As the Coronavirus Surges, a New Culprit Emerges: Pandemic Fatigue

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The virus has seeped through communities, rural and urban: In Chicago, public schools remained closed to students for a sixth consecutive week as the city’s rate of positive coronavirus tests inched up near 5 percent. In Gove County, Kan., population 2,600, nine people have died from the virus in recent days, health officials reported. Clusters of infections have emerged from a spa in Washington State, a hockey league in Vermont, a Baptist church in North Carolina and a Sweet 16 party on Long Island.

Sick people are telling contact tracers they picked up the virus while trying to return to ordinary life. Beth Martin, a retired school librarian who is working as a contact tracer in Marathon County, Wis., said she interviewed a family that had become sick through what is now a common situation — at a birthday party for a relative in early October.

“Another case said to me, ‘You know what, it’s my adult son’s fault,’” she recalled. “‘He decided to go to a wedding and now we’re all sick.’”

Mark Harris, county executive for Winnebago County, Wis., said he had been frustrated by the “loud minority” in his county that had been successfully pushing back against any public health measures to be taken against the pandemic.

They have a singular frame of mind, he said: “‘This has been inconveniencing me long enough and I’m done changing my behavior.’”

In the Czech Republic, a politically divided nation, people met the initial order to shelter at home this spring with an unusual show of unity. They began a national mask sewing campaign, recognized around the world for its ingenuity. Confidence in the government, for its handling of the crisis, reached a record 86 percent.

Since then, support for the government response has plummeted, and the country is now experiencing the fastest increase in virus cases in Europe. Roughly half of the more than 150,000 cases recorded in the Czech Republic have come in the past two weeks, and more than half of the country’s nearly 1,300 deaths have come this month.

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