Racial divide over COVID-19 endures as US restrictions ease | Health info

By ANNIE MA and HANNAH FINGERHUT, Associated Press

Black and Hispanic Americans remain far more cautious in their approach to COVID-19 than white Americans, recent polls show, reflecting differing preferences on how to deal with the pandemic as federal, state and local restrictions fall to the ground. side of the road.

Despite the majority preference among U.S. adults overall for measures like mask mandates, public health experts have said divided opinions across racial groups not only reflect the pandemic’s unequal impact on people of color, but also the apathy of some white Americans.

According to an April survey from the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

Throughout the pandemic, black and Hispanic communities have experienced higher rates of illness and death from COVID, said Amelia Burke-Garcia, director of NORC’s public health program. These experiences led to higher levels of stress, anxiety and awareness of the risks of catching COVID-19, she said, meaning people of color are more likely to feel that measures such as mask mandates are needed.

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“We’ve seen these trends continue throughout the pandemic,” Burke-Garcia said. “What we’re seeing now, as the mitigations are rolled back, is that there’s still great concern among black Americans and Hispanic Americans about the risk of getting sick.”

Seventy-one percent of black Americans say they support requiring face masks for people traveling by plane, train and other types of public transportation. That’s more than the 52% of white Americans who support mask mandates for travelers; 29% of white Americans oppose it. Among Hispanic Americans, 59% support it and 20% oppose it. The poll was conducted before a federal judge’s ruling scuttled the government’s mask mandate for travellers.

In Indiana, Tuwanna Plant said she’s seen fewer and fewer people wearing masks in public, though she said she’s been diligent about always 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.

Plant, a 46-year-old sous chef, said she had concerns about getting the vaccine and took all other precautions, such as cleaning and masking, to avoid getting sick, but recently been hospitalized with COVID.

The experience scared her – she has pre-existing lung disease and knew family members who died of COVID. She said she plans to get vaccinated as soon as she can.

“I called my kids while I was in the ER,” Plant said. “I didn’t know…if it was going to get better or worse, I didn’t know. So that was the experience for me altogether.”

Dr. Celine Gounder, an infectious disease specialist and epidemiologist and editor of Kaiser Health News, said people’s lived experiences deeply shape how they view the pandemic. Anecdotes and personal experience can have a bigger impact on behavior than numbers, she said, and people of color are more likely to have had 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. Others risk losing their jobs or are unable to take time off if they fall ill, she said, or cannot avoid things like public transport to reduce their exposures.

“When people argue that they don’t need a mask on the plane, it means something very different to someone who has access to all these new innovations than to someone who doesn’t. health insurance, struggling to care for an elderly parent and their children, who may be a single mother working in a job where she has no paid sick leave or family medical leave “Gounder said. “It’s just a completely different calculation.

In January, an AP-NORC poll showed that black and Hispanic Americans were more likely than white Americans to think certain things would be essential to getting back to life without feeling at risk of infection. For example, 76% of black Americans and 55% of Hispanic Americans said it was essential to get back to normal for most people to wear face masks regularly in indoor public places, compared to 38% of white Americans.

Last month, an AP-NORC poll showed that black and Hispanic Americans, 69% and 49%, were more likely than white Americans, 35%, to say they always or often wear a face mask around others. .

Lower support for mask mandates and other precautions among white Americans may also reflect lower sensitivity to what is happening in communities of color. In a 2021 study of mask wearing at the start of the pandemic, researchers found that mask wearing among white people increased as white people died at higher rates in the surrounding community. When blacks and Hispanics were dying, mask use was lower.

Berkeley Franz, co-author of the paper, said that in addition to residential segregation that separates whites from communities of color, previous research has shown that whites can display ambivalence towards policies that they believe primarily help people of color.

“Anti-darkness is truly pervasive and has huge consequences, both in terms of what policies get passed and what doesn’t,” Franz said. “White people can still take truly racist actions without seeing themselves that way and understanding the consequences. . It’s largely below the surface and unintended, but has huge consequences in terms of fairness.

Communities of color also have a different perception of pandemic risk than their white counterparts, said Michael Niño, a sociology professor at the University of Arkansas who co-authored a paper on race, gender and gender. masking in the pandemic.

“Masking is something that’s relatively cheap, it’s effective, and it’s something that can be done easily,” he said. “It does not require any kind of government response. These larger stories of racism and sexism in the United States most certainly shape some of the trends we see.

The AP-NORC poll 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 U.S. population. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 3.9 percentage points.

Ma covers education and equity for AP’s Race and Ethnicity team. Follow her on Twitter: https://www.twitter. Fingerhut, an AP poll writer, is based in Washington.

The Associated Press’ reporting on issues of race and ethnicity is supported in part by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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