Societal Values and Mask Usage for COVID-19 Control in the US
34 Pages Posted: 20 Jul 2020
Date Written: July 10, 2020
COVID-19 has reshaped lives worldwide and societies are looking for ways to mitigate risk while reopening to stimulate economic recovery. Facial covering (mask) usage reduces the risk of disease spread by preventing transmission by even asymptomatic individuals. Yet, particularly in the U.S. where mask wearing is divisive and politicized there is limited understanding of public beliefs with regard to mask usage. We find that 83% (±3%) of U.S. respondents in our nationally representative sample believe masks have a role in U.S. society related to the spread of COVID-19. However, 11-24% of those same respondents report not wearing a mask themselves in some public locations. Beliefs about mask wearing and usage vary by respondent demographics and their level of agreement with a variety of societal value statements referencing personal freedoms and societal expectations. As cases are rising throughout the summer 2020 many regions of the U.S. are fearful of reintroduction of movement restrictions to slow disease spread. While many more agree that masks have a role in society, only 47% indicated that “Wearing a mask will help prevent future lock-downs in my community related to COVID-19.” Public perception of the importance of mask usage revealed the top three locations in order of importance as public transportation, grocery/food stores, and schools, indicating a possible mismatch in areas public health entities reference as highest risk for spread versus locations the public sees as most important for mask usage.
Note: Ethical Approval: The research process was approved by Oklahoma State University IRB (number: 20-283).
Funding: None to declare
Declaration of Interest: None to declare
Keywords: COVID-19, human behavior, public health, tradeoffs
JEL Classification: H80, I12, P46
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation