People are growing weary with COVID-19 safety guidelines, and it’s leading to the spread of the virus, health officials say.

As pandemic enters its sixth month, Dr. Molly O’Dell, director of communicable disease prevention for the Roanoke City and Alleghany Health Districts, said most new cases are linked to people dropping their guard  at weddings, funerals, baby showers, parties and in the workplace.

“By and large, people are getting exhausted from COVID-cool behaviors. People are just tired of this, and they are fatigued from the constraints COVID is putting on their lives. There’s no question about that,” O’Dell said Tuesday.

O’Dell held her weekly press briefing via teleconference Tuesday morning. She was joined by Dr. Cynthia Morrow, the director of the two health districts.

In the past four weeks, new cases of the virus have ranged from 120 to 160 per week. Most new cases are occurring in the 20 to 29 age bracket, followed by people aged 30 to 40. Those age ranges represent not only college students, but also the working population.  

Forty-two new cases were reported in the health districts Tuesday. Those cases had risen since Monday, O’Dell said. Twenty-six people were hospitalized.

“I think this is easier for introverts than extroverts for sure. It’s the socialism that people are starving for,” said O’Dell in stressing  that people have grown tired of isolation, wearing face coverings and maintaining social distancing.

“Even shaking hands and hugging. I mean, everybody is tired of not being able to do that,” she said. “The virus wants to spread, when we give it an opportunity, it’s there and it’s going to.  It’s the same old bug that’s been wanting to highjack my RNA from the get-go. Even though I get tired, it doesn’t get tired.”

O’Dell and Morrow said people need to find a way to safely socialize and maintain safe health practices.

O’Dell said she spends a lot of time outdoors. Morrow said she has observed people safely socializing at a gas station while drinking coffee.

“When I drive to work, I often see what appears to be elderly men, sitting in a large social-distanced circle, having coffee outside of a gas station. Clearly, they have found a way to remain socially connected while keeping a distance,” Morrow said.

“I encourage each of us to find what brings us joy, to think about those around us that may be more socially isolated and reach out in a safe way, whether it’s through a parking lot or a phone call,” she said.

O’Dell, who has worked to educate the public through her weekly press briefings and through newspaper columns, said she has felt the frustrations people are exhibiting over COVID-19.

“I have gotten some nasty emails and phone calls and it’s mainly over the face coverings,” she said. “Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, and I respect that not everyone’s opinion is going to align with mine.”        

But, she said, others  have expressed their appreciation over her efforts to keep the public updated.

“I have made a concerted effort to steer people in the right direction and people appreciate that,” O’Dell said. 

On Tuesday, health officials reported 12 COVID-19 outbreaks: five in businesses, two in congregating settings, one church, one higher education, and three in long-term care facilities.

As of Tuesday, health officials were reporting 2,933 cumulative cases in the two health districts. Alleghany County was reporting 79 cumulative cases and Covington, 27. Bath County, which is part of the Central-Shenandoah Health District, was reporting a total of six cases.