Psychologists Warn About The Return Of COVID Restrictions
While the "Delta variant" of COVID-19 finds space inside states with low vaccination rates, some states are looking back at previously lifted measures. Including Louisiana, where Governor John Bel Edwards reinstituted the state's previously lifted mask mandate this week.
Governor Edwards said it was a temporary return, with a written date of September 1st for it expatriation, and has reiterated that multiple times now. However there is a growing number of people who no longer trust that this will be temporary.
In a piece for The Atlantic, Katherine J. Wu tackles this topic. She spoke with psychologists about this feeling that's growing among the population of vaccinated Americans. Wu spoke with Gretchen Chapman, who was described in the piece as a psychologist who studies decision-making behavior around vaccines at Carnegie Mellon University, who told her:
“So much of the previous messaging was ‘Wear a mask until we have a vaccine developed’ or ‘until we have people vaccinated. Now, it seems to some people like that reward is getting taken back.”
Chapman has been a popular interview lately, as the anger is swelling in Americans who did everything they were asked of for the last 18 months, who are now finding themselves getting punished for it. She was interviewed by the Washington Post as well, where she described the current situation as "Prisoner's Dilemma", a game theory that illustrates how two totally competent individuals may turn against each other, even when its obvious that its in their best interest to do so.
In the Washington Post article, Chapman said:
“In social dilemmas, people really do not like being the sucker. They do not like to cooperate when the other person has defected.”
The Post added:
"In fact, Chapman says that in prisoner’s dilemma experiments, people who are given opportunities to punish the defectors — usually financially — often do so, even if it means they lose some of their winnings in the process."
Which brings us to where we are now. In the COVID Prisoner's Dilemma, the group who played along for the last 18 months are now running low on patience. Which you don't have to be a behavioral psychologist a fancy school like Carnegie Mellon University to see. You just have to have been on social media for the last 18 months.
I have watched as some of my own social media contacts have gone from "everyone stay home to save lives" to "wear you mask to save lives" to "get the vaccine to save lives" to "I'm not about to lock down again for people who didn't listen". Which is an odd turn for some, because those same people have focused on helping protect others through the pandemic. But now that they are looking at having to lose everything they worked to gain back, they're feeling like the sucker. Which like Chapman said above, people don't like being the sucker.
The path forward is getting harder and harder for some, because many realize there's no way to implement another "lockdown", and not really much room for mitigation involving capacity restrictions at events or in businesses, because the economy could not handle it. But that looming idea is damaging people emotionally who did what they were asked to do, only to be told that they will have to start going backwards already. For example, Facebook "neighborhood groups" are already being flooded with stories and pictures of people panic buying supplies at Louisiana stores.
Honestly, the Governor needs to help control this looming scenario. Without definitively saying that he will not issue any capacity restrictions on businesses, the Governor leaves the imagination of the public to run wild. Which means it only takes a few "worst case scenario" preppers to turn into a panic rush at a Walmart, that is then shared on social media, which creates more panic buying, and soon people won't have toilet paper again.
As important as it is to send a message to those who haven't been vaccinated yet, the Governor needs to wrap his arms around those who have done everything he asked them to do over the last year and a half. Because right now he's making them feel like suckers.