In an article published on Vox, medical anthropologist Dr. Emily Mendenhall has explained how the Iowa Great Lakes region became a coronavirus hotspot.
By May 1, there were about six cases reported in the area, when Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds partially reopened restaurants, stores, and other businesses in rural areas, including Dickinson County, where the lakes are located and the COVID-19 testing was minimal.
Officials reported only 8 cases in Dickinson County by Memorial Day. The hotels were filled and the lakes were crowded with tourists even though big events were canceled.
As of August 7, Dickinson county officials reported 377 confirmed cases, with six deaths from COVID-19. The officials said many additional cases might have originated here because of the constant influx of tourists from places Sioux Falls, Omaha, and Des Moines.
So, why there has been a surge in new cases this summer? Why people are so reluctant in wearing masks despite the government’s orders on wearing masks to prevent the spread of the virus?
Dr. Mendenhall interviewed over 80 people across the town and reached out to her old friends, classmates, business owners, politicians, and public health leaders.
She learned about her hometown region and how it became a hotspot for the deadly virus.
She said one of the reasons is conflicting midwestern values, explaining that “there is an overwhelming ethos of American individualism over collectivism, along with the cultural ideal of self-sufficiency and of pulling yourself up by your bootstraps.”
“I heard many people say, ‘I am not scared of coronavirus,’ or, ‘I’m not scared, I believe in God,’ or, ‘If it’s my time to go, God will take me,’” Dr. Mendenhall wrote in the article.
Further, she wrote, “When I asked people what they have taken away from these leaders’ actions (and inactions), most say that because there was never a state lockdown and the state is open, there is no need to wear masks.”
“This sentiment is perpetuated from the top and embodied in local behavior: The pandemic is over,” Dr. Mendenhall added. “Now you’re on your own.”
The Iowa Great Lakes region regional tourist destination and has a strong vacation vibe, even in the coronavirus pandemic. Many young people in the area exhibit the carefree frivolity of summer, packing bars, boats, and barges with booze.
Dr. Mendenhall said, “‘Everyone has COVID!’ is a common excuse I heard to forgo masking and social distancing around town.”
“Other people worry, ‘Nobody will take it seriously until someone prominent in the community dies,’” she added.
You can read Dr. Mendenhall’s article titled “How an Iowa summer resort region became a Covid-19 hot spot” on Vox to know more about how there has been a surge in new cases in that area. Globally, the virus has affected more than 20 million and killed over 734,000, with the United States officials reporting more than 5 million cases and over 165,000 deaths.