Our view: Don’t let your COVID guard drop

the Editorial Board

The issue: COVID-19 deaths top 200,000

Our view: Guard against fatigue

As the nation surpassed a once unimaginable COVID-19 milestone — more than 200,000 lives lost to the pandemic — experts talked about numbness and fatigue.

It turns out that when our brains are exposed to trauma on such a scale, be it war or a pandemic or other mass threat, it has a tendency to normalize the conditions. We can’t live in a perpetual state of high emotion. The stress takes too steep a toll. Shutting down and adapting to the new, dangerous, painful state of affairs is a natural response.

You can see the signs of desensitization around you, especially in more rural locations where the case counts remain relatively low. Precautions have been set aside and many people go about their business, sans protective face masks, as if the pandemic did not still roam among us.

Health reporter David Bruce’s profile of a UPMC Hamot nurse who treats COVID-19 patients serves as a timely reminder of why we all need to act responsibly and with vigilance as cold weather returns and we spend more time indoors, where the virus and the flu are more easily spread.

The president, somehow, at a recent campaign rally in Ohio remarked that the coronavirus “affects virtually nobody.” This in spite of the fact that on his watch it has claimed more American lives in eight short months than the five most recent U.S. wars combined — Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan and the Persian Gulf War.

In Erie County, as of Monday, 52 residents had died.

Nurse Lindsay Hall cares for COVID-19 victims face-to-face. Because of the danger of transmitting the disease, family members are not allowed to visit loved ones with COVID. Hall and other caregivers read letters to them and coordinate online visits through tools like Facebook Live and Zoom. She told Bruce she grieves when some of those patients, with whom she and other staff have grown close, die. When patients recover, there is joy.

We must find ways to live our lives amid the upheaval brought by the pandemic, but sheltering in denial is not an option given the danger that remains. The death toll could nearly double by December. For those yet untouched, each transmission of the virus brings us closer to personal experiences of suffering and loss that Hall and her coworkers witness.

We are not helpless. Hall said the change her team has had to navigate due to the pandemic taught her how crucial teamwork is.

That is the key for all of us. While scientists labor to formulate a vaccine and, hopefully, end this global crisis, we all can do our part to hold the virus at bay. Being reckless and defiant won’t stop COVID. Hand-washing, face masks and keeping your distance will.