Tracking based on geotagged Twitter data has found that Idaho is fourth in the country for people refusing to wear masks as protection against COVID-19, according to a survey by Florida based marketing company Fresh Mechanism.
The list shows Arizona is No. 1, Nevada is No. 2, Florida is No. 3, Idaho is No. 4, Maine is No. 5, Missouri is No. 6, Wyoming is No. 7, South Carolina is No. 8, Ohio is No. 9 and Montana is No. 10, according to geotagging information over 30 days, according to Fresh Mechanism.
The data shows pockets of anti-mask activity across the U.S. But the upper northeast outside of Maine is the most pro-mask region.
The survey, however, only includes anti-mask activity. Tweets in favor of wearing masks far outweigh the anti-mask sentiment in each state.
Pocatello City Council member Roger Bray said that Idaho residents have an independent spirit. But he says it’s important to make people more aware of why masks are a necessary item.
He believes that people are starting to realize the dangers posed by COVID-19 more widely. And if it becomes more apparent that wearing masks is important then more people will start to use them. The impact of the pandemic came on more slowly in Idaho than other states, he said. So it was harder to notice.
“I have a feeling we haven’t seen the full extent of what this pandemic might do here because we have been hit so slowly,” Bray said.
But already he is noticing that more and more people are wearing masks. And that number may increase further as the pandemic continues.
“If things pick up and I think they are, people will become more responsive,” Bray said.
For instance, he and his wife canceled plans for a vacation after learning that someone at that site had contracted COVID-19 and died.
“It seems to hit certain people differently,” Bray said. “It’s a thing that we have never dealt with before so we are kind of learning how to navigate as we go.”
But he says it’s important to make it clear to people up front why the community and state may take certain actions.
He says he's not sure how people would respond to any move to make mask use mandatory — should it ever come to pass in Idaho — if they’re not sure what the masks are supposed to do, Bray said.
He adds that anybody forced to do something they don’t understand feels like it’s heavy handed.
Meanwhile, Southeastern Idaho Public Health recently began using graphs to more readily illustrate changes in COVID-19 cases on their website at https://siphidaho.org/, according to Tracy McCulloch of Southeastern Idaho Public Health.
Local resident Robert Wallace, who supports the move, says that makes it easier for people to follow changes in the number of cases, as opposed to just reading a lot of numbers. With this approach, he said that people can better tell: “Are we flattening the curve?”
Thus area residents can better assess the risk and respond with measures such as voluntarily wearing masks and being more circumspect about crowds, he said.
Meanwhile, Niki Forbing-Orr, a spokeswoman for the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, hopes people will wear masks.
"We are seeing more and more evidence that it's a little bit protective for you and its protective for everyone around you," she said.
So the department hopes that people will do the right thing and wear masks when they're in public and maintain the recommended six-foot social distancing, she said.
She also said that since the virus is brand new they're still learning about it.
"It's important for people to realize that as we learn more about this virus that some of that guidance will change and we hope people will be open to that and understanding of that," she said.
Further a study written by professor D. Gilson, Ph.D, found that Idaho is 3rd among the least responsible states during the coronavirus pandemic.
Gilson's team analyzed data including the percentage of adults wearing masks in public, the percentage of people sheltering in place, and the number of administered coronavirus tests to find the most and least responsible states during the coronavirus pandemic.
It found that in Idaho, only 31% of adults are wearing masks, only 22% are staying home, and the state has only tested 4,437 per 100,000 residents.
The study also found that South Carolina is the least responsible state. Though testing rates are fairly high in the Palmetto State, and a large share of South Carolinians report wearing a mask in public, very few are choosing to stay at home. And the state government is not mandating that they do so. This is leading to some of the worst coronavirus stats in the nation.
The study also found that New York is the most responsible state. A high share of New Yorkers (over 30%) are sheltering at home, and a majority of adults self-report wearing masks when in public (53%.) Additionally, only Rhode Island has conducted more coronavirus tests per capita than New York.
Further, a study by WalletHub, a personal financial website, found that Idaho is sixth for states with the fewest coronavirus restrictions.