Many people are experiencing quarantine fatigue, the losing of tolerance for being isolated and staying indoors. Why is it important to be mindful of quarantine fatigue?
Anyone can lock themselves down for a couple of weeks or even a couple of months. But now we’re moving beyond three months and it’s starting to get too hard. The all-or-nothing approach in this epidemic response is causing people to lose patience with their situation and to focus on the wrong things.
We are, at our very basic nature, social creatures. Studies of social isolation have shown that it has serious long-term effects on both our mental and physical health. So, because we’re being forced to conduct our lives in dramatically different ways, we’re losing our tolerance for being forced to be separate from other people.
We can compare this all-or-nothing quarantine approach to the abstinence-only message of HIV prevention: Data shows that it doesn’t work. It’s not sustainable. Instead, we need a harm-reduction approach. One that says, “Look, you’re going to go outside; you might have trouble distancing from other people. You might not always follow the rules perfectly, but you can try to socialize in the safest ways possible.” It’s up to the experts and government officials to show the public how the safe choices (face coverings, handwashing, social distancing) are also the easy choices.
What are the best ways to stay safe?
If you’re going to engage in activities, whether they’re considered higher risk (like riding in the subway) or low risk (like walking outside), there’s a way to do so while being safe. And those are simple: Wear a mask correctly, wear a face shield in more crowded areas, avoid large groups (and having long conversations in close proximity), stay 6 feet apart from as many people as possible, and wash your hands regularly. These are things we can all do to minimize our risk.
Which activities are safer during the pandemic?
Studies are showing that the bulk of transmission is happening in enclosed spaces, indoors in office buildings, public transportation, and within households. Outdoor settings with adequate ventilation are much safer. There is up to 80% less transmission of the virus happening outdoors versus indoors. (One study found that of 318 outbreaks that accounted for 1,245 confirmed cases in China, only one outbreak occurred outdoors.) That’s significant. I recommend socializing or spending time with others outside. We’re not talking about going to a sporting event or a concert or the pool. We’re talking about going for a walk or going to the park, or even having a conversation at a safe distance with someone outside — these are all activities that are far less risky.
What are some high-risk activities that should be avoided if possible?
Riding the subway during peak hours, large gatherings and crowds, prolonged exposure to people indoors. Also, try to minimize trips to the grocery store, bank, or post office. Those are high-risk activities, if not done safely. Think about staggering those errands or doing bigger shops less often instead of multiple times a week.