Now is not the time to give in to ‘COVID fatigue’

Vaccines are on the way, but not for awhile

YOU’VE HAD TOO MUCH screen time on Zoom and Netflix. The tree is decorated, and daily Facetimes with the family have lapsed. Maybe you think it’s a good time to invite your neighbors over onto the porch.

 But wait. It’s freezing out, why not let them inside for a bit, share the fruits of this morning’s baking frenzy? You’ll keep your masks on (most of the time), and you’ve only been to Trader Joe’s once this week.

 Don’t do it.

 Most people are understandably starting to get “COVID fatigue,” and may be excited about the headlines indicating major drug companies like Moderna and Pfizer are seeking emergency use authorization for their COVID-19 vaccines from the US Food and Drug Administration. But the vaccine is still too far into the future to have an immediate impact on the expected surge of COVID-19 cases for the holidays, and the deaths that will follow.

 Massachusetts public health officials reported 4,613 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday, the largest single day total since the pandemic began.

 Gov. Charlie Baker said Tuesday the first doses of a vaccine are weeks away from arriving in Massachusetts, and most likely won’t be available to the general public until the spring.

 Massachusetts has seen nowhere near the amount of deaths it saw in the early spring, but it also hasn’t seen confirmed cases climbing this high in the past few months. There are other hurdles. Winter has arrived, and more people are gathering indoors and becoming lax about their precautions, like wearing masks and social distancing.

 People recently infected with the virus might also start taking liberties with the blessing of the feds. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have chosen to loosen restrictions on how long an individual must quarantine after being exposed to the virus, from 14 days to 7 or 10 days. That’s because scientists think people are most infectious in the first week of illness.

 But another major part of that decision is reducing financial difficulties for people who might be out of work while they’re sick, according to Dr. Henry Walke, incident manager for the CDC’s COVID-19 response.

 “Reducing the length of quarantine may make it easier to take this critical public health action by reducing the economic hardship associated with a longer period, especially if they cannot work during that time,” he said Wednesday.

Meet the Author

Sarah Betancourt

Reporter, CommonWealth

About Sarah Betancourt

Sarah Betancourt is a long-time Latina reporter in Massachusetts. Prior to joining Commonwealth, Sarah was a breaking news reporter for The Associated Press in Boston, and a correspondent with The Boston Globe and The Guardian. She has written about immigration, incarceration, and health policy for outlets like NBC, The Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, and the New York Law Journal. Sarah has reported stories such as a national look at teacher shortages, how databases are used by police departments to procure information on immigrants, and uncovered the spread of an infectious disease in children at a family detention center. She has covered the State House, local and national politics, crime and general assignment.

Sarah received a 2018 Investigative Reporters and Editors Award for her role in the ProPublica/NPR story, “They Got Hurt at Work and Then They Got Deported,” which explored how Florida employers and insurance companies were getting out of paying workers compensation benefits by using a state law to ensure injured undocumented workers were arrested or deported. Sarah attended Emerson College for a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Communication, and Columbia University for a fellowship and Master’s degree with the Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism.

About Sarah Betancourt

Sarah Betancourt is a long-time Latina reporter in Massachusetts. Prior to joining Commonwealth, Sarah was a breaking news reporter for The Associated Press in Boston, and a correspondent with The Boston Globe and The Guardian. She has written about immigration, incarceration, and health policy for outlets like NBC, The Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, and the New York Law Journal. Sarah has reported stories such as a national look at teacher shortages, how databases are used by police departments to procure information on immigrants, and uncovered the spread of an infectious disease in children at a family detention center. She has covered the State House, local and national politics, crime and general assignment.

Sarah received a 2018 Investigative Reporters and Editors Award for her role in the ProPublica/NPR story, “They Got Hurt at Work and Then They Got Deported,” which explored how Florida employers and insurance companies were getting out of paying workers compensation benefits by using a state law to ensure injured undocumented workers were arrested or deported. Sarah attended Emerson College for a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Communication, and Columbia University for a fellowship and Master’s degree with the Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism.

 There is still no solid economic stimulus plan from Congress that would ease the financial concerns of any workers hit hard by the virus who might want to get back to work sooner. It’s highly unlikely that Congress will approve another round of $1,200 checks before President-elect Biden takes office–the relief no longer exists in the three coronavirus packages being considered.

 With the economic woes of former shutdowns in mind, Baker said Tuesday there are no plans to implement closures or restrictions to stem the spread, which means testing, tracing, bolstering emergency care systems, and public vigilance will be key.

 Contact tracing issues have cropped up. There are testing deserts where no state-funded free test sites exist in areas of Massachusetts with rising case counts, and people are wary of out-of-pocket costs. The field hospitals are ready. The biggest wild card of all may end up being the bored person who just wants social interaction, and the decision they make next.