May 12, 2020

WELL, YES: Quarantine Fatigue Is Real And Shaming People Won’t Help.

#StayHome had its moment. The United States urgently needed to flatten the curve and buy time to scale up health-care capacity, testing, and contact tracing. But quarantine fatigue is real. I’m not talking about the people who are staging militaristic protests against the supposed coronavirus hoax. I’m talking about those who are experiencing the profound burden of extreme physical and social distancing. In addition to the economic hardship it causes, isolation can severely damage psychological well-being, especially for people who were already depressed or anxious before the crisis started. In a recent poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation, nearly half of Americans said that the coronavirus pandemic has harmed their mental health. . . .

But the choice between staying home indefinitely and returning to business as usual now is a false one. Risk is not binary. And an all-or-nothing approach to disease prevention can have unintended consequences. Individuals may fixate on unlikely sources of contagion—the package in the mail, the runner or cyclist on the street—while undervaluing precautions, such as cloth masks, that are imperfect but helpful.

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