How Society Can Get Past COVID Fatigue

BALTIMORE, MD, August 1, 2022 – New audio is available for media use featuring Kimia Ghobadi. She is the Johns C. Malone Assistant Professor in Civil and Systems Engineering at Johns Hopkins University. She is a member of the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) and the Malone Center for Engineering in Healthcare. She speaks about how society and get past COVID-19 fatigue. This content is made available by INFORMS, the largest association for the decision and data sciences. What follows are 4 questions and responses. All sound should be attributed to Kimia Ghobadi. These responses were provided on July 29, 2022.



Question 1: How would you describe pandemic fatigue in the summer of 2022 this far into the pandemic?

Time Cue: 0:31, Soundbite Duration: 1:25

“So, we're now more than two years into the pandemic and during this time our understanding of the disease, how to mitigate and prevent it, and also our response and guidelines, have changed. So, with this type of prolonged and evolving pandemic, some fatigue is natural. Although this fatigue has been heightened with a number of other reasons, too. Including the impact on the economy that we are also experiencing right now for multiple reasons, high politicization of the response and that includes vaccine hesitancy, and some of the mixed messaging that is coming from the authorities are these in terms of what the pandemic is and how to respond to it.  So, combining all of these we’re experiencing some fatigue - pandemic fatigue, and this is both the COVID-19. For instance, we're going through a phase of increased number of cases, but not a lot of the guidelines have changed. And also for other outbreaks, for instance Monkeypox among them. So, there's a little bit of a situation in responding and adopting public health measures for all of these.”  



Question 2: What are the potential risks when a population experiences pandemic fatigue like this?

Time Cue: 1:58, Soundbite Duration: 1:23

“It can create an even more prolonged pandemic and lead to even more fatigue, so it can create a vicious cycle. Then when the pandemic is prolonged further, it can lead to a number of things, one of them being that so we could have new strains that are more resistant that would require us to have a different strategy in combating the pandemic, and maybe even new vaccines as we have seen also. Another part of it is that it will increase some inequality in society for the more vulnerable population and also for anybody who has any underlying condition that cannot participate in societal activities the way that they were able to before.  There's another part to this that's with a fatigue in responding to pandemics that would hinder our response to other pandemics, future pandemics and outbreaks. And again, we are seeing some of it with as the Covid cases that are going up, and hospitalization and mortality rate is going up in the U.S. right now. We're not changing our behavior, and then there are other outbreaks or future pandemics including monkey pox. The way that we can respond to it can be hindered because of the current pandemic fatigue from COVID-19.”



Question 3: What strategies should policymakers and public health officials be considering to counter pandemic fatigue?

Time Cue: 03:30, Soundbite Duration: 1:42

“So, this needs to be a fine balance between data-driven public health measures and also the amount of disruption to life and the economy. So, it's not an easy question to answer, but some of the easier things to do is keeping with clarity and consistency of the messaging to the public to avoid confusion and flip-flopping. In terms of the decision-makers locally and nationally, providing them access to due to data-driven recommendations from experts. But ideally simple recommendations and not burdening them with too many “ifs” and details of the data.   And for those experts that will be helping with this recommendation enabling them with good and reliable data which has not been something that we have had access to throughout the pandemic consistently. So, all of these combined they could help devise a good public health measures. The other part of it is just encouraging good basic public health measures that we know that works, like handwashing, masking up when at elevated risk, isolating after exposure, and providing easy access to testing for anybody who needs it.  Vaccinations both for adults and children remains one of the main ways that we are combating the pandemic, so continued access to it, and de-politicizing it as much as possible, could really help with a pandemic as well.”



Question 4: How can we tell that society is starting to regroup and get past pandemic fatigue?

Time Cue: 05:24, Soundbite Duration: :59

“It would be hard to measure individual responses, for instance voluntarily masking or if somebody is washing their hands, but there are things that we could measure on the societal level in a more general way. For instance, the rate of vaccination is an easy way to look at it and know what the public's response is.  Also, any demand for testing could also be an indicator of how careful the but the public is being, and how they are responding to the pandemic. But we can also look at how the pandemic is progressing in the society. The better response should mean that we are able to curb the pandemic a little bit more. So, looking at things like the number of cases that we're having, the hospitalization, the  number of ICU patients, and mortality rate.  Those are good ways to know if we have been able to combat the pandemic, and a lot of it would be from the public.”

How Society Can Get Past COVID Fatigue

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