Pandemic fatigue can be a death sentence

by Emma Maple | Staff Writer

The first couple weeks of college, COVID-19 restrictions drove me insane. I was in a new place. I didn’t know anyone. Social distancing made it hard to build relationships with the girls on my floor. My primary love language is touch, and I longed to greet people with a handshake or give my girls a hug. But the pandemic was on the forefront of everyone’s minds. We didn’t want to be the one to spread COVID-19 and get us all sent home.  

Fast forward to this week. When I see my girls in the hall, I give them a hug. My “crew” is much larger than 20 people. We don’t attend large gatherings or disobey state-wide laws, but there are some smaller university policies that we don’t obey. We aren’t breaking these rules because we no longer care about COVID-19. It’s just that, like so many other people, we’re too used to the idea that we’re living in a pandemic.

This is the threat of pandemic fatigue.

As people get used to the idea of a life-threatening disease in the air, they don’t follow the rules as closely. Suddenly, COVID-19 isn’t a novelty. For many people, COVID-19 isn’t personal, so they forget about it. “As individuals go for months and months without personally experiencing illness, they may alter their subjective view of personal susceptibility,” said Robin Pickering, an associate professor of health science at Whitworth. “This may be especially true if they don’t witness the impacts of illness firsthand.”

The result is that people wash their hands less, forget to put on masks and don’t social distance as well. “I think people are just tired,” Pickering said.

Now is not the time to get lax on following social distancing guidelines. According to AP News, as colder weather sets in, we’re all brought indoors. This drives up the potential for COVID-19 to spread. We’re already seeing evidence of this. COVID-19 cases are going up– in the nation, in Spokane and in Whitworth. For three weeks, there were zero positive cases for Whitworth’s on-campus students. On Nov. 11, that streak was broken.

The positive cases in Washington are also growing. According to the New York Times, on Mar. 1 there were 17 new COVID-19 cases in Washington. On Nov. 14, there were 1,429 new cases.

On June 1, Gov. Jay Inslee began the plan of slowly reopening Washington state. This included looser restrictions on restaurants, movie theaters and other popular gathering places. But the cases kept growing. On Nov. 15, Inslee tightened restrictions on social gatherings. As The Seattle Times wrote, “The constraints on everyday life will be as extreme as anything the state has seen since Inslee issued an emergency stay-home order in March.”

These restrictions should serve as a reminder of how serious this pandemic is, but so many people forget why we need to be cautious. So many people forget why COVID-19 is a big deal. So many people forget that COVID-19 is killing people every single day.

“I think we really need to be hyper vigilant right now,” Pickering said.  We need to do our part to protect others. We need to remind ourselves and others why this is a big deal. We need to not grow lax regarding the precautions that are in play. It is everyone’s responsibility to do their part and gently remind others to do theirs as well.

Nothing justifies disobeying rules that protect against a disease that has killed thousands.

We need to do our part to save lives, not take them.

Those who forget history are bound to repeat it.