Black and Hispanic Americans are far more cautious in their approach to COVID-19 than white Americans, with recent polls showing differing preferences on how to deal with the pandemic as federal, state and local restrictions fall by the wayside.
Despite the majority’s favorability among US adults overall for measures such as the mask mandate, public health experts said divided opinion among racial groups reflects the pandemic’s disproportionate impact not only on people of color, but some white Americans. The middle also shows indifference.
As of April 1, black Americans (63%) and Hispanic Americans (68%) are more likely than white Americans (45%) to have at least one family member infected with COVID-19. are concerned about. Survey from the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.
During the pandemic, black and Hispanic communities have experienced higher rates of illness and death from COVID, said Amelia Burke-Garcia, public health program area director at NORC. Those experiences have resulted in increased levels of stress, anxiety and awareness about the risks of catching COVID-19, which means people of color are more likely to feel the need for measures such as masks, he said. Is.
“We’ve seen these trends throughout the pandemic,” Burke-Garcia said. “What we are seeing now as mitigation measures are being rolled back, there is still a lot of concern among Black Americans and Hispanic Americans around the risk of getting sick.”
Seventy percent of black Americans say they are in favor of requiring face masks for people traveling on airplanes, trains and other forms of public transportation. It is more than 52% of white Americans who support the mask mandate for travelers; 29% of white Americans are protesting. Among Hispanic Americans, 59% are in favor and 20% are against. The vote was preceded by a federal judge revoking the government’s mask mandate for travelers.
In Indiana, the Tuwana plant said it sees fewer and fewer people wearing masks in public, even though she said she’s always been diligent in wearing one. Plant, who is black, said she sees people treating the pandemic as if it’s over, and she wants the mask mandate to continue.
Plante, a 46-year-old cook, said she had some concerns about getting vaccinated and took every other precaution like cleaning and masking to avoid getting sick, but recently hospitalized her for COVID-19 had gone.
The experience terrified her – she has a pre-existing lung condition, and she knew family members who had died of COVID-19. She said she plans to get vaccinated as soon as possible.
“I called my kids when I was in the emergency room,” Plante said. “I didn’t know… if it was going to be better or worse, I didn’t know. So it was a complete experience for me.”
Dr. Celine Gounder, an infectious disease specialist and epidemiologist and editor-at-large at Kaiser Health News, said people’s life experiences profoundly shape how they view pandemics. Anecdotes and personal experience can have a bigger impact on behavior than numbers, she said, and people of color are more likely to have negative experiences with health care before and during the pandemic.
While new drugs and vaccines have made it easier to treat COVID-19, Gounder said many people still face systemic barriers to accessing that medical care. That said, others are at risk of losing their jobs or being unable to take time off if they fall ill, or may not avoid things like public transportation to reduce their risk.
“When people argue that they don’t have to wear masks on a plane, it means something very different to someone who has access to all these new innovations, who has no health insurance, who doesn’t have any health insurance. Struggles to care for the elderly. Parents and their children, who may be a single mother working in a job where she is sick and not paid family medical leave,” Gounder said. “It’s just a completely different calculation.”
In January, an Associated Press-NORC poll showed that black and Hispanic Americans were more likely than white Americans to feel that certain things would be necessary to get back to life without realizing the risk of infection. For example, 76% of black Americans and 55% of Hispanic Americans said it was necessary for this to be normal that most people regularly wear face masks in public indoor places, compared to 38% of white Americans.
Last month, an Associated Press-NORC survey showed black and Hispanic Americans, 69% and 49%, were more likely than white Americans, 35%, to say they always or often wore a face mask around others. Huh.
Less support for mask mandates and other precautions among white Americans may also reflect the low sensitivity that occurs in communities of color. In a 2021 study into wearing masks early in the pandemic, researchers found that mask wear among white people increased when white people were dying at a higher rate in the surrounding community. When black and Hispanic people were dying, there was less use of masks.
Berkeley Franz, co-author of the paper, said that in addition to residential segregation, which separates white people from communities of color, previous research has shown that white people may display ambivalence toward policies they believe. That most help people of color.
“Anti-Blackness is really widespread and has tremendous consequences, both in terms of policies that get passed, and what don’t,” Franz said. “White people can still take really racist action without seeing themselves that way and without understanding the consequences. This is largely below the surface and unintentional but has tremendous consequences in terms of equity.”
Communities of color also have a different perception of risk from the pandemic than their white counterparts, said University of Arkansas sociology professor Michael Nino, who co-authored a paper on race, gender and masking in the pandemic.
“Masking is something that is relatively cheap, it is effective, and it is something that can be done easily,” he said. “It doesn’t require any sort of government response. These pervasive histories of racism and sexism in the United States are certainly shaping some of the patterns we’re seeing.”
The Associated Press-NORC survey of 1,085 adults was conducted April 14–18 using a sample drawn from NORC’s probability-based AmeriSpeak panel, which is designed to be representative of the US population. The margin of sample error for all respondents is plus or minus 3.9 percentage points.