Erin, my daughter’s friend, is in the first wave to get the Pfizer Covid vaccine here in Idaho.
She’s on the front lines working as a nurse practitioner in the cardiology unit at our local hospital. I like her attitude. After getting the vaccine she laughed and offered to roll all over her friends to help them with herd immunity. Lucky Erin. This vaccine can’t come quick enough, not only to stave off further infections, but many people are experiencing the very real problem of Covid fatigue. They’re sick of dealing with the virus and either actively defying health restrictions or passively ignoring them.
“Oh Covid’s everywhere,” a woman told me matter-of-factly this past week. “My daughter and her husband had it. My grandson had a fever for a couple of days. It was no big deal. They all survived.” This woman is planning a large family gathering at Christmas.
That’s the thing about Covid: for most people it is no big deal. Some people are even asymptomatic, something that presented a problem in a school district near my home. National Public Radio reported that asymptomatic carriers in the Bruneau-Grandview school district in Idaho may have fostered community spread of Covid. Mask wearing is not popular among students, parents, or staff in this district, said NPR, and, “…there’s also this sense of, well, this is just how it is going to be.”
But the sense of inevitability, that we’re all going to get Covid, is not supported by the facts. After eight months of dealing with this pandemic, and probably largely due to preventative measures, only 5% of people in the U.S. have been infected according to statistica.com. So why are people being so fatalistic?
Throwing your hands in the air and giving up is one response to ambiguity, or as the Bruneau-Grandview Superintendent noted, the unpredictability of the Covid situation.
Here’s a virus that’s known to be deadly for the elderly, but occasionally kills young people. It’s often little more than a bad cold, but can send some people to the hospital fighting for their lives. There was no question in the Middle Ages if you became infected with the plague. Those infections resulted in fatality.
The maddeningly, arbitrary nature of the virus is at least partly responsible for our mixed responses to it. The reluctance to take Covid more seriously has been blamed on either lack of leadership from the White House, or the moral failings of people more concerned with their personal rights than their community responsibilities. But it’s difficult to bring out the Big Guns and always stand at the ready for months on end when the enemy is as unreliable as Covid.
When I taught school I had a front row seat watching human behavior, what motivated students and what did not. Also, what made students give up and quit trying. Later, in my role as an educational researcher I investigated reinforcement schedules, how to time rewards to keep students working and trying. Too much uncertainty in a situation or outcome, and students lost interest. It’s no different with this pandemic.
Finally, for some people the rewards for wearing a mask and social distancing has been too long in coming. They’re just tired of it all.
So am I. I’m tired of Covid too. I miss our movie group party this holiday season, and hugging my dear, elderly mother. I’d like my daughter to spend Christmas Eve night with us, but I’m not sure who she’s been around at work, and whether she’s been exposed. I thought about the situation we’re in the other day listening to some alternative rock music on the radio. The lyrics of one song said it all as far as I was concerned. The ironically named group, Vampire Weekend, sang: “I don’t wanna live like this, but I don’t wanna die…”