[I]n some places, people have been throwing Covid cautions to the wind, flouting public health orders in the process. Kristen Ehresmann, director of infectious disease epidemiology, prevention, and control for the Minnesota Department of Health, points to a large, three-day rodeo that was held recently in her state. Organizers knew they were supposed to limit the number of attendees to 250 but refused; thousands attended. In Sturgis, S.D., an estimated quarter of a million motorcyclists were expected to descend on the city this past weekend for an annual rally that spans 10 days. …
Ehresmann and others in public health are flummoxed by the phenomenon of people refusing to acknowledge the risk the virus poses. “Just this idea of, ‘I just don’t want to believe it so therefore it’s not going to be true’ — honestly, I have not really dealt with that as it relates to disease before,” she said.
[Caroline Buckee, associate director of the Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health,] wonders if the magical thinking that seems to have infected swaths of the country is due to the fact many of the people who have died were elderly. For many Americans, she said, the disease has not yet touched their lives — but the movement restrictions and other response measures have.
“I think if children were dying, this would be … a different situation, quite honestly,” she said.