Senior Maggie Melchi is currently in recovery after contracting COVID-19. She has only recently regained her sense of taste and smell.
Melchi said she has always taken the coronavirus seriously, but after experiencing it personally, she is more aware of how quickly it can affect groups of people.
“Once one person gets it, it escalates so fast,” Melchi said. “It was just a domino effect.”
Melchi works at Switchyard Brewing Company as a server and said she has noticed how some patrons have become more relaxed when it comes to COVID-19 protocol. This trend has been widely referred to as “COVID fatigue,” a result of what happens when people who have adhered to COVID-19 guidelines for many months become dejected and overwhelmed.
Psychological and brain sciences professor Edward Hirt said this feeling of becoming overwhelmed is what sometimes drives people to start neglecting regulations. This anxiety stems from multiple factors, but a primary reason is due to the uncertainty of the current timeline.
“People in the short term can really rally around that and sort of embrace whatever is necessary to repair a community after a natural disaster,” Hirt said. “But the extended nature of this particular pandemic has been something that is somewhat unprecedented.”
Hirt said one way to motivate people would be to demonstrate the immediate positive impact of their actions if they choose to continue following regulations. Without this option, Hirt understands how this can be a difficult time for everyone.
“I think everybody is having a difficult time coping with things,” Hirt said. “It’s really challenging for everybody, I think.”
Melchi recognizes some students are doing better than others. As a server, she said she felt safe because the brewery emphasized safety protocols even when others did not.
“It’s interesting to see how some places take it more seriously,” Melchi said. “It’s interesting to see how some businesses are experiencing COVID fatigue themselves.”
Outside of work, Melchi said she tries to stay motivated by remembering she protects others by social distancing. She noted that she has seen people stray from regulations after they recover from the virus, but for her, that will not be the case.
“I always tell myself, especially now that I’m getting over it, that I’m still helping others,” Melchi said. “I would say that’s one of the most motivating things for me.”
After a string of victories for IU football, sparsely masked students have gathered in large crowds outside the stadium and along Kirkwood Avenue. Melchi said she doesn't want to assume people are ambivalent to possibly hurting others.
“I would say unfortunately it’s a thing of habit,” Melchi said. “If COVID-19 was not going on and we were there it would happen, so maybe it’s just a moment of weakness, but it’s hard to say.”
For those feeling overwhelmed, Hirt recommends focusing on individual responsibility rather than collective behavior.
“You can encourage people as much as you can,” Hirt said. “But they’re going to do what they’re going to do. At least I can control what I do and that’s a good thing.”