Dear Commons Community,
The New York Times has a featured article this morning based on a national survey of mask use during the COVID-19 pandemic. In some American neighborhoods, it’s hard to spot even one person outside without a face covering. In others, your odds of seeing many maskless people are quite high. The map illustrated in the article is interactive and you can click on different states and locals. Here is an excerpt from the main text.
“Public health officials believe that face coverings can substantially slow transmission of the coronavirus, which is spreading rapidly in many states. But face coverings work best if they are adopted widely, and that is not the case everywhere. The accompanying map shows the odds of whether, if you encountered five people in a given area, all of them would be wearing masks.
Our data comes from a large number of interviews conducted by the global data and survey firm Dynata at the request of The New York Times. The firm asked a question about mask use to obtain 250,000 survey responses between July 2 and July 14, enough data to provide estimates more detailed than the state level. (Several states have imposed new mask requirements since the completion of these interviews.)
The map shows broad regional patterns: Mask use is high in the Northeast and the West, and lower in the Plains and parts of the South. But it also shows many fine-grained local differences. Masks are widely worn in the District of Columbia, but there are sections of the suburbs in both Maryland and Virginia where norms seem to be different. In St. Louis and its western suburbs, mask use seems to be high. But across the Missouri River, it falls.
Brian Kemp, the governor of Georgia, recently barred local governments in the state from requiring mask use, but on Friday he urged residents to wear them anyway.
In many parts of Georgia, seeing unmasked people is common, but mask use is very high in the area around the city of Albany, where there was an early and intense outbreak of coronavirus.
These variations reflect differences in disease risk and politics, but they also may reflect some local idiosyncrasies. Elizabeth Dorrance Hall, an assistant professor of communications at Michigan State University, said mask behavior can be subject to a kind of peer pressure: If most everyone is wearing one, reluctant people may go along. If few people are, that can influence behavior, too. Such dynamics can shape the behavior of friends, neighbors and communities.
“We definitely take our cues from our friends, and we often, almost always, already share values with our friends,” Professor Dorrance Hall said. “It takes a strong person to stand up and say: This is what we’re doing and we’re all doing it.”
Despite these variations, and despite the flare-ups over the issue that pepper social media, the rates of self-reported mask use in the United States are high. Several national surveys in recent weeks have found that around 80 percent of Americans say they wear masks frequently or always when they expect to be within six feet of other people. That number falls short of the sort of universal masking many public health officials have asked for, but it is higher than the rates of mask use in several other countries, including Canada, Finland and Denmark, according to a recent survey from YouGov.”
Interesting data and illustration.