Doctors warn against college students who want to contract COVID-19 to 'get it over with'

NOW: Doctors warn against college students who want to contract COVID-19 to ’get it over with’

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) - Staff at UW-Madison sent a message to students after hearing what they call a ‘concerning belief.' Students may be intentionally contracting COVID-19 to “get it over with.”

Dr. Jeff Pothof with UW-Health says the belief that getting COVID-19 just to “get it over with” is short sided and absurd, he says there’s no guarantee COVID-19 will treat you kindly.

“It almost breaks my heart that people get that mentality in their mind because they don’t know that they’re playing with fire,” said Dr. Pothof.

CBS 58 took to UW-Milwaukee students to see if this message is something they’ve heard among their peers in the area. Some UW-Milwaukee students say they have heard it said, while others say no way.

“I mean I’ve heard people joke about it, but hopefully no one’s serious,” said UWM student Justin Smith.

“None of my friends or anyone I’m associated with has said that,” said another student, Jared Brown.

Whether or not they have, most agree they don’t want to contract COVID-19.

“I definitely wouldn’t want it because you’re limited in what you can do,” added Smith.

“It doesn’t make sense,” said Aparna Deshmukh, a UWM student.  

Christina Olstad, dean of students at UW-Madison, said in a message to students:

“I also want to address a concerning belief we’ve been hearing – intentionally contracting COVID to “get it over with” is unsafe and irresponsible.”

Olstad added as of Friday, UW-Madison has “completed or is currently investigating nearly 450 students and nine student organizations for public health violations.”

“Certainly have heard the rumors from colleagues across the state about the ‘getting over it’,” said Darren Rausch, health director at Greenfield Health Department.

Area health experts say while college students may not get as sick, they are more likely to spread COVID-19 because they don’t live in isolation.

“When they go home they expose and potentially give COVID-19 to family members,” adds Rausch.

Doctors say long-term effects are also still unknown.

“Kidney effects, skin effects, certainly neurological effects with fatigue, loss of smell, loss of taste, and these don’t necessarily resolve within a week or two weeks,” said Dr. Ben Weston, Milwaukee County Office of Emergency Management.

“Some young healthy people who had no business at all getting very sick or dying from COVID-19 are no longer with us,” adds Dr. Pothof.

Some students say they just want to do their part so they can get back to in-person classes sooner.

“I mean I’m still trying to go to school, I’m bummed all my classes got moved to online but yeah, I feel like it’s kind of ignorant,” said Brown.

“I’m trying to do my part and just make sure to stop the spread,” says Vinny Miller, another UWM student.

Doctors say there is still a lot to learn about COVID-19, and at this point they don’t know yet whether getting COVID-19 would provide long lasting immunity.

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