Now Is the Worst Time for Covid-19 Fatigue

Scientists fear an exhausted nation will let down its guard just as cooler weather raises risk of a twindemic

Photo: picture alliance/Getty Images

Changing view of risk

Covid-19 fatigue is causing people to change their cost-benefit analyses, perhaps making more trips to the grocery store or planning a holiday gathering that would have been unthinkable in the spring. This is how our brains deal with risk, says Kaye Hermanson, PhD, a clinical psychologist and assistant professor at UC Davis Health. Imagine you’re in a car crash. The next time you drive, you’ll be anxious. But with each successful trip, your brain can unlearn the danger and you start to feel safer behind the wheel. This psychology works even on psychologists.

“We can only take so much.”

Not since WWII have Americans been asked en masse to endure so much behavioral change for the common good, psychologists say. And the majority of people have willingly adapted, polls show. Consistently across several weekly polls by USC Dornsife project, more than 90% of people say they wore a mask at least once in the past week.

Poised to rage

Respiratory viruses like the coronavirus need human hosts to survive. Cold and flu viruses hang out in small “reservoirs” during summer — a few infections here and there, waiting for the cooler temperatures they thrive in and for people to gather more frequently in enclosed spaces. Even in past flu pandemics, infection rates fell significantly during summer, says Stephen Kissler, PhD, an expert in immunology and infectious diseases at the Harvard School of Public Health.

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