The COVID States Project, co-directed by political science professor Jamie Druckman, tracks differing attitudes and responses to public health guidelines in the United States
Three of their most recent reports examined COVID-19 data taking into account several socio-economic factors, including the second-year doctorate in political science. Student Jennifer Lin said it provides real-time understanding of the evolution of the pandemic and information in the event of future outbreaks.
Until March 2020, masks were not recommended for public use, when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention encouraged the use of cloth or surgical masks. Updated CDC guidelines as of Jan. 14 now suggest that N95 and KN95 masks, which were previously discouraged due to storage issues, offer the “highest level of protection.”
However, the organization argues that the best mask is one that is worn consistently and fitted correctly – even if it is not a respirator mask – despite the greater effectiveness of these masks than their cloth counterparts. and surgical. But the Biden administration is pushing the use of ventilators, making them widely available.
Due to misinformation and confusing messages, Druckman told The Daily that it’s not easy to find the best advice to follow, especially when public opinion differs from national guidelines. However, he said the increased distribution of better quality masks is a step to alleviate these barriers.
Druckman and other researchers looked at the attitudes of about 17,500 people toward masking.
Asked about CDC guidelines on masking, 54% of respondents believed the organization recommends the use of respirator masks, which it does not. About a quarter of respondents were unsure of the CDC’s recommendations on this topic.
Based on data collected between Dec. 27 and Jan. 10 — before the CDC updated its masking guidelines — 66% agreed that these masks offered more protection than other types of masks. However, about 21% of respondents actually wear respirators and 64% of survey respondents use cloth masks. Nine percent of respondents said they do not wear a mask.
After further analysis of the mask statistics, 48.50% said they wear a bandana, scarf, gaiter or other single- or two-layer fabric mask – the least effective types of masks – while 37, 60% said they wear a surgical mask.
However, the survey did not say whether those who wore cloth masks with fewer layers did so over surgical masks, which were found to be more effective than either mask alone.
Nineteen percent of people on the right said they don’t wear a mask, compared to 2% of people on the left. Considering vaccination status, 23% of unvaccinated people reported not wearing a mask, compared to 4% of vaccinated people. The survey also showed a racial disparity in mask wearing with 12% of white individuals not wearing a mask compared to 3% of black individuals, 3% of Asians and 6% of Hispanic individuals.
People who were more likely to wear a respirator mask were identified as left-leaning, vaccinated, educated beyond high school, earning higher incomes, people of color, or over 65.
Over 17 waves of the project’s survey, researchers found that the percentage of individuals who reported adhering to CDC mask wearing “very closely” peaked at around 80% in the winter of 2020. When the CDC reported said masks were no longer needed in May 2021, the respondent’s masking compliance dropped to less than 50% the following month.
On home testing
Another survey conducted by the group found that 31% of respondents who tested positive on a home antigen test had not received a confirmatory test from a healthcare provider or facility. of testing. Unless healthcare professionals report home testing in official statistics, this means COVID-19 positive cases may underestimate the true number by around 6%.
Ph.D. student Lin said the stigma associated with COVID-19 may also contribute to this underreporting, as people may be less likely to bring home test results.
“The social aspect of getting COVID is so stigmatized, which is really unfortunate,” Lin said. “Public health officials have told us what to do to prevent COVID, but also be very aware that this virus is out there, if you’re contributing to it, for some people there’s this feeling of guilt.”
Sixteen percent of respondents said they could not get tested as often as they wanted given limited availability, which could further contribute to undercounting positive cases due to potentially missing data.
The federal government has taken steps to make home testing more accessible after launching its purchase order January 18 to provide four free home tests per household.
The survey also found that 73% of college-aged students have taken a test, whether it’s a rapid test or an antigen test, with 33% of this demographic having used it at least once. a home antigen test. Of those aged 65 and over, 58% said they had taken a test, with 9% having used a home test at least once.
However, these figures could be due, in part, to greater accessibility of in-person and home testing at universities.
Another report from the COVID States Project determined that misinformation about COVID-19 is primarily driven by an individual’s trust in established experts such as the CDC to provide guidance. Those who don’t trust these sources tend to research their own information, which tends to be misinformation.
The survey collected data from 545 healthcare workers, which proved to be one of the most trusted sources of information on COVID-19.
A third of healthcare workers surveyed found misinformation to be an “urgent issue”, being the determining factor in deciding whether someone decides to get vaccinated.
Asked about the sources of misinformation, 73% of healthcare workers pointed to social media – particularly Facebook, Instagram and YouTube – and 64% attributed family and friends.
Druckman said this misinformation and confusing messages are largely perpetuated through social media.
“People often add moral content to bad information, and the moral content spreads,” Druckman said.
While Lin said misinformation from one person’s social media contributed to this confusion, the institutions’ “reverse” messages contributed to a lack of self-confidence and created a barrier to catching up with current guidance.
Another driver of misinformation, Druckman said, is that partisanship has polarized the pandemic, creating “fatal consequences.”
“Politicians seemed to see it as an opportunity to mobilize their constituency — it probably aligns, on some level, with values like equality and individual liberty,” Druckman said. “Obviously there was more at stake, including trying to paint the other side as ‘evil’ – and it didn’t help that the pandemic happened during a (presidential) election year.”
While many states have provided incentives such as store discounts and drinks for getting vaccinated, Lin said the number of vaccinations has gone down.
The country is at a point where people who wanted to get vaccinated would have already done so, making the incentives ineffective, she said.
“People who want to get vaccinated or want to get boosted have already done so,” Lin said. “No amount of lotteries are really going to change that. We’re at a point where people who cared all the time are going to continue to care, and people who gave up carrying all the time – you can’t convince them on the contrary.
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