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Dealing with Pandemic Fatigue

October 26, 2020 | AONN+ Blog | COVID-19
Featuring:
Lillie D. Shockney, RN, BS, MAS, HON-ONN-CG
Lillie D. Shockney, RN, BS, MAS, HON-ONN-CG
Editor-in-Chief, JONS; Co-Founder, AONN+; University Distinguished Service Professor of Breast Cancer, Administrative Director, The Johns Hopkins Breast Center; Director, Johns Hopkins Cancer Survivorship Programs; Professor of Surgery and Oncology, JHU School of Medicine; Co-Creator, Work Stride-Managing Cancer at Work

As the pandemic continues, patients with cancer may experience fatigue around wanting to wear a mask and continuing to follow CDC guidelines. The risk of COVID-19 is still prevalent, and we need to remain persistent in protecting ourselves and others.

Yes, pandemic fatigue is a real thing. Mask fatigue, COVID-19 fatigue, tired of following CDC guidelines fatigue–call it what you want, but it is real.

People can become lax in wanting to continue to follow scientific guidelines. Even I look at my mask periodically and grumble at it, until I put it on and think to myself, “Thank heavens we have a way to help protect ourselves and one another right now.” Masks should be worn CORRECTLY (no one’s nose should be showing); we should be staying a minimum of 6 feet apart and washing our hands frequently to lessen the spread of COVID-19. We can also choose to wear disposable nitrile gloves when in stores or places where we may be touching items that have already been touched by other people, and then turn the gloves inside out as they are removed and dispose of them.

We need to be reiterating the science to our patients, and only science. Science is the only thing that is appropriate to share and repeat again and again until our patients get it.

I have been seeing many “designer masks” that are cute and colorful, that make a philosophic statement, political statement, or fashion statement. Before someone wears one of these, they need to make sure it was made following the CDC guidelines for mask-wearing. Some are just one layer of cotton and that doesn’t help much, if at all. Others are designed in a way that when the person talks, the mask rides up and down, exposing their nose. KN95 masks are readily available online and in most large chain stores. They have proven to be the most effective when N95 fitted masks are not available to us or to our patients. The blue surgical masks are the most common ones worn, but they are not 3 layers thick and have no wall to reduce airborne spread.

Lady Gaga did a lot for the world when she wore her heavy-duty leather designer masks that covered most of her face at the MTV awards ceremony. During her last performance that night, she said, “Hey everybody—MASK UP!!” THAT is a slogan we can all live by. (BTW, I never watch the MTV awards show, but did this year because I wanted to see what she was going to be wearing in the form of a mask. She had 6 different ones, all were amazing in making a statement to the public, especially young people.)

Another reason for fatigue is due to never being able to celebrate spring. We all had spring fever but couldn’t go out as we normally do to enjoy it with friends and family. Now we are entering fall, which will be hastily followed by winter, causing us to be indoors more and feel blue. Don’t be fooled into having home gatherings of friends who tell you they feel fine and are sure they don’t have the virus. Scientists predict that these 2 upcoming seasons may be our hardest yet.

So, what do we have to look forward to? We all have hope for a healthier time to return to us once again. We have people we love. We have coworkers we care about. We have changes of the season that are beautiful to watch from our windows and large open parks to explore. We can be even more impressed than we were in the past with how Mother Nature continues to show us her transformations season after season.

Hang in there and mask up!!!!

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