Back to square one?

Published March 21, 2021, 12:13 AM

by Dr. Jun Ynares


Dr. Jun Ynares
Dr. Jun Ynares

“Are we at a worse situation today than where we were a year ago?”

This was the worried message I got from a relative recently. She said she heard the news that the country registered a staggering 7,000-plus new cases of COVID-19 infection. This, according to national health authorities, is the highest spike since the disease was discovered in the Philippines in January 2020.

“There is a difference between then and now,” I answered.

“What’s the difference?” she asked.

I explained.

At the start of the pandemic, the fast and sharp rise in infections was due to our collective ignorance. We did not know enough about how the virus spreads and what we can do to prevent such spread.

Today, the fast and sharp rise in infections is not due to ignorance. It is due to three factors.

First, recklessness. Second, the need to return to work. Third, the pandemic fatigue.

The fact is we are no longer ignorant about the virus – how it works, what it does and how we can avoid it. We are just tempted to let our guards down. Media reports indicate that a good number of people no longer wear their face masks properly. Many have lowered the level of their compliance with health protocols. Plain recklessness.

We also recognize that many of our countrymen could no longer afford to stay at home and not engage in productive enterprise. As we said in a previous column, the national government is doing a delicate balancing act – that between “lives and livelihood.” The economy cannot be on lockdown mode for too long. The government cannot afford to provide the financial assistance that those who are unable to work badly need.

This is the “devil and the deep blue sea” situation we are in. If we prevent people from reporting for work or shutdown their sources of livelihood, we risk massive economic displacement. People may go hungry and that is a situation that the national government does not want to let materialize.

On the other hand, national health authorities infer that the bigger number of virus transmission in the recent weeks happened at the places of work or in public transportation used by our countrymen to reach their respective salt mines.

We recognize the dilemma the national government faces on this issue. It can only act on the basis of what it thinks is best for us in the long run.

The third reason is the current buzzword “pandemic fatigue.”

Simply put, we may have become sick and tired of being locked up, of having our movements and mobility restricted, of having to distance from another and not show our affection in public.

The Wall Street Journal has an apt label for this syndrome: “collective exhaustion.”

We quote:

“The collective exhaustion — known as pandemic fatigue — has emerged as a formidable adversary for governments that are counting on a high degree of public cooperation with the latest rounds of restrictions to flatten the infection curve. Too much pandemic fatigue, authorities say, can fuel a vicious cycle: A tired public tends to let its guard down, triggering more infections and restrictions that in turn compound the fatigue.”

“The pandemic fatigue is real,” the Wall Street Journal warned.

Jim Kendall, a licensed clinical social worker connected with the US-based Vanderbilt University Medical Center, offers some tips on coping with this kind of fatigue.

Kendall recommends:

One, self-care is not optional. we must take charge of our own well-being; we cannot expect even the most caring employer to be responsible to keep us comfortable. It is our professional obligation is to strive for our own well-being.

Two, setting attainable well-being goals and implementing that plan is critical. Those goals might include exercise, meditation, nutrition, yoga, mindfulness, prayer, gardening, connections with others, music, reading, or other forms of restoration.

Three, plan and use your paid time off (PTO) to recharge.  Enjoy experiences with your family, friends, and pets.

Four, take a vacation from news and social media. The bombardment of negative and sensational headlines can be overwhelming. There is little need to know the daily tally of coronavirus infections and deaths, unless your job is dependent upon those figures.

Fifth, seek diversions that are healing. Spend time intentionally and do things that give you meaning.

Last, create some predictable routines. Focus on managing the things you have control over.

There is another difference between then and now.

Today, there are vaccines against COVID-19.

It could be just a matter of time before the vaccine gets in our arm.

Let’s go the extra mile. Our situation requires a lot of patience. It does not have to get worse before it becomes better.

*For feedback, please email it to [email protected] or send it to Block 6 Lot 10 Sta. Barbara 1 cor. Bradley St., Mission Hills Subd., Brgy. San Roque, Antipolo City, Rizal.