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As a new strain of coronavirus (COVID-19) swept through the world in 2020, preparedness plans, masking policies and more public policy changed just as quickly. WVXU has covered the pandemic's impact on the Tri-State from the very beginning, when on March 3, 2020, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine barred spectators from attending the Arnold Sports Festival in Columbus over concerns about the virus, even though Ohio had yet to confirm a single case of COVID-19.

'COVID Fatigue,' Poor Threat Assessment Among Reasons People Don't Wear Masks

coronavirus mask

New Hamilton County COVID-19 cases are on average doubling every two weeks. At this rate, health care officials warn hospitals will be strained. They say simple protocols, like mask wearing, can avert that.

Dr. John Kennedy is vice president of medical affairs at Christ Hospital, and a psychiatrist. He says there's still resistance to mask wearing, in part because humans can have a tough time recognizing the threat.

"This is an invisible virus," he says. "You can't see it, you can't smell it, you can't taste it. And the time you're more dangerous is when you don't have symptoms. So we are unable to perceive the risk accurately in order to make a decision." 

Kennedy says people have also become used to the threat of infection and may not be taking it as seriously. To change that, he says people need to view safeguards as a habit and not a response to a threat.

He says mask wearing needs to be viewed as a mark of respect. "If I walked up to you and sneezed in your face, you would punch me. It is hard-coded into us," he says. "Well, where did that come from? First, it's gross, but second it's rooted in public health. We understand that that's bad for us and we teach our children from a very young age: Don't sneeze in someone's face."

Kennedy says it will also help if people accept that the pandemic isn't going away any time soon, and to get into the habit of wearing masks, washing hands and social distancing.

Kennedy spoke Friday at a press conference organized by the Health Collaborative to discuss climbing COVID-19 cases.

Bill Rinehart started his radio career as a disc jockey in 1990. In 1994, he made the jump into journalism and has been reporting and delivering news on the radio ever since.