Despite the recent surge in Covid-19 cases in Mono County, Mammoth residents have largely appeared unconcerned about Covid – the same people who, a year ago, were socially distancing and wearing masks in order to prevent the spread of a very contagious virus.
According to Mono County Behavioral Health Director Robin Roberts, this isn’t because people have become “more selfish.” Instead, they’re simply desensitized to the consequences of contracting the disease.
“I think the main reason fear-based prevention does not work is precisely this reason- that people get tired of it after a while and get numb. I think that’s where we’re at. People were really scared in the beginning, and we were all in fight, flight or freeze mode there for quite a long while. Some of us had some really terrible experiences of either getting Covid or having people in our lives get it and get really ill or die. And so we made adjustments around that. But now we’re just numb, I think. That’s what I see – people are just tired of it, or they think that they’re going to get sick but not get too sick. I guess what we’ve learned is that, if you are going to die, you will take precautions for yourself and others, but if you’re not, then you don’t care,” said Roberts.
The Sheet talked with local business ownersand residents to learn what they’ve seen change in customer and employee attitude towards Covid over the past year.
According to Kittredge Sports Assistant Manager Wes Morrison, less than 20% of all customers coming into the store are now masked up.
“I’m wearing a mask but I don’t think anyone else is. And probably the same ratio of customers are wearing masks as people that work here, and the majority aren’t. Whether that’s good or bad I don’t know, but we’ll see. Since people aren’t mandated to wear masks now, I think that they’re either not scared of Covid anymore or they’re just accepting of getting it,” said Morrison. “But the ones that do wear masks are all wearing real masks, either N-95 or KN-95. The ones that are doing it are the ones taking it seriously, which makes sense.”
The entire staff at Stellar Brew is currently wearing masks. “We all agreed to it, just because there’s been spikes and we want to keep each other safe and make sure that we’re all still working, and that the business keeps running smoothly. I’ve definitely seen customers caring way less about Covid though,” said Barista Lauren Gaul.
“Most of the staff is vaccinated here, but if they get sick they just go home and it’s not really a big deal. They come back when they test negative,” said Nate Smith, Manager at Wave Rave.
“We have definitely seen pandemic fatigue in our guests. Some folks choose to continue to wear masks indoors and some guests choose not to. Each group chooses what works for them,” said Fun Shop owner Camille Miller.
Mammoth Unified School District (MUSD) currently plans to move forward towards the 2022-2023 school year with the same Covid protocols in place, including vaccination requirements of staff and high school students. However, this could change.
“I can’t actually tell you at this time. We’re a little bit in transition at the moment,” said Administrative Assistant Cathy Molina. MUSD has a scheduled board meeting set for the end of July; although the agenda for the meeting hasn’t been posted yet, it is likely that Covid guidelines for the coming school year will be discussed.
The overall tone of Mammoth’s dealings with Covid is therefore that of a free-for-all. Robin Roberts attempted to explain why this is: “We live in a very individualistic society, so people are going to think of themselves first. That’s the culture that we were shaped by. For example, I’m older, and I am currently being super careful around Covid because of a trip I am going on soon that I don’t want to miss, meaning that I am one of the few people right now wearing a mask and taking precautions. But once a person in this kind of society loses an understanding of how something directly threatens them personally, it’s simply hard for their brain to keep fearing it.”
Sheet: Have Covid responses been fear-based for so long that there’s no way to get people to care in a more sustainable, collective way?
Roberts: “I think we’re all so entrenched in other narratives that I don’t see that logic and reason is going to help. I don’t think there’s any going back. I just think we’re numb. When people say ‘they’re over it’ what I think they’re saying, at least in my world, is that we don’t want to do this anymore’ … But the erosion of the trust in government and in public health officials, what is that going to mean for the next whatever-happens-in-our-country?”