Are you still wearing a face mask? Your choice may be influenced by your breed
Although the AP-NORC and KFF surveys record the phenomenon, they do not ask why. A growing body of research points to two possible explanations: First, black people perceive a higher risk when it comes to COVID-19, having experienced higher rates of infection, hospitalizations and deaths – as well as economic impacts and on mental health more important. And second, by discovering the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on blacks and Latinos, whites have become less likely to see the need to protect themselves by wearing masks.
“What we see is that more [white] people perceive there are racial disparities in impact, the more likely they will not support mask-wearing,” said Allison L. Skinner-Dorkenoo, UGA psychology professor and co-author of a recent study conducted by members of the university psychology. department. The study involved asking written questions of 500 white participants and found that while white people thought COVID posed a greater threat to blacks and Hispanics, they were less fearful of the virus and possibly less susceptible. to wear a mask themselves.
Similarly, Berkeley Franz, professor of community health at Ohio University, conducted a study that found white people living in areas of the country where blacks and Latinos were dying from the virus at higher rates were less likely to wear masks — and that “mask use increased when white death rates compared to black and Hispanic rates increased.
“I wanted to know how willing Americans are to do things that benefit others,” Franz said.
The most recent polls mirror others taken earlier in the pandemic that found the same precautionary divide, said Amelia Burke-Garcia, public health program director at AP-NORC. “We saw attitudes toward protocols needed to return to ‘normal’ — such as wearing masks in public and vaccinations for children — sustained among Black and Latino respondents,” she said. (Asian Americans and Native Americans were not asked in these polls.)
Meanwhile, “the lack of federal guidelines on mask wearing has morphed into an individual level of intervention,” said Dr. Oni Blackstock, an HIV physician and founder of Health Justice, a consulting firm. in health equity. “I’m not surprised by the survey results, thinking about the communities most at risk.”
Black and Latino communities experiencing more deaths, proportionally, create a “demography of loss,” said Keri-Leigh Merritt, historian and co-editor of an upcoming book, “After Life: A Collective History of Loss and Redemption. in Pandemic America”. This loss “will affect you and make you take precautions much longer.”
At a mall in Dacula, Gwinnett County on Friday afternoon, far fewer than half of dozens of shoppers wore masks, and most of them were African American women. Those who agreed to speak to the AJC said they suffered a loss from the pandemic.
Tami Smith had taken a more a la carte menu approach to COVID protections — she used masks, but hadn’t been vaccinated — rather than the blanket approach recommended by medical science. “I’m sure a lot of black people are vaccinated,” she said. “I’m just not one of them.”
“My whole family is still wearing masks,” Nickie Tingle, 38, said, adding, “I’m going to take the mask off in some restaurants.” Her teenage daughter fell ill with COVID late last year and ‘brought it home – we’ve all had it’. She also hasn’t been vaccinated, as she is breastfeeding, and “no doctor could tell me what would happen” if she got vaccinated.
Asked about the investigations, she said black people “were the most infected early on, and that made us want to protect ourselves.”
Kruti Pandya is 34 years old; she lives near Auburn with in-laws in their 80s, so she’s “very cautious.” Pandya has lost a few members of her extended family to COVID. “Nobody wears a mask now; it’s the new normal… I wear mine, I do my sanitizer. It is everyone’s responsibility. »
Kathy Carey wears her mask in most public places, but not in church, where fewer people go since services are online and those who go in person sit six feet apart. She also doesn’t mask at her community gym, because “few people go there.” Carey, 62, had also not been vaccinated. “I don’t do vaccines,” she said. “I don’t trust them.”
“I made my own decisions,” she added.
Black and Hispanic Americans were vaccinated at lower rates than whites when the vaccines were initially rolled out, but that gap has narrowed significantly and even reversed in the case of Hispanics.
Charla Ruschelle is a black fashion designer in Atlanta who has been selling face masks which she has been making since March 2020, when the World Health Organization first declared a pandemic. She’s sold at least a thousand, she says. More than two years later, she is perplexed by friends who don’t wear a mask and say, “I’ve already contracted COVID. I tell them, ‘I didn’t get COVID and I’m not trying to.’ »
Ruschelle hopes African Americans will continue to wear masks. “I want us to be there. I don’t want anything we can prevent to pull us out.
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