Covid-19: fed up, rebellion and a false sense of security, the risky behaviors in the third wave
On Thursday, 138 deaths from coronavirus were recorded in one day and it was the first day to exceed the barrier of 100 daily deaths since September last year. The deaths are growing at a sustained rate and in the last two weeks the increase was more than 150%, an upward trend that is also reflected in the curve of daily cases than in the same period of time grew more than 330% with days that exceeded 139,000 new patients.
The arrival of ómicron and its spread throughout the country accelerated the explosion of the third wave and broke all records for almost two years when the Covid-19 arrived in Argentina. In this scenario, which does not seem to be more serious than the previous outbreaks, mainly because the health systems are not under stress, the customs and habits are increasingly removed from preventive care necessary to prevent the spread of the virus, especially in the most touristic cities and in the younger groups.
The scientific community around the world begins to debate whether the new variant could be the transition to endemic and in our country the protocols are being updated, especially those referring to the isolation of close contacts according to the vaccination schedules and booster doses. In this context, Has society already begun to decree the end of the pandemic on its own?
“You see a denial of reality dressed in rebellion and a certain irresponsibility in the face of the situation, especially in the youngest. We are in a power struggle with the virus, a feeling of wanting to beat the virus and the experience of regaining power before a virus that came and said ‘I am more powerful than you’. In addition, people already know that the danger of reaching intensive care or dying, which was terrifying in the first months, is moving away”, analyzes the psychiatrist Jose Abadi.
The specialist, author of the book And the world stopped (Penguin Random House) on the impact of quarantine on people’s lives, explains that in the first two waves there was a “pandemic syndrome” which consisted of psychic exhaustion, physical exhaustion and experience of the absence of a future that generated anguish and depression at very high levels. “People found it very difficult to process, he had to go out and now a pre-pandemic attitude is being noticed in the midst of a pandemic, a desire to return to the past due to the weariness caused and the burden of being locked up”, he maintains.
The latest available data indicates that today 96,652 new infections and 88 deaths were registered. Some time ago, during the second wave and in the middle of last year, there was a combination of factors at the worst moment of the pandemic, with a high number of infections and deaths and the Intensive Care Units (ICU) to the limit, with occupations that exceeded 90% of the availability of beds. At that time, the peak of average daily cases reached 41,000 and deaths 620.
The expansion of ómicron caused a sharp rise in the number of infections, although the impact on hospitals and clinics across the country has not yet been felt, mainly in critical care rooms. Occupation in ICUs is 41.7% throughout the country (last week it was 37.8%) with 2,268 hospitalized patients; in the metropolitan area occupancy reaches 41.4% (38.8% last week) and in the city, the public sector registers 16.3% (9.8% the previous record) and in the private sector 23 .2% (19.7% seven days ago).
“Omicron is a different pandemic due to the characteristics of the strains, with a very high transmission and with symptoms of the upper respiratory tract that do not put the oxygenation system at risk, there are fewer hospitalizations and those that exist are of unvaccinated people. There is a social representation of this new wave that is based on the idea that we are all going to get infected, which seems to be probable because there is an empirical reality”, says the psychologist and sociologist Martin Wainstein, director of the Clinical Psychology career at the University of Buenos Aires.
“Faced with an uncertain enemy, such as the virus, one escapes or is paralyzed and remains still. The attitude of the people in the first wave was one of paralysis, of shutting themselves in, and in this wave, it was of escaping. The change in behavior occurred because people visualized that the virus is less deadly, the danger is to get infected, not to die. Most of the cases are healthy carriers and the effect of the vaccine helps”, he explains.
Both Abadi and Wainstein agree that society is preparing for the transition from pandemic to endemic, to definitely live with the virus, although they are cautious. “I don’t think people have decreed the end of the pandemic. Society feels stronger because of the time factor, it got used to it. Sometimes there is a behavior, an action that is given based on desire, as if the pandemic had disappeared, but it is still there”, shares Abadi.
On the other hand, for the sociologist and professor at the University of San Andrés, Alejandro Artopoulos, what is happening with social behavior corresponds to an effect of inertia and the lack of adaptation to changes in the midst of a pandemic, with resistance and overreaction, depending on the moment.
“Behaviors have already been modified during the pandemic and what is happening now is that a new normal is being built, a new framework, with changes in the functioning of society that we did not have before the pandemic. These are changes that have already become firm, although they are not completely settled”, explains Artopoulos. “In the coming months we will see how many of those changes are firm, are trends, and which are resisted. They are tensions within society that are going to be negotiated, for example, with teleworking. This is part of the transition from pandemic to endemic,” he adds.
One of the important differences between the different waves is the deployment of the vaccination campaign. Nowadays 74.8% of Argentines have two doses (33,941,895 people) and 20.1% have the booster dose (9,123,779 people), with 85.9% with at least one dose (38,960,914 people). The new outbreak puts those who do not have the complete scheme or those who did not even receive an application at greater risk. For infectious disease specialists, however, this variable should not indicate the end of the pandemic or of preventive care.
“There is a social group that considers that the pandemic has already transformed into something benign and that the variants in circulation cause mild disease, in addition to the fact that they feel protected by being vaccinated and that outdoor activities are not contagious. They are all incorrect readings”, he maintains emphatically. Edward Lopez. “A part of society thinks that the pandemic is over, I have no doubts, otherwise we would not see the number of people seen on the beach. Today there is no concrete data that in the immediate future there will be a transition from pandemic to endemic”, added the head of the Department of Medicine of the Children’s Hospital Ricardo Gutiérrez.
Social behavior is Ricardo Teijeiro, the main reason for the increase in viral circulation exponentially. “We are in the midst of a pandemic and in no way can we think of becoming endemic so quickly,” he warns. “There is a lot of contagion, but no disease that is complicated. Many people, as they see that there are no health risks, consider that they have no risk. Contagions will surely fall on a plateau and decrease during February, but we do not know how the virus will behave in an endemic process, ”adds the infectologist.
Both specialists agree in predicting that during the next two weeks the infections would continue at high levels and begin to drop next month, taking into account that with a positivity of between 50% and 60%, the undetected cases per day would exceed 500,000. Only then, when there is a decline, can we begin to talk about a transition to endemicity, even though a part of society is already doing so.