ALBANY, N.Y. (Dec. 6, 2021) – With Americans navigating another pandemic holiday season, health experts are warning of a potential winter surge, driven by increased travel and more people gathering indoors due to the cold weather in most states.

The new Omicron coronavirus variant also poses “high infection risk” around the globe, according to the World Health Organization. The U.S. reported its first case of community transmission of Omicron last Thursday.

But, nearly 21 months into the pandemic, the appetite for coronavirus mitigation measures and restrictions may be waning as people grow tired of hearing and worrying about the virus, wearing masks, physical distancing and being away from family and friends.

University at Albany experts are available to discuss COVID-19 fatigue, its health and safety risks and coping skills to stay vigilant.

Dolores Cimini is the director and a senior research scientist at the University’s Center for Behavioral Health Promotion and Applied Research and is affiliated with UAlbany’s School of Education, a licensed psychologist, and director of the University’s Middle Earth Peer Assistance Program, an agency recognized as a model/exemplary program in alcohol and other drug prevention.

“College students, both locally and across our nation, are continuing to face challenges associated with COVID-19, including anxiety, depression, sleep problems and difficulty remaining engaged in academic classes. Colleges and universities have needed to be both responsive and nimble as they address these challenges, offering both in-person and virtual education and support services. Perhaps even more important is the need to prepare our students to return to home and family environments where there is vaccine hesitancy in the face of increasing COVID-19 infection rates by teaching students how to talk to their families and friends about these difficult subjects.”

Samantha Penta is an assistant professor at the College of Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security and Cybersecurity. Her research focuses on health and medical issues during a crisis, decision-making in preparedness and response and humanitarian logistics. She’s leading a study funded through the National Science Foundation to examine risk perception, information seeking and protective actions against COVID-19.

“Many people are understandably exhausted by over 20 months of pandemic life. The key to stay motivated to keep up COVID-19 protective behaviors is to remember why we all started doing them in the first place. Wearing a mask, social distancing, and getting vaccinated continue to be effective tools in combating the pandemic and supporting public health. Serious threats to health and wellbeing remain as new variants of the virus emerge, and these tools are as important now as ever.”

“Whether your primary concern is keeping yourself safe, protecting those around you from getting sick, or overall trying to bring an end to the pandemic so we can return to a more normal way of life, focusing on the risks we all face and the people we are trying to protect can help overcome the desire to throw in the towel on protective measures.” 

Tomoko Udo is an associate professor at the School of Public Health. She studies a wide range of addictive behaviors from alcohol/drug use to binge eating. During the pandemic, she has worked closely with leaders from the University in a public health advisory role, helped develop a campus student support team, and assisted in implementing a COVID-19 pooled surveillance testing program.

“All of us are tired of the restrictions, having to keep up with rapidly changing science and guidelines, and constant anxiety. This is especially frustrating when we do everything we can do, including getting multiple doses of vaccines, yet told that may not be enough because of emerging new variants. Over the next few weeks, I think we will learn a lot from the Omicron variant. We just need to stay tight and vigilant and not panic in the mean time. It is also important to remember that although use of mask was not commonly practiced in the U.S., staying away from sick individuals and frequently washing your hands have been common hygiene practices to control infectious diseases for centuries. Adding a face mask to protect yourself and others is a beneficial practice to simply adopt and continue to do.”


About the University at Albany:

A comprehensive public research university, the University at Albany-SUNY offers more than 120 undergraduate majors and minors and 125 master's, doctoral and graduate certificate programs. UAlbany is a leader among all New York State colleges and universities in such diverse fields as atmospheric and environmental sciences, businesseducation, public health, health sciences, criminal justice, emergency preparedness, engineering and applied sciences, informatics, public administration, social welfare and sociology, taught by an extensive roster of faculty experts. It also offers expanded academic and research opportunities for students through an affiliation with Albany Law School. With a curriculum enhanced by 600 study-abroad opportunities, UAlbany launches great careers.