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I was paying attention to the US election news this week and didn’t really follow the pandemic news. Now I check the numbers and — whoa! What happened??!?

Families Mental Health Socializing Travel

Q: Does this mean more lockdowns? To be honest, I’m kinda done.

A: Cases are surging, we have rough weeks ahead, and everyone’s collective will to combat the pandemic has eroded. Stay focused on the things you can do in the short term, and stay realistic about this new surge.

First, the numbers:

If you were refreshing a different set of statistics all week, you were not alone. While the US went to the polls and followed the returns, we had our first two days with over 100,000 new cases per day on Wednesday and Thursday. Our 7-day average of new daily cases will likely top 100,000 this weekend. Many states have seen hospitalizations and deaths increase by 30-50% or more over the past two weeks.

As startling as those numbers sound, we may look back in a couple of weeks and wish we were “only” seeing 100,000 new cases a day.

And the US is not alone in this surge. Both cases and deaths have increased by about 33% globally in the past two weeks, with much of Europe seeing similar spikes after a fairly quiet summer and early fall.

Why is this happening?

Several factors are contributing to this surge: The colder weather has us indoors more, we still don’t have robust testing and contact tracing programs, and many states and cities have re-opened schools, businesses, and restaurants despite worrisome levels of community transmission.

Another factor may also be our collective weariness with mitigation measures like masking and limiting social contact and travel. “Pandemic fatigue” is real (see article linked below), and many folks just don’t have the emotional bandwidth or patience to stick with the restrictions and new routines that were put in place in March. You might have thought “I just can’t” or “I’m so done” recently.

And then….here come the holidays! Ooof. Many of us need to make some hard choices between now and January about seeing family, holding gatherings, and traveling. Maybe we haven’t seen our parents since March. Maybe the isolation of WFH or the disappointment of remote school or college has got you down, and you really need the boost of being with loved ones. Did we mention these choices are hard?

So what’s to be done?

We have 4 suggestions for the next two weeks that we hope will help:

1. Stay informed about the numbers in your local community. At a basic level, know whether cases, hospitalizations, and deaths are flat, increasing a little, or increasing a lot in your community. You don’t need to obsess over these stats, but local context is important.

2. Make the hard decisions about Thanksgiving and the winter holidays now. With so much going on, it’s been tempting to “wait and see” about holiday plans. Think about who might be at risk at a holiday gathering, and how interstate travel might contribute to transmission. (See link below to an interview with Dr. Fauci on this, and our August post on “what about Thanksgiving?”) Once you’ve made your decisions, share the news with family with conviction and compassion.

3. Recognize that the shorter days, continued uncertainty on so many fronts, and the holiday season itself may leave you feeling blue, or worse. Pay attention to self-care, and access any mental health resources or supports you need (see link below for more suggestions.)

4. As you are able, try to muster some mojo to double down on prevention and mitigation. Can you bear to hear the SMART rules again? They still matter, maybe even more than over the summer: Space yourself from others. Mask up! Make sure Air is circulating (stay outside or in well-ventilated rooms inside). Restrict your social circle (this is where a lot of us are fatiguing). Don’t let visits with others last for too much Time.

We have at least several more months of hard work ahead to get this pandemic under control. It’s a marathon, for sure. We’ll be with you the whole way.

Stay safe. Stay sane.

Links:

NYT story on pandemic fatigue

Dr. Tony Fauci on GMA

CDC guidance on holiday celebrations

Our earlier post on Thanksgiving

Our post on managing anxiety

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