What accounts for ‘quarantine fatigue’?

The civil disobedience movement, if you can call it that, is slowly spreading as the Great Isolation expands from days to weeks to months.

The “social distance” wall is cracking, despite Dr. Deborah Birx’s warning that we will have — must have — social distances through the summer. Like Dr. Anthony Fauci, Birx has the confidence of most Americans.

A Los Angeles beach. Social distances observed? (Photo: L.A. Times)

The unrest is a combination of cabin fever and Thomas Paine.

Today’s home school assignment is Paine, a political philosopher and radical whose pamphlets lit the fuse of the American Revolution. “Common Sense” and “The American Crisis” were among his most important. 

His ideas could be boiled down to one word: Independence. His works are believed to be the first published words to demand independence. 

His best-remembered quote: “These are the times that try men’s souls.”

Those are fitting words for these days, are they not? Today we’d be saying “people’s souls” to include all of us.

There are two types of “independence” today. 

First are the people who thoughtlessly or deliberately ignore the social distancing rules. These are the people who won’t wear facemasks (that protect you), who congregate in parks and on beaches, providing easy transmission for the COVID-19 virus. Call it complacency.

To be fair, it is easy to maintain 6-foot distances in parks and on beaches. (See photo with lots of space.) I unavoidably get closer to people in the Acme. So beaches can be open if people do the right thing, but many don’t.

The Gadsden flag

Second are the anti-government activists largely whipped up by conservative talk radio. These people may have an economic motive — they are hurting and want to return to work — but also have political motives. They are likely to be waving American flags or Gadsden (“Don’t tread on me”) flags, and also weapons.

In the former category are those exhibiting “quarantine fatigue,” as reported by researchers at the University of Maryland.

They tracked smartphone data and detected a small shift during the week of April 13, when 31% didn’t move a mile or more, down from 33% a week earlier. “It looks like people are loosening up on their own to travel more,” said Lei Zhang, director of the Maryland Transportation Institute at Maryland.

He suggested they might be responding to states preparing to open, plus President Donald J. Trump’s “liberate” tweets. This suggests the lack of compliance may increase once states allow businesses to actually open, as is happening now. People might have developed a false sense of security.

Consequences? “If people are out and about, there’s more risk of transmission,” said Dr. Wilbur Chen, associate professor of medicine at the University of Maryland’s School of Medicine, “and when there’s transmission, you have more cases of hospitalizations and death.”

Epidemiologist George Rutherford of the University of California at San Francisco said, “Letting people decide for themselves because they’re bored is not a good way to do it.”

Is that what we are beginning to see?

The New York Times reports protests across the country, politically or economically motivated.

Some are what you might call Paine protestors, others genuinely fear their businesses may be doomed and they will be pulled into permanent poverty.

Those are not imaginary concerns.

With that said, public health officials say ignoring social distances will zoom the U.S. death rate, which recently passed 50,000 Americans.

A recent Pew poll reported two-thirds of Americans fear opening up the economy too quickly and setting the table for increased deaths.

It is not an easy choice. 

I can understand the fatigue, but I would err on the side of caution. 

Bankrupt businesses can be rebuilt. Death cannot be reversed. 

13 thoughts on “What accounts for ‘quarantine fatigue’?”

  1. I disagree about Paine’s best remembered quote. I say “Give me Liberty or give me death.

    A well written article indeed. Fortunately, we are not part of the equation. Being retired, our time is our own. Sure, we still have responsibilities, but for the most part, we are not subjected to the rules for the masses.
    In today’s world, people are undertaking a whole new life style. We grew up with mom at home. Today’s mom is a working mother. She may( probably ) be working from home, while becoming a “homeschooler”. Talk about stress !If the husband is home working, more stress while trying to be a good partner/father. It is understandable that there is more drinking, abuse, etc. Not acceptable, but understandable. Relaxing the restraints placed on us by the Gov., will help tremendously, but as you point out, remove the restrictions too soon, and we’ll be right back in it !

  3. Nicely balanced, Stu.
    Nice and easy. We’ve made it so far, so ‘nice and easy does it everytime’ goes the song.
    This from this morning’s Inq…Gov Levine….eh..Wolf (Levine acts like she’s the Gov and the Gov doesn’t seem to mind)….”Some relief will come this Friday for those pining for outdoor activities: Golf courses, marinas, guided fishing trips, and privately owned campgrounds will be allowed to reopen with social distancing and masking measures.” The state also issued guidelines allowing health-care facilities to resume elective procedures as long as they have the capacity to do so.
    (Just glad it’s not been me waiting. My Brit cousin had to wait six months for a hip under NHS, pre Covid or not). And NJ Gov Murphy: “A plan that is needlessly rushed is a plan that will needlessly fail.” “Golly Sargent Carter.” I believe this Governor loves the power!
    All and all this front page report give some of us something to look forward to, starting Friday and the following Friday. Like a 10 day weather forecast there are too many variables. Unfortunately, I see a dozen of my friends for breakfast sitting together a good way’s off. If that’s the least to complain about, I’ll be one of the fortunate! Stay safe everyone!

  4. Yes, I agree. I see the Constitution bandied about, and talk about the trampling of rights, but seriously, these same people are taking hikes and whizzing around in their golf carts. We ALL hate being isolated, but to portray this pandemic as a mere, overblown version of the regular flu is felony stupidity. The pandemic knows no politics. What we are learning changes by the week, and revisions to the process are not political conspiracies. Let the medical experts do the real work.

    1. Yeah, Suzette, but the Constitution is what has gotten us this far, plus none of us have ever been in a situation like this before and we are only human and different and react differently. Let’s not shoot arrows at each other. Furthermore how does one know these ‘same stupid’ people are golfing?
      I wish to God we would all just take deeper breaths.q

  5. The following are random thoughts on your essay, Stu: We are a nation of restless people — we are a nation of gregarious people. We are blessed with a freedom to come and go as we please, and this freedom has been interfered with to an extent that many feel is overreach. We hear much about the problem, but few have actually witnessed its impact. We hear that 55,000 people have died (the vast majority of them older citizens with perhaps concomitant medical problems), but we wonder if that is so frightening in a nation of 330 million people. We have food, we have water, we have toilet paper, we are not suffering, and nothing is rationed (except in the sense that some shelves are empty– self rationing). The government has slammed on the brakes of the largest economy in the world, and de facto told small businesses, “Your business will probably fail, but we’ll send you money.” The cracks in the facade of self-isolation are to be expected. As I said, we are a nation of restless and gregarious people.

  6. Our constitutional safeguards are meant and designed for times exactly like these, not for the good times. Don’t be afraid to speak up.

Comments are closed.