Lee Cataluna: Covid Fatigue Can Be As Brutal As The Virus - Honolulu Civil Beat


About the Author

Lee Cataluna

Lee Cataluna is a columnist for Civil Beat. You can reach her by email at lcataluna@civilbeat.org


Maybe you didn’t get infected, but you’ve been affected.

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Even if you never got sick, Covid took something from you. Maybe you missed out on a long-awaited trip or had an opportunity cancelled.

Maybe your faith in America took a hit, or you no longer believe in the essential goodness of humanity. Maybe you lost someone you love.

Even if you dutifully got vaccinated as soon as you became eligible, you have continued to suffer from the pandemic.

For those who believe Covid-19 is a hoax, refuse to get vaccinated, refuse to wear a mask or obey rules about social distancing, Covid has affected them whether they got sick or not. So many have devoted so much time and energy fighting facts.

It takes a lot of effort to be mad all the time. It takes a lot of bandwidth to maintain opposition to something that is inherently good for your well being and essential for community heath. Constantly defend it.

In some ways, we’ve all had Covid for the last 18 months, and the strain is becoming obvious.

Pandemic fatigue is real and it is brutal and it is in some ways even more virulent than the virus.

The World Health Organization recently put out a statement describing people with pandemic fatigue as “feeling demotivated about following recommended behaviors to protect themselves and others from the virus … Pandemic fatigue evolves gradually over time and is affected by the cultural, social, structural and legislative environment.”

Pandemic fatigue involves more than just being slippy about wearing a mask in stores or hugging a friend to say hello rather than waving from 6 feet away.

Pandemic fatigue also manifests in being completely self-focused, in not really caring about the greater good of the community, and pretending that the pandemic will fade away, leaving only a few easy-to-hide scars and no imperative lessons that could possibly change the way we live.

Perhaps the most damaging way pandemic fatigue is playing out in our community — and indeed across the country — is in the inexorable push to snap back to business-as-usual as though nothing happened.

This is more than just people wishing for the past. It is more than businesses or government defining the goals of post-pandemic as getting things back exactly the way they used to be. It is as though there is a force running through the air, a shared psychosis, the zeitgeist of this era, to return to a time before we realized that plagues are not just things that happened to people who lived centuries ago in unsanitary conditions.

Molokai General Hospital Covid-19 testing sign located in the parking lot.
Sign of the times at Molokai General Hospital. There’s a danger in letting pandemic fatigue set in. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2021

This is an extremely dissociative time, when there are so many examples of an underlying wish to turn back to an era before George Floyd’s murder and Breonna Taylor’s murder, before #MeToo, when too many people got away with ignoring that which is obvious.

Here at home, this push to pretend nothing has changed plays out in various ways. It plays out in the visitor industry clamoring for another marketing campaign to lure more tourists, as though the place wasn’t completely overrun with people over the summer.

It plays out in the television ads paid for by SHOPO, the police officers’ union, that feature police officers and sometimes their children talking about what a huge burden it is to be a cop in Hawaii, as though making the case that any sort of criticism or inquiry into the times when police officers maybe didn’t do the right thing is disrespectful to the badge.

It plays out even in fighter BJ Penn’s strange announcement of his intent to run for governor. His press release video consisted of promises to end Covid restrictions and images of Penn in bloody fights. Here’s a man with numerous arrests for DUI, bar room brawls and allegations of domestic violence, zero executive experience and no college degree putting himself forward as worthy of leading the state. Thought we had learned our lesson about novelty candidates? Yikes.

Have we learned nothing?

The great danger is that if the lessons are forgotten and nothing changes, history will repeat itself. It already has.

We’ve already been through this. We thought the pandemic was over a few months back and people stopped being cautious and then, oh no, the delta variant came along with disastrous results.

Everyone is feeling pandemic fatigue and not wanting to think about Covid anymore. This coupled with Hawaii’s struggle to change and evolve, its penchant to cling to the old ways of doing things, makes the islands particularly vulnerable to that powerful urge to ignore the most powerful lessons of the last year and a half.

As much as we all want this to be over, we need to remember that, even more importantly, we don’t want to go through this again.


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About the Author

Lee Cataluna

Lee Cataluna is a columnist for Civil Beat. You can reach her by email at lcataluna@civilbeat.org


Latest Comments (0)

I've been to CA, OR and NY since Ige has bounced his mandates around like a racquet ball, and I have to say the people of Hawaii, not surprisingly, have suffered more from government imposed covid restrictions and confusion than any other state.  From the no hiking, no beach and park sitting, to the current no fans in the stands and regressive restrictions although we are over 70% vaccinated, is simply unheard of.  It's because Hawaii is so conservative that Ige's restrictions go unchallenged.  It wouldn't fly in any other state.  It's time to wake up and demand how the science is being followed and why there are any restrictions after 20 months.  

wailani1961 · 1 week ago

"The welfare of humanity is always the alibi of tyrants." Le bien-être du peuple en particulier a toujours été l’alibi des tyrans. —Albert Camus

KeolaRichard · 1 week ago

Something to think about...Pre-pandemic, many introverts were forced to interact, network, and socialize with many others, likely as part of school/work or to maintain relationships with friends and family. For many introverts these expectations overtime negatively impacted their mental health. Society in general did not care.Then the pandmic hit. Everyone was forced to seclude themselves. Many introverts (myself included) were just fine. Extroverts on the other hand were significantly impacted. Their mental health took a hit as they were forced to exist out of their comfort-zone, and society "flipped-out". Suddenly there's a mental health crisis.There are other factors too which impact the mental well-being of individuals, but I can't help to think about this imbalance.

basic_citizen123 · 1 week ago

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