Learning about the psychology of people in a pandemic has been one of the most fascinating things about the efforts to control disease epidemics. The first basic principle that epidemiologists have to adopt from my observations on Covid 19 is "People Can't Wait". Now I think that had the disease been Ebola with the same rate of contagion as Covid 19 then people would be more willing to wait and self isolate themselves. With Covid 19 the infection roulette of who gets sick and who does not and who dies and who does not adds ambiguity to the popular psychology of who to wait it out. Viruses often strike animal populations in mating season and humans are no different. The urge to group together to facilitate mating has proven to be a major reason for some parts of the overall population to take added risk of gathering. Alcoholism is another reason for covid 19 risk taking and not being able to wait it out. Not being able to wait is also exacerbating the psychology of "I am going to die anyway and I should be having more fun now because as the saying goes 'have fun while the sun is shining'.
The sense that a disease can kill you and your loved ones and that death is lingering in the shadows around you may make you fell like it is now or never. That helps the disease spread too. Not being able to wait takes on a bigger life of its own with society as a whole. People isolating find they have time on their hands and want to join groups and participate in some activity hence we have protests, riots and looting as a community activity that reinforces the idea in society that we may all be dead soon and doing something moderately dangerous and destructive makes sense if your going to die any way or could be killed by the epidemic. Not being able to wait is destructive in every day life with out a pandemic and only gets worse with one in progress. People who drive too fast can't wait an extra ten minutes to get to a destination . They drive too fast with considerably greater risk but really not saving enough time to make it worth the risk. One of the first things I noticed during the lockdown in the USA is people driving cars started driving way too fast when traffic subsided due to most people not driving. It is now 6 to7 months in to the pandemic and the people driving above the speed limit is almost universal. It was not that bad before the pandemic. Again this is about not getting as much satisfaction in life if one dies too soon because of the virus.
Miracles and wishful thinking. The pandemic makes more miracles possible and wishful thinking finds many new useful cures. This is also becoming obvious in the halls of big government where failure is creating mass popular delusions that include defunding police. This is a side effect of feeling powerless against the virus. The police are also becoming a popular scape goat. Government is busy pushing the narrative with the mass media of social injustice. Suddenly it is racial minorities most likely to die from the disease because they are more likely to be first responders....but that is a false notion since doctors were originally one of the first groups to find themselves getting infected. Related to this is feeling of becoming super human and super safe. Safety is the next strange forthcoming problem with epidemic psychology. Mask wearing and hand washing and wearing gloves all as emblems of being one of safer people racks society with a new absurd psychology. People get too close to you when masks are required...this and having to remove and reuse masks can render that whole mass psychology anti productive and even dangerous.
Delusion and mass societal delusion takes off. The ultimate cure a lot of people see is fascism and grander schemes of socialism.. Yes all of this is related to the virus making people feel as if the only way to feel safe is joining a group that marches in step with more rules and regulations than can be imagined. Looking at all things psychological that develop as wider social issues it is clear that the psychology of an epidemic/ pandemic can be more dangerous than the disease it self. I am not an epidemiologist but if I wrote the text book there would be various chapters in the book about the dangers of psychology and mass popular psychology sometimes worse than the disease itself.