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Why Many Midwestern Towns Are Shrugging Off the Virus

"If I get it, I get it. That's just how I feel'
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Nov 14, 2020 3:30 PM CST

(Newser) – Danny Rice has a good sense of how dangerous the coronavirus can be. What puzzles him are the people who have curtailed so much of their lives to avoid being infected by the virus. "I'm not going out and looking to catch it," he told the AP, sitting at a cluttered desk in his auto repair shop in the tiny eastern Nebraska community of Elmwood. "I don't want to catch it. But if I get it, I get it. That's just how I feel." Plenty of people agree with Rice, and health experts acknowledge those views are powering soaring COVID-19 infection rates, especially in parts of the rural Midwest where the disease is spreading unabated and threatening to overwhelm hospitals. It's not that people in Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota, Iowa, and elsewhere don't realize their states are leading the nation in new cases per capita.

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It's that many of them aren't especially concerned. Wayne County, home to 6,400 people in southern Iowa, has the state's second-highest case rate, yet its public health administrator, says mask-wearing is rare. The public health director in Jones County, Iowa, said even now that her rural county has the state's highest virus rate, people have opted not to make any changes, such as wearing masks: "They don't think it's real," she said, and "they just don't want to wear a mask because we've made it a whole political thing at this point." In part, some of those views are hard to fight because many people have no symptoms, and most of those who do get sick recover quickly. Sickness and death rates are also falling, although cases and the death toll are rising.

(Read more coronavirus stories.)

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