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'COVID Fatigue,' Poor Threat Assessment Among Reasons People Don't Wear Masks


New Hamilton County COVID-19 cases are on average doubling every two weeks. At this rate, health care officials warn hospitals will be strained. They say simple protocols, like mask wearing, can avert that.

Dr. John Kennedy is vice president of medical affairs at Christ Hospital, and a psychiatrist. He says there's still resistance to mask wearing, in part because humans can have a tough time recognizing the threat.

"This is an invisible virus," he says. "You can't see it, you can't smell it, you can't taste it. And the time you're more dangerous is when you don't have symptoms. So we are unable to perceive the risk accurately in order to make a decision." 

Kennedy says people have also become used to the threat of infection and may not be taking it as seriously. To change that, he says people need to view safeguards as a habit and not a response to a threat.

He says mask wearing needs to be viewed as a mark of respect. "If I walked up to you and sneezed in your face, you would punch me. It is hard-coded into us," he says. "Well, where did that come from? First, it's gross, but second it's rooted in public health. We understand that that's bad for us and we teach our children from a very young age: Don't sneeze in someone's face."

Kennedy says it will also help if people accept that the pandemic isn't going away any time soon, and to get into the habit of wearing masks, washing hands and social distancing.

Kennedy spoke Friday at a press conference organized by the Health Collaborative to discuss climbing COVID-19 cases.

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Rinehart has been a radio reporter since 1994 with positions in markets like Omaha and Lincoln, Nebraska; Sioux City, Iowa; Dayton, Ohio: and most recently as senior correspondent and anchor for Cincinnati’s WLW-AM.