think about what you can do for others if you are capable.

I have seen posts on the neighborhood app Nextdoor from teenagers and college-aged students who are offering to buy groceries for elderly people who don’t feel comfortable going into a grocery store. No one has to do this if they are not comfortable, but it’s a kind gesture. 

In a crisis like this, the best thing we can do for each other is to be kind and offer support where we can.

Katrina Leibee can be reached at letters@collegian.com or on Twitter @KatrinaLeibee.