From the Left



COVID Fatigue

Susan Estrich on

If the numbers are to be believed, more than 100,000 Americans are testing positive for COVID-19 every day, an increase of almost 20% in the last two weeks.

But who believes the numbers?

In real life, the president gets tested every day, but most of us don't; and more and more people these days are testing at home, or not at all, and just toughing it out. So the numbers clearly understate the real incidence of COVID, which should make us even more worried.

So why aren't we all wearing masks? Where is mine?

The news reports say that masks may be back in Los Angeles County, where I live, as soon as next week. The understated numbers are still bad enough for that.

Not to sound like Donald Trump, but I don't want to put my mask back on. It's been so long since I cruised Amazon looking for the best masks, even longer since I trafficked in tips about where to find the coveted N95s that completely mess up your hair and mark up your face while they cloud up your glasses. Bliss.

One of the casualties of the COVID crisis has been faith in government and government regulation. Things have gone terribly wrong in the last two years, and while it will take longer than that to sort it out, a new mask mandate is not going to go down easily.

If you're not sick with COVID, you are almost certainly sick of it. We as a nation are suffering from a surge of COVID fatigue that is even more severe than the surge of COVID.

I plead guilty. I have been blessed. I may or may not have had COVID; I tested positive twice on an antigen test and then tested negative on a PCR. So maybe I had it and maybe I didn't; it doesn't much matter with this variant, but in all events, I've been lucky not to suffer the serious symptoms that so many have. And with good luck, I admit, comes a heaping serving of denial.


There are too many other things to worry about, collectively speaking. The country is, according to a growing majority, on the wrong track. It is, as always, the economy that is driving those numbers, but a public health crisis won't make them better. The president is, for understandable reasons, downplaying his illness, an invitation for others to do the same.

COVID is no longer the death sentence that it came close to being. We can thank science for that. There are medicines for those, like the president, who are at higher risk because of age or other factors. Which is not to minimize the risk or justify the views of people like me, who just don't want to stop living again.

It's not just the masks. It's social life, in the full sense of the word. It's the difference between interacting in person, literally working together, instead of talking to a picture on Zoom. It's all the things we discovered we missed when we got to work from home.

There is a fine line between denial and acceptance, between learning to live with the risk of COVID and refusing to acknowledge it. We're walking that line right now, as a country, and it's a dangerous one, especially for our fellow Americans who are at high risk because of comorbidities. For their sake, as well as for our own, I'm shopping for masks again. Maybe something new? Black to match the rest of my wardrobe?

Stay safe. Be well.


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