Indiana health commissioner says COVID fatigue aiding rise in cases

(photo supplied / Dr. Kristina Box)

INDIANAPOLIS (Network Indiana) — Indiana is seeing record numbers of coronavirus cases and hospitalizations, and health officials say an increasing factor is COVID fatigue.

There’s been resistance to masks all along, but state health commissioner Kristina Box says state and local health departments are getting more reports of people who not only won’t mask up, but won’t cooperate with contact tracers, quarantine or get tested after coming into contact with someone who’s infected.

“We’re seeing an increasing number of people who are just like, ‘Not gonna help you. Not gonna give you information. Not gonna quarantine,'” Box says. “I think they’re tired of it, they’re over it.”

In some cases, she says people are refusing to get tested for fear a positive test would force them to miss work, or force kids who are high school athletes to miss games or meets.

The problem, Box says, is while people may be over the virus, the virus isn’t over them. Infections and hospitalizations are surging in nearly every state. Indiana is averaging a record two-thousand new cases a day, with nearly 17-hundred Hoosiers hospitalized with the virus, close to the record set in April.

Box says she’s been on the phone this week with health officials in Dearborn and Ohio Counties, which have been listed as high-risk counties two weeks in a row. She praises school superintendents there for limiting after-school activities to limit the virus’s spread. But in nearby Fayette County, Box says local health officials report people are adamant in refusing to wear masks, despite the state’s highest positivity rate at more than 20-percent.

Box says people in their 20s and 30s are least likely to wear masks, and says new studies indicate those age groups are twice as likely to not have symptoms if they’re infected. She notes they’re still carriers, and can transmit the virus to senior citizens and other more vulnerable populations. She’s already casting a worried eye forward to family gatherings at Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Governor Holcomb says he agrees masks are “a hassle,” but says slowing the virus’s spread is essential to saving lives and keeping schools and businesses open. He says wearing them is the best step available right now. Box says the federal government has told Indiana to expect a first shipment of vaccine at the end of November, but no vaccine has earned federal approval yet. And even if approval happens in time to meet that estimate, Box says the vaccine would only be available at first to health-care workers and others on the front lines — wide distribution would still be months away.