Here in the United States cases a great number of Americans still refuse to follow CDC guidelines. They refuse to wear masks, they won’t socially distance, and they’re still hosting gatherings later identified as super-spreader events.
Recently I had the unfortunate luck of stopping at a fuel station in Central Nevada. A small town approximately 200 miles from Las Vegas, NV with a population of around 1,000 people. Agriculture dominates the workforce with a median income of $46,544 and the town is typical of the rural landscape of the United States.
I walked in, only to use the restroom, to be utterly floored and appalled at the blatant disregard for COVID-19. Oh wait, the cashier wore a bandana around her neck, we’re saved. Wait, there are two problems with this behavior: one the bandana is not adequate coverage to prevent the transmission of COVID-19, and two, she wasn’t actually wearing the covering over her mouth and nose – what was the point? One of the other staff members milling about neither had a mask on or a “bandana”, simply business as usual. This gentleman went about the station performing his stocking job, touching things, and doing his job with no precautions at all. Moreover, there was no social distancing in place at all. A woman walked in, stopped two feet from me, and asked if I was in line for the restroom. I said politely to the maskless woman, who also wasn’t acknowledging distancing: “No, not at all. I think I’ll leave.”, Then I walked out.
As I reached the parking lot I watched another couple and two men enter the fuel station. Additionally, the couple parked next to our vehicle. Not a single individual was observing social distancing. However, there was one single individual who wore a mask. As we pulled out of the parking lot I saw one lone grey-haired gentleman walking in wearing a mask. There is hope for humanity. I wonder if he was even local to that area?
I jest with the retelling of my experience, however, what I experienced is no laughing matter. That resentment toward preventive measures has seen rural counties witnessed sharp increases in COVID-19 cases. At the time of writing over 70% of the nation’s rural (nonmetropolitan) counties are in the red zone.
Many rural communities demanded the reopening (or never closed) schools, churches, and sports events. This behavior has only generated more COVID-19 infections. Additionally, most rural workers do not and cannot work from home. Meat processing, poultry, and other agricultural work can are typically dependant on service industries as well. The influx of travelers only exacerbates the spread of the virus. Putting things into perspective, the prevalence of COVID-19 cases is now slightly greater and growing more rapidly in nonmetro areas than in metro areas. The share of all COVID-19 cases in nonmetro areas has been growing since late March, increasing from 3.6 percent on April 1 to 14.2 percent on November 2.
Higher COVID-19 prevalence is also associated with some industries. Among nonmetro counties, the highest COVID-19 case rates are found in farming-dependent and manufacturing-dependent counties. The high prevalence of COVID-19 in manufacturing-dependent counties is due partly to higher COVID-19 case rates in meatpacking-dependent counties (those in which 20 percent or more of employment is in the meatpacking industry), almost all of which are manufacturing-dependent counties.
In small towns like all over the United States, not unlike the town I visited, we’re watching as rural residents are being gaslighted into believing COVID-19 is overblown, they are defiant in their lack of understanding of herd immunity, and they confuse caring about their neighbors as a loss of their rights. There is so much disinformation and misinformation I would like to, again, dispel fact from fiction. There are steps you can take to reduce your risk of infection. Remember these precautions to avoid contracting or transmitting COVID-19:
- Avoid large events and mass gatherings.
- Avoid close contact (within about 6 feet, or 2 meters) with anyone who is sick or has symptoms.
- Stay home as much as possible and keep distance between yourself and others (within about 6 feet, or 2 meters), especially if COVID-19 is spreading in your community, especially if you have a higher risk of serious illness. Keep in mind some people may have COVID-19 and spread it to others, even if they don’t have symptoms or don’t know they have COVID-19.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
- Cover your face with a cloth face-covering in public spaces, such as the grocery store, where it’s difficult to avoid close contact with others. Only nonmedical cloth masks — surgical masks and N95 respirators should be reserved for health care providers.
- Cover your mouth and nose with your elbow or a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw away the used tissue and wash your hands or use hand sanitizer.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
- Avoid sharing dishes, glasses, bedding, and other household items if you’re sick.
- Clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces daily.
- Stay home from work, school, and public areas if you’re sick unless you’re going to get medical care. Avoid taking public transportation if you’re sick.
- Before traveling, check the CDC and WHO websites to look for health advisories that may be in place.
I was raised to care about my fellow man. Wearing a mask is a simple thing that could save a life. Boris Johnson didn’t close down the UK because he wanted to, trust me on that. Johnson did that because it’s necessary. We as a nation, we as neighbors, we as family, we as occupants of Earth need to take any and all measures we can to save our friends and family.
All this being said, the fuel station had a store entry sign that clearly stated: “Customers must wear a mask.” Go figure.
Pender, J. (2020, November 16). The COVID-19 Pandemic and Rural America. Retrieved November 23, 2020, from https://www.ers.usda.gov/covid-19/rural-america/
Mayo Clinic Staff. (2020, November 03). Debunking COVID-19 (coronavirus) myths. Retrieved November 23, 2020, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/coronavirus/in-depth/coronavirus-myths/art-20485720