Hundreds of folks looking to head to their summer homes in one Massachusetts beach town will likely find themselves without running water.
Officials in Salisbury are reportedly refusing to turn on water meters for more than 300 seasonal homes in an effort to keep residents homebound until the coronavirus pandemic subsides.
Containing the spread of the coronavirus requires collective, unified action, but data on social distancing makes it clear this isn’t happening everywhere.
The question is why.
In what kinds of places are residents deciding to move about as if they are immune to the virus that has paralyzed much of the world?
What do they look like, and why are they ignoring the calls for social distancing?
To get some hints, I put together several sources of data from US counties focusing on economic and demographic characteristics, voting patterns, civic engagement and social capital, and even attitudes toward climate change from Yale’s Climate Change in the American Mind survey.
Analyzing the data reveals that social distancing behavior is related to education; to race and ethnicity; to political identity and social capital; and to the impact that this virus has already had on the residents of particular counties.
And the various sources of data also reveal a larger pattern.
One of the strongest and most robust predictors of social distancing behavior is found in attitudes toward another major challenge facing the United States: climate change.
Places where residents are less likely to agree that global warming is happening, that humans are the cause, and that we have an obligation to do something about it are the places where residents haven’t changed their behavior in response to coronavirus.
The analysis makes clear that we have a collective action problem much larger than Covid-19.
Other measures like the age profile of the county, the total size of the population, the racial and ethnic composition, and even the total number of confirmed cases of Covid-19 do not have a clear relationship with social distancing behavior. Different characteristics turn out to be much better predictors; the strongest predictors are shown in the chart above.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, politics and civic engagement bear a strong relationship to social distancing behavior. Higher levels of social capital — a combination of voter turnout in federal elections, response rates in the 2010 census, the number of associations and the number of nonprofits per capita — is associated with more social distancing.
By contrast, counties with the greatest share of votes for Trump in the 2016 election were least likely to practice social distancing. And the greater the share of residents who disagreed with the statement that global warming is happening, the worse the county’s grade received in the Social Distancing Scoreboard.
Social distancing grades rise with the level of social capital in a county, and grades fall with the percentage of the county voters who cast a ballot for Trump in 2016.
They are tracking all of us
This website shows each states Stats and Grade for social distancing
Salisbury’s Board of Health, supported by the town manager, recommended the measure, which was voted on by town selectmen last week.
The service is not deemed essential, according to officials who were informed that the water company is also trying to protect its employees from contracting the highly contagious virus.
They are really overreaching
“I called the water company and they said we’re not installing water meters,” he said.
“They take your meters out in the wintertime, so they have to come back and put the meter in. But there’s still a social distance to be held there. I don’t see any problem,” seasonal resident Ed Johnson said.
“We pay a lot of taxes.
And the people on the oceanfront have a very high tax rate.
It wouldn’t be fair to not turn their water on,” seasonal resident Jean Johnson said.