Sunday marked the end of Kentucky’s most-infectious week since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Gov. Andy Beshear. The state’s coronavirus dashboard recorded 9,335 new cases between Oct. 19-25.
Across the river in Ohio, new diagnoses shattered the state health department’s 24-hour record multiple days in a row. The daily record jumped from 2,039 to 2,858 between Oct. 14-24.
The story is the same throughout the United States, which recorded over 83,000 new cases on Friday alone.
Some experts attribute the cause to “COVID fatigue” — a state of psychological exhaustion in which Americans attempt to return to pre-pandemic normality despite the risk to their own safety.
“They just want life to be different,” said Cincinnati-based psychologist Stuart Bassman. “And as a result of that, they have moved from being careful to careless, and thus we have a spike in the number of cases of COVID-19.”
According to Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, most of his state’s new cases come from small, relaxed gatherings of family and friends, rather than from large events such as concerts or sports. In these situations, especially with trusted loved ones, participants let their guard down. They may remove their masks, get too close or skimp on hand-washing.
And they may contract or transmit COVID-19 to a loved one in the process.
It’s understandable that people feel worn down by months of quarantine, Bassman said. The pandemic is unlike anything most living people have ever experienced, and yearning for normality is — itself — normal.
But shirking safety measures will only make the pandemic last longer. Experts have already predicted a winter spike in the number of cases, hospitalizations and deaths as cold weather forces people indoors, where infection is more likely. Lax hygiene and distancing could intensify the spike.
Bassman encouraged people feeling the drag of COVID fatigue to try re-framing the way they think about their daily safety practices: Instead of chores, look at them as acts of service.
“If we were going to visit a family member in the hospital, would we take off our mask where we relax or go out?” Bassman said. “No. We would be scrupulous in terms of saying it's an act of love. I encourage people to be loving towards themselves and others.“