Local researchers discuss dangers of ‘pandemic fatigue’

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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – As COVID-19 cases continue to climb in Oklahoma, researchers say people all over the state could be getting “tired” of taking precautions. 

It’s called ‘pandemic fatigue.’

“I think everybody is frustrated and everybody wants to socialize and get back to their lives and take off the masks and all of those kinds of things, we’re just not there yet,” said Dr. Eliza Chakravarty with the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation. 

Researchers worry that many Oklahomans could or already are “giving up” based on their human nature to minimize risk over time. 

“Now we’re six, seven months in and we are far from back to normal in fact in some ways things are even worse,” said Dr. Chakravarty. 

While we tire of the virus, it doesn’t tire of us. 

“The danger is that we’ll get lax, we’ll forget our masks and we’ll think oh if I just go to the grocery store really quick without a mask it’ll be okay,” she said. 

Dr. Chakravarty says pandemic fatigue is not the only thing contributing to the spread, but it could be a factor especially for people who are asymptomatic. 

“That may increase the spread particularly in people who aren’t symptomatic, and I think that’s one of the things that we really worry about is the spread is going on before someone gets symptomatic or in folks who never actually get sick from the virus but are still contagious,” she said. 

So, while we wait on a vaccine OMRF is working on, another means of protection is systemic viral testing programs or ‘surveillance testing.’

“It’s not an instead of masks and physical distancing it’s another layer,” said Dr. Chakravarty. 

It’s testing everyone in a community, whether they show symptoms or not, so those who are infected can quarantine. 

Dr. Chakravarty says right now surveillance testing is only happening in small communities, like OMRF, but it’s another layer of protection. 

What we need to successfully expand it, is cheap and quick tests. 

“If we all do it it’s another measure by which we may be able to contain the virus,” she said. 

She reminds us all fight the fatigue. 

There is a light at the end of the tunnel. 

“This pandemic will go away. It will end, all major infections have ended and if we all do our part to speed it up, we’re all in this together, we’re all kind of commiserating together,” she said. 

We did reach out to the Oklahoma City-County health department to see if they have pinpointed where the virus is spreading. 

They tell us the virus is so widespread right now, they aren’t pinpointing any specific locations. 

Data is also showing widespread in all ages, versus the larger case rates we’ve seen in the 18-39 age group. 

For more information on pandemic fatigue and surveillance testing visit the Johns Hopkins Medicine website.

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