By Heather Brown

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — It’s been more than 200 days since Minnesota schools first closed due to COVID.  As winter approaches and cases rise, health officials warn the effects of the pandemic are wearing on us.

“COVID fatigue is real here in Minnesota and all over the country,” said MDH Commissioner Jan Malcolm on Wednesday. “We see it in the outbreak data.”

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Malcolm said some of the growth in cases is to people gathering for celebratory events without adhering to gathering limits. She cited anecdotal evidence of sick people declining to be tested or not quarantining.

Officials have also pointed to mask-wearing, or lack thereof, as a factor in COVID cases. One survey found that while it has increased in Minnesota, only 69% are observed wearing masks where they should.

“It’s a stressor that’s just not going away,” said Dr. Shonda Craft, a licensed family and marriage therapist. “People feel like things are so out of control and unpredictable that they really don’t know how to handle every day.”

She said, there was hope, at first, that this pandemic might end more quickly. But, eight months later, people don’t see an end in the near future.

That can become more pronounced as the weather cools and holiday plans have to change.

“There’s an emotional component to that,” she said. “Holidays are symbolic of creating memories and making connections with people — that’s exactly the opposite of what we need to do during this pandemic.”

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She recommends re-framing a holiday or special event, like holding a virtual Halloween party.

She also pointed out that people who haven’t been directly affected by the virus might not think it’s a threat.

“I also think the nature of the variability of this disease is impacting people also doesn’t really build that sense of if I do this, then I won’t get sick because the illness looks so different for people,” she said.

On Wednesday, Kris Ehresman, the head of infectious diseases for MDH, made this connection very clear.

“COVID fatigue is real, but we really hope that people reach deep within themselves to move forward in a positive manner because the cases and deaths that we’re seeing are real too.”

And, finally, Dr. Craft said it’s alright that admit you’re overwhelmed.

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“Just giving yourself time to say it’s a lot, it’s ok to admit that it’s a lot, to feel like you’re out of control,” she said. “Ask for some help, wherever that looks like.”

Heather Brown