The media isn’t letting go of coronavirus fear

Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial start to summer. This year it was also the unofficial end of the coronavirus. 

We’ve seen mask mandates and public health orders fall by the wayside over the past few weeks, but Memorial Day weekend is a bright line. Milwaukee and many other communities will lift the restrictions today. It is a celebration of getting back to normal. 

Unless you work in a newsroom. 

The end of the coronavirus is the end of the story of the year. Seriously, every single day for the past 16 months there has been a story about the coronavirus. There were the daily positives, then the positivity rates, then the deaths, then the vaccinations. Newsrooms ran daily stat trackers in their newscasts. The Wisconsin Department of Health Services had almost daily news calls. Some of them were run live on TV. 

The end of the coronavirus means the end of those stories. 

Not that some news outlets are not trying to hang on. Channel 12 had a piece yesterday titled “FOGO: Fear of going out? Doctor has tips as life returns to normal.”

After more than a year of COVID-19 restrictions, many people spent the long weekend reuniting with loved ones.

But a psychologist said others are now struggling with post-pandemic anxiety.

"Think about it: We're over 15 months into this pandemic and over a year into mask-wearing being normal," said Dr. Shilagh Mirgain with UW Health. "We had finally just kind of adjusted to this change in life only to have it shaken up overnight a few weeks ago with the change in guidelines.

WISN 12's Adrienne Pedersen asked what such drastic changes do to a person's psyche.

"Many people are experiencing a fear of going out: FOGO, and before the pandemic, we had FOMO: fear of missing out, but during the pandemic we kept safe by staying at home, by limiting social interaction," Mirgain said. "So people are feeling an uptick in anxiety going back out and doing regular things."

Got it? The coronavirus story continues to be about fear. And because so few people fear the virus, there has to be a new fear. The fear of returning to normal. 

You can see that fear embedded into other stories. 

The Indy 500 was on Sunday. It was a great race. There were 135,000 fans at the race track, almost none of them wore masks. And the Indianapolis newspaper made sure to point that out. 

Just five paragraphs into the story, the Indy Star wrote:

In many places, fairly crowded, actually. In some sections, people sat next to one another. In other sections, groups looked more clumped, with groups sitting apart. Still others were more thinned out.   

Outside the stands, people milled around but seemed able to keep some distance. Masks were required unless people were eating or drinking, but, according to social media posts and photos, it appeared that few fans were wearing them. Drivers and those involved in pre-race ceremonies, however, had face coverings for the most part.

The track has seen the same issue of masklessness. IndyStar reported last week that IMS officials acknowledged the lack of masking and said they would have mask ambassadors to enforce the rules.

Not a single maskless fan was quoted. In fact, no one was quoted. Just the opinion of the fearful author, presented as facts. 

And that’s the problem with letting the coronavirus story go. Whether it’s laziness or habit, and do not discount those two things, or it is genuine fear the people delivering the news are some of the most fearful. 

These people have given you half-slanted stories for a year. Many of our TV friends cut promos showing their maskings, many of them worked from home, they still interview people six feet apart. 

The people who sold you the story about the dangers of the coronavirus appear to have bought their own stories. Now they are the same people in charge of telling us it’s safe to go outside again. No wonder there are so many FOGO stories on TV or in the newspaper. 

The virus is done, the summer is beginning. Get outside, get back to normal, live your life. Don’t pay any attention to the haircuts at 6 and 10 p.m.. They’ll have another story to scare you with soon enough. 

Photo Credit: Getty Images