We’re coming up on two years of living in a pandemic-affected world. At first, it seemed like things were getting better! But then, not so much. Over time, we’ve seen that at certain points, people have begun to let their guard down-not wearing their mask completely, semi-ignoring social distancing recommendations , and visiting more and more crowded public places.
If that’s you, you’re not alone. You’ve just been struck by pandemic fatigue.
Several months ago , I started writing this story as an important PSA to all who would hear. Though the statistics have changed, the message stays the same-don’t give up.
According to the World Health Organization’s European division, pandemic fatigue can be defined as a lack of motivation to follow “recommended protective behaviors.” Lately, in our nation, pandemic fatigue can be seen in those who are participating in riskier behaviors that increase the chances of getting COVID in favor of returning to life that seems a bit more “normal.”
However, no one really wants the pandemic to get worse than it is, or to get COVID. And, we’ve seen that these actions affect the spread of COVID in a very negative way.
So, with all that we’ve experienced, why are people continuing to do things beyond what’s safe right now? In an article with USAToday, behavioral health administrator Wendy Keller commented on this. “As a society we’re not great at delaying gratification – we want to feel good and we want to feel good now,” she states. For some, it’s easier to pretend COVID isn’t a factor rather than deny themselves the comfort they’re craving.
In addition to this, to get a better perspective on what pandemic fatigue means to the average young person I spoke with Anna Coffin-McKibben, an American college student who attends school in Philadelphia. When asked why she thought Americans were feeling demotivated, she responded, “Humans are social creatures, and we need to be around each other, even for the most introverted people. We were used to being around each other…when you close off all of these things (people) are used to, it can be upsetting. I just wanna go outside, ya’know? It’s the little things you miss.”
We’re all certainly craving the comfort and closeness that we found in days past. From a public health perspective, unfortunately, comfort has a strong correlation to Corona.
In interviews with VOX ATL, immunologist and microbiologist Dr. Andrea Love and public health scientist Dr. Jessica Steier were able to shed some light on this. Dr. Steier commented on how, earlier this year, it was very important to stop the spread as not doing so would increase the risk of variants. She also shared that the U.S. knew that countries with less control over the virus had more variants, and, unfortunately, now we’ve found ourselves in that position.
“From a public health perspective, when you have an infectious disease, it’s a collective responsibility,” Dr. Love states. “The behaviors of one person can ultimately affect other people. It’s like a giant group project…we all have to pull our weight to lower the spread. If people don’t follow mitigation strategies, this has the potential to drag on for longer.”
She continued, “We definitely need to have messaging around how this is a collective effort, how we’re all in this together. Some people will be receptive to that, some people won’t.”
But we should still be hopeful. There will come a time when the case rates are lower and when it’s safe to do more things. Let’s do our part to help that time come as quickly as possible. Wear your mask. Keep your distance. And, most importantly, stay safe.
For more information on guidelines for both vaccinated and unvaccinated people, visit the Center for Disease Control’s website.