You might be tired of wearing a face covering, but health experts warn it's one of the few effective ways to slow the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19. Staff photo by Daniel Clifton
Many cities, counties, and states are reporting a rise in COVID-19 case numbers. Pandemic fatigue might be one reason.
“What we’re seeing is people are getting tired of masks and social distancing,” said Dr. Jules Madrigal, the Burnet County local health authority. “You see that the numbers (of COVID-19 cases) are going up, and part of the reason is because they’re not wearing masks and they’re tired of it.”
According to the Texas Department of State Health Services, Burnet County had 854 total confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 99 active cases as of Monday, Oct. 19. Llano County had 165 total confirmed cases and 31 active cases as of that same day.
The numbers aren’t out of control, but Burnet County has seen upticks in cases, including a rise from 810 on Oct. 13 to 842 on Oct. 15.
Madrigal said this could be the result of people not wearing face coverings.
“We do see a big correlation between people who are not wearing masks and catching (COVID),” Madrigal added.
Officials are seeing social distancing fatigue as well.
“People want to get married and they need to go to funerals, and I want them to. Those are important. We all want to be around others,” she said. “When people are at these types of events, they have to take their masks off to eat, and that increases the chance of spreading the disease.”
During a recent banquet, a group of people were gathered at one table where at least one person had COVID-19. That exposure led to everyone at the table contracting the disease, Madrigal said.
Social distancing and face coverings, along with other COVID-19 health and safety protocols, were implemented to help slow the spread of the virus and reduce the number of people requiring hospital treatment in a short period of time.
“We wanted to flatten the curve, and we’ve done a good job at that,” Madrigal said.
Flattening the curve, however, doesn’t mean the disease has become less of a threat. It’s still very much with us and will likely be so for some time, Madrigal warned.
And doctors and researchers are seeing long-term issues caused by the disease. Madrigal said a study recently released showed that teens and children could suffer long-term cardiovascular impact from COVID-19. About 15 percent of the youths in the study who had COVID — some were asymptotic — contracted myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart, or pericarditis, an inflammation of the covering of the heart.
The American Association of Pediatrics updated its guidance to doctors regarding COVID-19.
“Much remains unknown about COVID-19 and its transmission, but new research continues to inform experts. AAP, in the first update to guidance since July 23, factors in growing evidence that the virus can cause severe damage to the heart,” according to an AAP media release from September.
The AAP’s recommendation particularly targets young people who participate in athletics.
“We thought kids with COVID were ‘one and done,’” Madrigal said, “but it looks like about 15 percent of them could see long-term problems. “It’s just not fair.”
While face covering and social distancing fatigue is understandable, Madrigal said continuing to adhere to these practices and other Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations is still the best way to slow the spread.