The Real Reason Americans Are Not Listening to Covid Advice

Not long ago, Dr. Anthony Fauci said that he thought the arrival of the vaccine might get Americans to be more serious about following the warnings and precautions.  About the same time, I wrote that I thought the advent of the virus would make Americans less obedient to mask-wearing, social distancing and repeated had washing.  So, who was right?

The Christmas holiday has brought out millions of travelers despite the dire warnings issued from the media on an hourly basis.  Several television doctors literally demanded that America stay home and cancel all holiday plans – just as they did for Thanksgiving, Memorial Day, the Fourth of July and Easter.

As predicted, after each of those holidays Covid-19 hospitalizations and deaths have increased – although the death RATE has been declining.  They are likely to increase again in the next four weeks because of Christmas travel and festivities.

I pay less attention to the increase in cases because a significant part of that is due to accelerated testing.  Hospitalizations and deaths are better indicators of an increase in severity.

However, not only are millions of Americans not heeding the more extreme recommendations – and even the not so extreme recommendations — but they are also pushing back at further lockdowns.  They are defying both recommendations and government orders.

One of the favorite narratives against President Trump is the media’s claim that he and his behavior is responsible for Americans not heeding the advice and the constant warnings that have been emanating from the newsrooms on continuous loop for the past several months.

In their zeal to blame Trump, the biased media never reports reality.  The millions upon millions of people defying the advice are not only Trump supporters.  They are a cross section of America – men, women, white, black, Republicans, Democrats, liberals and conservatives.  As one travels about in Democrat Palm Beach County, it is virtually impossible to find anyone in strict compliance to the rules and orders.

Last Friday night, the local sports bar and grille was jammed with people – mostly over 50 — sitting next to each other without masks.  VERY few people in the area wear masks while out in public.  An elderly friend, who is supposed to be confined to her senior residence, occasionally sneaks out for a lunch or dinner at a favorite restaurant – and she does not like to eat outside.  She is a Trump-hating Democrat, by the way.

So why are millions of Americans not heeding the warnings and the advice?

Some analysts attribute it to “pandemic fatigue.”  That is too general of a statement.  There have to be more specific reasons.

One of those reasons may be the historic inconsistency of the advice.  I recall Fauci telling the nation in February that Covid-19 is not likely to have a major impact on the United States.  Later, he was telling the public that there was no need to wear masks unless you had Covid-19 because they are only effective in stopping transmission FROM an infected person – that they do not offer protection from contracting it.

We were first told that kids could go to school … then they cannot go to school … and then they can.  And now the advice on kids going to school is a crosscurrent of yes … no … maybe, if.

Perhaps it is not “pandemic fatigue” as much as it is “panic fatigue.”  It is a bit like all those warning labels on the medicine bottles. There just comes a point when you just stop absorbing and start ignoring.

Part of the problem may be that the media sensationalize almost everything – and especially in order to attack Trump.  For example, we hear over and over that approximately 20 million Americans have contracted Covid-19, but how often have they noted that more than 12 million have already recovered.  The media myopically dwells on those in ICUs and those who died, but the people also know that 80 percent of those who contract Covid-19 will have mild or no symptoms at all.

While the media puts most emphasis on the virus, Americans also care about the economy – and those suffering both economic and physical hardships from the lockdown.  We see all those gyms and restaurants fighting to survive – and millions of people patronize them.

And as far as the holidays go, there are millions of Americans who find celebrating with loved ones is worth the risk.  Yes, they will take extra precautions around grandma with COPD, but that’s about it.

As I predicted in a previous commentary, most Americans did celebrate Christmas even if they have to ignore some or all of the advice.  Those issuing warnings and advice should consider new strategies and new messaging because America has largely tuned out.  Repeating the same old warnings did not work in the past or the present – and will not work in the future.

So, there ‘tis.