The Covid Anxiety Syndrome Scale—C19ASS for short—has been tested for validity on US research participants (who do not, unlike the researchers who designed the study, have access to a national health service or statutory sick pay). The study indicated that the kinds of individuals most liable to develop Covid Anxiety Syndrome are those who are clinically vulnerable, those who are at financial risk, and those who are neurotic.
There are a range of critiques that might be applied to the C19ASS study—not least the fact that it relies for its population sample on MTurk (an Amazon web service that brokers access to crowd-sourced workers who are paid, on average, $2 per hour), a research practice that is both ethically and scientifically controversial. More relevant here, however, is that the fundamental premise of Covid Anxiety Syndrome as a disease category is that the conclusion of the crisis is straightforward to determine or possible to generalize.
As the study itself picks up in its identification of clinical and financial vulnerable as risk factors for the syndrome, the end of the pandemic is not going to be uniform. It will always depend on who you ask, what disciplinary lens or tools they bring to the question, and how their own body and economic circumstances affect their relationship to the disease. By turning non-normative avoidance of the virus—degrees of worry that fall outside the bell curve—into an anxiety syndrome, we presume as normative low-risk bodies with access to healthcare. A disease category that is dependent upon a determination that the crisis is past—or that it can be unilaterally declared so—fails to account for the plurality of ways we might or might not reach an end of COVID-19, both as individuals and as a collective.
The removal of mitigations—or, depending on how you look at it, the easing of restrictions—has allowed for a return to communal eating practices, in-person religious gatherings, live performances, and music festivals. In some respects, perhaps the world of the Iliad is not so very different from our own. Above all, however, these public signals that we’ve crossed from intolerable to tolerable levels of collective risk reveal that there are no clean conclusions to mass disease events. What research psychologists have framed as Covid Anxiety Syndrome might better be understood as a consequence of this ambiguity, which leaves the end of the pandemic frayed and various, open to interpretation and different according to perspective and circumstance, ultimately as much a social performance or construction as a measurable fact.