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Combating 'COVID fatigue' this holiday season

A UofL infectious disease specialist said this holiday season, staying vigilant is more important than ever, all as case numbers continue to balloon.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — This holiday season is unlike any other — and health experts say it's essential to fight what’s called "COVID fatigue."

"You have felt the impact of this pandemic for so long and you are now physically, spiritually, emotionally spent," said Ruth Carrico, a UofL infectious disease professor and former president of the Kentucky Nurses Association.

In other words, Carrico said everyone is burnt out from worrying about COVID-19 for nine months. 

"It’s very difficult to be focused and not able to let your mind take a break and have some true down time," Carrico said.

But the UofL infectious disease specialist said this holiday season, staying vigilant is more important than ever, all as case numbers continue to balloon. 

“That means the likelihood of you encountering someone in your community or in your small group or maybe even in your little bubble is now greater than it has been," Carrico said. 

Carrico's Thanksgiving plans don’t involve traveling. She’s celebrating with a small group outside in her backyard, with tables separated by at least six feet. Typically, she said there are dozens of family members at her Thanksgiving table.

“How well we do for Thanksgiving is going to tell us a lot about the future," she said.

And the data emphasizes why continuing to wear our masks and avoid large groups are essential to slowing the spread of the virus. The number of COVID patients in Kentucky intensive care units has more than tripled over the last two months, according to state data.

In Indiana, the numbers are even higher. Over the last couple of months, the number of patients in ICU beds has nearly quadrupled.  

“It’s a very concerning time," said Peter Embi, president of the Regenstrief Institute in Indianapolis.

“We do research on how we could better use information and technology and resources to improve health and healthcare," he said.

His biggest concern?

“The numbers of people in the hospitals are rising to the point that many of our health systems are at the point of hitting capacity and that means people can’t get the care they need not only for COVID but for other things," Embi said.  

He said identifying the virus is more challenging than many might assume.

“It’s been estimated that about 60 percent of all the infections are obtained or contracted from someone who is either asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic meaning they haven’t developed symptoms yet but they’re going to," he said. 

Embi said this Thanksgiving, we should remember to express gratitude while knowing our celebration is going to be different. He said how well we do during Thanksgiving will impact whether we have an empty chair at our Christmas table, emphasizing our fight against COVID should still be our priority.

RELATED: Judge rules Gov. Beshear can't stop in-person classes at private religious schools

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