Managing pandemic anxiety amid 4th surge, Bay Area psychologist weighs in

"I think we have to take a deep breath and say, 'Okay, what do we need to do?'"
SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- Recent changes to mask recommendations across the Bay Area and the U.S. may mean more stress for some people who are feeling the pandemic is taking a step backwards.

Amid the current fourth surge being experienced now, Santa Clara University Psychology Professor Dr. Thomas Plante told ABC7 News, "I think we have to take a deep breath and say, 'Okay, what do we need to do? What are the county health officials, state health officials, Center for Disease Control asking us to do?' And at least right now, they seem to be just asking us to wear a mask indoors again."

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People are now having to navigate the fourth surge of the COVID-19 pandemic, fueled by the more transmissible and more infectious Delta variant.

Dr. Plante reminded, as difficult as the last 18 months have been, we are better prepared.

"We did the quarantine and we wore our masks, and we did everything we could to stay away from people- six feet apart when we're out and about," he emphasized. "And we did all these things. And if you survived it and your loved ones survived it, then you know you've got what it takes to make this work."

Others tell ABC7 News, they also know the toll the pandemic has taken- the deaths, divisiveness, and the damage. Many mentioned the mental exhaustion and impacts to the local economy, and so much more.

"It hurt so many people and it was so sad to see so many other business owners that I know have to close," San Jose resident and business owner, Monika Diaz shared. "And what it did to their families... It's really sad."

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Today, we're watching cases climb and witnessing the return of mask recommendations or mandates.

"I think we're trying to stay hopeful as much as possible and celebrate the good times," resident Ashley Sanchez said. "There's always that worry in the back of our minds, but it's Friday night. So, we're trying to have a good time."

Sanchez and her friend Meagan Potter, a Seattle resident, explained they are long-distance friends who are finally reconnecting.

They, like many who spoke with ABC7 News, are putting on a brave face even as things appear to be going backwards.

"We're very concerned about if this continues to go back and forth and whatnot, what are the psychosocial and even economic implications of that," Dr. Plante said about his conversations with other psychologist. "I think we all have to be part of the solution and not part of the problem. If everyone cooperates and does what they need to do based on good science, good public health data, and so forth, hopefully, we can get through this and come out of it as a whole."

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"But time will tell, I suppose," he added.

Revisiting the mention of divisiveness during the pandemic, Dr. Plante elaborated, "Families are fractured because some family members will refuse to wear masks or be vaccinated and so forth. While other family members go along. And I think this is really unfortunate because, people dig in their heels, and they often are not open to new information."

Potter admitted, "I've definitely experienced it within my own family- certain people are just not with the vaccine."

"It's definitely creating some tension within my family," she continued.

Dr. Plante added, "We always want to listen to experts, and you know, too often people are quick to listen to some random person on Twitter or TikTok, or Facebook, rather than Dr. Fauci and other health experts."

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Plante explained there is cost and benefit to everything.

"Every time we get in a car, there's a risk of an accident. Every time we hop on a bicycle, you know, we could get run over," he said. "There's risks and benefits. And I think we all have to kind of make some assessment for ourselves and our loved ones."

Plante shared, "Of course, it's frustrating. Of course, it's upsetting, disconcerting. We are so done with this virus, but the virus isn't done with us."

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