Health officials warn against COVID fatigue as case rates and hospitalizations rise

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Milwaukee County health officials warn current COVID trends are slowly turning in the wrong direction.

At the same time, health psychologists caution against COVID fatigue as the pandemic continues.

Cases are up, hospitalizations are up, and there are renewed efforts to take precautions at gatherings this Mother's Day weekend.

After a long two years many people may feel like tuning out the COVID messaging, but the experts urge us to stay focused, like Dr. Shilagh Mirgain, a Distinguished Psychologist with UW Health. She said, "This virus today is different than the virus it was originally." Which means the science is also different, as are the recommendations and the messaging.

But Dr. Mirgain says not everyone is hearing that message. "There is considerable change fatigue and uncertainty burnout."

She says people have to be adaptable, and stay informed.

This week, for the first time in months, COVID trends in Milwaukee County are heading in the wrong direction.

Dr. Ben Weston, Chief Health Policy Advisor for Milwaukee County, said, "As we've seen over and over with this virus, we cannot predict the future."

The City of Milwaukee's Health Commissioner Kirsten Johnson said, "We've learned a lot over the last few years. This virus is dynamic and unpredictable."

Brandon Weathersby, Communications Director for the Office of County Executive, said, "We don't have a crystal ball, we can't predict the future here on an uncertain pandemic landscape."

While the totals are still relatively low, the county's case rate is up by 30% this week, and hospitalizations have doubled over the past two weeks.

Dr. Weston said, "The trends are what is key. And we're seeing very clear trends across the board, whatever measure you look at."

In many parts of the country, the evolving science is leading to renewed masking recommendations.

Dr. Weston said, "As much as we all want to be done with COVID, we should take this moment as an opportunity to remember that we're still dealing with COVID-19, and members of the public should remain cautious."

Local experts acknowledge it can be confusing or frustrating when requirements have been instated or lifted, even though they're based on the data. Dr. Mirgain said, "I think that can lead people to feel really confused. [Asking] 'Am I doing it right?'

Which is why she says clear messaging is key. "It's so important in the midst of a pandemic, or other health crisis, to really stay in the moment and not do too much future forecasting."

Despite the rising COVID trends, health officials said there are no plans to reinstate a citywide or countywide mask order.

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