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Why Won’t These Midwesterners Wear Face Masks?

Danny Rice, 67, discusses the coronavirus in his auto repair shop in downtown Elmwood, Nebraska, on Monday, Nov. 9, 2020. (AP Photo/Grant Schulte)

by Michael John Scott

Danny Rice doesn’t want to catch the virus, because he has a good sense of how dangerous it can be. What puzzles him are the people who have curtailed so much of their lives to avoid being infected. “I’m not going out and looking to catch it,” he told the AP, sitting at a cluttered desk in his auto repair shop in the tiny eastern Nebraska community of Elmwood. “I don’t want to catch it. But if I get it, I get it. That’s just how I feel.”

There are thousands of people who agree with Rice, and health experts shake their heads as they acknowledge those puzzling views are powering COVID-19 infection rates, especially in parts of the rural Midwest.

The potentially deadly disease is spreading unabated and threatening to overwhelm hospitals. It’s not that people in Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota, Iowa, and elsewhere don’t realize their states are leading the nation in new cases per capita.  It’s just that many of them aren’t especially concerned. Wayne County, home to 6,400 people in southern Iowa, has the state’s second-highest case rate, yet its public health administrator, says mask-wearing is rare.

The public health director in Jones County, Iowa, said [even now] that her rural county has the state’s highest virus rate, people have opted not to make any changes, such as wearing masks: “They don’t think it’s real,” she said, and “they just don’t want to wear a mask because we’ve made it a whole political thing at this point.” Claire Gillespie of Health.com writes:

Denial might be at the root of some people’s refusal to wear a face mask—and it’s an extremely powerful defense mechanism. “Denial kicks in automatically when someone can’t handle the depth and seriousness of a situation,” Dr. DeSilva explains. “The COVID-19 crisis is traumatizing, and many psychological defenses will arise to help individuals cope. Denial leads to avoidance and then leads to not hearing the facts, which in turn leads to not following safety measures to prevent the thing they fear. It is a vicious, unhelpful cycle, which ultimately contributes to the problem.”

Feeding into this denial is a growing number of conspiracy theories and other out-there ideas about the pandemic. “Wild ideas can get traction and get a following on social media,” says Dr. Seide. “There are voices out there questioning the data we are being presented with regarding the prevalence and severity of COVID-19; it has become something of a movement. There are people literally denying the virus, and there are people who are subconsciously in denial about the virus.”

In part, some of those views are hard to fight because many people have no symptoms and most of those who do get sick recover quickly. Cases and the death toll are rising dramatically, yet these anti-maskers continue with that fatalist majority:  “I don’t want to catch it. But if I get it, I get it. That’s just how I feel.”



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Posted by on November 15, 2020. Filed under COMMENTARY/OPINION. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry
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4 Responses to Why Won’t These Midwesterners Wear Face Masks?

  1. Glenn Geist Reply

    November 16, 2020 at 10:00 am

    Nobody tells me what to do – I’m a big boy now. I’m two years old!

  2. jess Reply

    November 15, 2020 at 10:35 pm

    I’ll take are they fucking morons for a thousand Alec.

  3. Bill Formby Reply

    November 15, 2020 at 9:50 am

    It is much the same as the laws regarding seat belts. Many people in rural America jump in their pick up truck and never think about buckling up. “I don’t need it they claim because I am not going to have an accident, and even if I do there is no guarantee that a seat belt will save me. It is just the government trying to control people’s lives.
    No, only those who are too stupid to control their own lives.

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