As the COVID-19 crisis continues to drag on, fewer Americans are taking measures to reduce the spread of coronavirus.
During the early days of the pandemic, people in the US were more careful about wearing masks as well as avoiding public places and gatherings.
So-called ‘pandemic fatigue’ is taking hold and the public is findings that following the guidelines are becoming more and more of a challenge.
Recent polls have shown that Americans are more likely to visit stores and restaurants, feel the pandemic is ‘getting better’ and are less worried about contracting the virus,
However, experts say this fatigue is helping fuel the new surge in coronavirus cases and that, if they are not brought under control, it could have serious consequences.
On April 12, 84% said they were avoiding small gatherings with friends or family and 79% said they were avoid public places compared to 47% and 53%, respectively, in late September
Less than half of US adults, or 47%, said the crisis is ‘getting worse,’ which is down from 61% in mid-August (above)
In September, 49% adults said said they were very or somewhat worried about contracting COVID-19 compared to 58% in June
On Sunday, the US set a record-high when the seven-day average of daily new cases reached 68,767, according to Johns Hopkins University.
That’s the highest number seen since late July when the nation recored a seven-day average of 67,293 infected.
‘To me, the biggest issue here probably is just pandemic fatigue,’ Dr Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health. told TODAY on Monday.
‘I think people are getting tired of the restrictions and also we’re seeing a lot of let-down in the policies – opening up fo some bars and restaurants in states.’
Weekly Gallup polls conducted between March and September found that mask-use outside the home has increased significantly.
On April 12, just 51 percent of respondents said they wore face covering compared to 91 percent on September 27.
However, other measures have seen a decline.
On March 15 – four days after the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus a pandemic – only 23 percent of respondents said they were avoiding small gatherings with friends or family.
By April 12, this figure shot up to 84 percent – and has been falling ever since. In mid-May, this number fell to 65 percent, then to 52 percent in late June.
As of late September, just 45 percent said they were not attending family gatherings.
Similarly, at the start of the pandemic, about one-third of respondents said they were avoiding public places such as stores and restaurants.
Less than a month later, in early April, this figure surpassed three-quarters. However, as of September 27, just 53 percent of people reported the same behavior.
Other Gallup polls seem to indicate similar patterns of fatigue.
One survey found that Americans’ outlook for the coronavirus pandemic has become less negative.
Less than half of US adults – 47 percent – said the crisis is ‘getting worse,’ which is down from 61 percent in mid-August.
Additionally, 53 percent of Americans said they are very or somewhat worried about contracting COVID-19.
This is a drop from about 59 percent who reported similar feelings in June.
Dr Jay Maddock. a professor of Public Health at Texas A&M University, says that because human beings are naturally social creatures, endless social isolation has taken a physical and mental toll on Americans.
‘Public health experts often advocate a harm reduction approach for behaviors where abstinence is not feasible – it’s a way to minimize but not eliminate risk,’ he wrote in The Conversation.
‘Crowds and large gatherings still need to be avoided. If Zoom and other video chats have grown stale, hosting your own small get-togethers is a possibility.
‘Be aware, though, that while there are ways to minimize the dangers, socializing in a group comes with risks. Remember, your get-together is only as safe as your riskiest friend.’