Behavior Matters Too

July 23, 2021 3:44 p.m.

Differential vaccine uptake is clearly playing a dominant in COVID severity across the country. But I also think behavior – including but not limited to masks – is playing a bigger role that some imagine. From TPM Reader RS

I realize that this anecdotal, but our family travelled from MN to TX and back a couple months ago. We were two fully-vaccinated adults (Pfizer) and an unvaccinated under 12-year old. Because of that we played it very safe. At the time, people in the Twin Cities were still masking everywhere. Even in the part of TX where we went we saw 50-60% of people masked in stores and gas station.

However, in our one stop in OK and one in KS about 33% were masked. But, in MO, I don’t think we saw a mask. We spent the night in a hotel in Joplin, MO. We got in late and very few restaurants were open. The Waffle House wouldn’t let you take food out (?!) so we went elsewhere. But we noticed one thing… The Waffle House was PACKED. Like a subway car in Tokyo. Lots of motorcycles in the parking lot. And, if you know anything about a packed Waffle House late at night, that means people have been to bars. Meanwhile, no one in the hotel was masked. No one at a gas station was masked. And there were more people out than we would have thought. When we got back to the Twin Cities, there were still few people out and most of them were masked. From that point on I paid attention to MO and I’ve been watching from afar, unsurprised, that their number just kept going up and up. Actions matter.

I want to remind everyone that over the course of 2020 we had different points when different parts of the country were hit hard. Each time could become evidence in some tendentious storyline. We shouldn’t be sure this pattern is the end of the story. But behavior certainly plays a substantial role in how this is playing out. And low vaccine uptake in most cases tracks indifference to mitigation.

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