Racial divisions over COVID-19 persist as restrictions ease in the United States
Racial divisions over COVID-19 persist as restrictions ease in the United States

Racial divisions over COVID-19 persist as restrictions ease in the United States

Black and Hispanic Americans remain far more cautious in their approach to COVID-19 than white Americans, recent polls show, reflecting divergent preferences on how to deal with the pandemic as federal, state and local restrictions get in the way.

Despite majority favoritism among American adults in general for measures such as mask mandates, public health experts said divided opinions among racial groups reflect not only the unequal impact of the pandemic on colored people, but also apathy among some white Americans.

Black Americans (63%) and Hispanics (68%) remain more likely than white Americans (45%) to say that they are at least somewhat concerned that they or a family member are infected with COVID-19 , according to an April poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.


Throughout the pandemic, black and Latin American communities have experienced higher morbidity and mortality from COVID, said Amelia Burke-Garcia, Director of Public Health at NORC. These experiences have resulted in greater levels of stress, anxiety and awareness of the risks of capturing COVID-19, she said, meaning colored people are more likely to feel measures such as mesh mandates is necessary.

“We have seen these trends persist throughout the pandemic,” Burke-Garcia said. “What we are seeing now, while mitigation measures are being rolled back, is that there is still great concern among black Americans and Hispanics about the risk of getting sick.”

Seventy-one percent of black Americans say they prefer to require face masks for people traveling by plane, train and other forms of public transportation. That’s more than the 52% of white Americans who support mask mandates for travelers; 29% of white Americans are against. Among Latin American Americans, 59% are in favor and 20% are against. The vote was taken before one decision of a federal judge rejected the government’s mask mandate for travelers.


In Indiana, the Tuwanna Plant said she sees fewer and fewer people wearing masks in public, though she said she has been diligent in always wearing one. Plant, who is black, said she sees people treating the pandemic as if it is over, and she wants the mask mandate to continue.

Plant, a 46-year-old deputy chief, said she had some concerns about getting the vaccine and took all other precautions, such as cleaning and masking, to avoid getting sick, but she was recently hospitalized because of COVID.

The experience scared her – she has a pre-existing lung disease and known 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 emergency room,” Plant said. “I did not know … whether it would get better or worse, I did not know. So that was the experience for me in general. “

Dr. Celine Gounder, an infectious disease specialist and epidemiologist and editor at Kaiser Health News, said people’s lived experiences greatly shape how they perceive the pandemic. Anecdotes and personal experience can have a greater impact on behavior than numbers, she said, and colored people 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 the medical treatment. Others risk losing their jobs or are unable to take time off if they become ill, she said, or cannot avoid things like public transportation to reduce their exposures.

“When people argue that they do not have to mask on the plane, it means something very different to a person who has access to all these new innovations than it does to a person who has no health insurance who is struggling to take care of an elderly parent and their children, who may be a single mother working in a job where she has not paid sick and family leave, “said Gounder.” It’s just a completely different calculation. ”

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


Last month, an AP-NORC survey found 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 less sensitivity to what is happening in color communities. In 2021 examination of mask wearing during the early part of the pandemic, researchers found that mask use among white people increased when white people died more in the surrounding community. When black and Latin American people died, mask use was lower.

Berkeley Franz, a co-author of the paper, said that in addition to housing segregation that separates white people from colored communities, previous research has shown that white people can exhibit ambivalence toward policies that they believe most help colored people.


“Anti-blackness is really widespread and has huge consequences, both in terms of the policies that are adopted and what does not,” Franz said. “White people can still have truly racist actions without seeing themselves that way and understanding the consequences. It’s largely beneath the surface and unintentional, but it has enormous consequences in terms of justice.”

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

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



The AP-NORC study of 1,085 adults was conducted 14-18. April using a sample from NORC’s probability-based AmeriSpeak Panel, which is designed to be representative of the American people. The margin for sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 3.9 percentage points.


Ma covers education and gender equality for the 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 race and ethnicity issues is supported in part by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. AP is solely responsible for all content.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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