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Thursday, June 13, 2024

Wandering Americans suffering ‘quarantine fatigue” put themselves, others at risk

Beachgoers hit the beach and flock together instead of practicing social distancing in Huntington Beach, California. (Tommaso Boddi/Getty Images)

Are you suffering “quarantine fatigue?” Probably and, as more people see infections and deaths from the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic as something that happens mostly to other people somewhere else, there is more and more inclination to get out and do things.

“We saw something we hoped wasn’t happening, but it’s there,” Li Zhang, lead researcher, and director of the Maryland Transportation Institute at the University of Maryland said Friday. “It seems collectively we’re getting a little tired. It looks like people are loosening up on their own to travel more.”

Fewer people are obeying staying at home directives, especially as some states like George and South Carolina start allowing some businesses and public facilities to reopen.

Americans aren’t used to pandemics. The last one occurred more than 100 years ago and we don’t take orders to stay home, even if such recommendations are a matter of life and death.

With a president changing his mind time and again about when and how things might change and praises protests that he claims “liberate” those who flout the rules, American resolve to take the necessary steps to halt, or at least slow, the Coronavirus pandemic is starting to slide.

Researchers tracking cell phone use and movements showed more and more users taking more, and longer, trips from home. The feds are tacking more than 100 million smartphones, so they know when we leave home and where we go.

Trips from home have increased about 4 percent in the last week and virus infections and deaths are shifted upward in areas where this is happening.

“It all makes sense,” says Wilbur Chen, an associate professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. “If people are out and about, there’s more risk of transmission, and when there’s more transmission, you have more cases of hospitalization.”

This bothers George Rutherford, an epidemiology professor at the University of California at San Francisco. More people moving about when infections and deaths continue to rise is dangerous.

“We’re going to have to this carefully,” he tells The Washington Post, especially in states where politics, not science, start allowing businesses to open and ease restrictions. “Letting people decide for themselves because they’re bored is not a good way to do it. This is not the time to be letting up.”

The Post adds:

Experts have theories about why the week of April 13, the most recent data available, became a tipping point. Many homebound Americans hit the mental milestone of the fifth week, technically entering a second month, with no clear end in sight. Even with the boom in video calls and virtual cocktail hours, they say, feelings of loneliness and isolation continue to mount. Balmy spring temperatures also probably drew people out, particularly in warmer regions where a hot, sticky summer will soon descend.

It’s also no coincidence, they say, that resolve would begin to wane amid the Trump-supported protests, even as most Americans tell pollsters they support stay-at-home requirements.

Lorien Abroms, a public health professor at George Washington University, said it doesn’t help that the public has received “mixed messages,” including Trump’s “tacit support” of the protesters.

“I think the message is getting out that you can give in to your fatigue and say ‘It’s enough,’ ” Abroms said.

–The Washington Post

While promises to reopen come primarily from Republican governors egged on by Trump, one GOP state head, Gov. Larry Hogan of Maryland said he will “proceed with caution and make his decisions on science, not political pandering.

“We’re not going to do anything that’s going to put anybody in more danger,” Hogan told ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday. “I want to get our economy back open just as soon as we can, but I want to do so in a safe way so we don’t cause more deaths or an overloading of our health-care system.”

Hogan is working with Virginia Democratic governor Ralph Northam and the District of Columbia to track the virus and respond with the advice of medical and scientific experts.

Virginia, Maryland, and DC reported 54 new COVID-10 deaths Sunday, bringing the toll to 1,549 for the region, which also now has 35,436 cases.

Virginia saw more than 700 new confirmed cases of the disease, bringing the total in the Old Dominion to 12,970 with 448 deaths.

Gov. Northam has not budged from his stay-at-home orders or lockdowns, which are in place through June in most cases. Protests in Richmond brought small gatherings with many of them from out of state but have been cheered on by Trump and some Republicans in the General Assembly.

Polls, however, show most Virginians — and those living in most other states — support the restrictions and stay-at-home efforts.

White House coronavirus task force coordinator Deborah Brix told “Meet the Press” Sunday has social distancing will most likely remain a way of life at least through the Summer, just a few days after Vice President Mike Pence claimed, “will largely has this coronavirus epidemic behind us by Memorial Day weekend.”

These mixed messages leave many not knowing what they should do.

“It’s hard for me to know what I’d do,” says Emily Landon, chief infectious disease epidemiologist at the University of Chicago Medicine, when asked how those in states that are opening businesses and relaxing restrictions should respond. “I wouldn’t go. And I wouldn’t recommend that my family went. I would recommend that people stay home.”