Monitoring and Self-quarantining
A huge challenge from the beginning of the pandemic has been monitoring and self-quarantining. If a person had recently come in contact with someone who had travelled to affected places or they had a recent history of extensive travel themselves, they were to take extra care in monitoring themselves and self-quarantine in cases of risky travel history. Despite warnings from authorities, we saw a lot of cases where at risk citizens did not take the right measures and some put the lives of many others at risk.
So what stops us from being more careful in the face of such a threat?
It is very difficult to imagine falling sick when we are not sick, especially with a new disease. The lesser we see people around us falling sick, the lesser we feel is the chance of us falling sick. Depending on the age, the felt risk of contracting the virus also varied a lot. Given the novelty of this virus and ambiguity around symptoms, there is a tendency to misattribute symptoms to something more common - allergies, common cold, etc. The mental model was that ‘the younger you are, the safer you are and may be healthy enough to take some risks’. These factors could have led to a sense of overconfidence and private optimism - ‘it might happen to others but not me, I am more careful’. Also to note, is that there are good reasons to assume the worst and take the precautionary route, but in some cases (a small minority), paranoia also leads to a lot of anxiety.
What can be done to encourage self-monitoring and adherence to measures?
The first step is to avoid confusion and provide a simple heuristic to decide what one should be doing based on their exposure levels. Ambiguity regarding who should be doing what can cause confusion and inaction. Easy to follow decision map can help in communicating this more precisely.
Source: MIT Medical
The communication to the public about these self-imposed measures needs to be sensitive to the fact that people are continuously making trade-offs - caring for the family, economic activity etc. Invisibility of feedback from following mandated measures and growing impatience with everyday sacrifices leaves a lot of grey area for people to operate in and justify their actions. In this context, the kind of communication that creates a fear of institutional quarantine for at-risk population makes people engage in risky behaviors.
Categorical steps to self-monitor can help in normalizing the behavior, almost like a habit. Communicating a few clear steps instead of burdening them with a list of things to follow each day - checking temperature, remaining alert for breathing difficulty - can ensure easier adoption. Guidelines to help family members assist with the monitoring of symptoms can ensure collective responsibility. Larger families with small spaces are particularly vulnerable to trading off precautions to constraints. Active reminders everyday through the Covid mobile application can also act as cues to drive adherence.