Illustration: Kieran Blakey

The Nuance

How Identity—Not Ignorance—Leads to Science Denial

Changing the minds of Covid-19 deniers may require a lot more than sound reasoning

Elemental
Published in
8 min readJul 9, 2020

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During the first months of the novel coronavirus outbreak, many rural parts of the U.S. did not experience the swell in caseloads or hospital admissions that threatened to overwhelm cities like New York, Detroit, and New Orleans. West Texas was one of these comparatively fortunate places. And considering the Lone Star State’s long-running antipathy toward government oversight, it made sense that some there would choose to ignore or downplay warnings from federal and local health officials.

But elements of the script have since flipped, and Covid-19 case numbers are now spiking in many counties across West Texas. One might assume that, in the face of rising caseloads, many there would abandon their prior insouciance and embrace masks and other common-sense measures recommended by the nation’s top public health officials. But that doesn’t seem to be happening; if anything, the resolve of many Covid-19 skeptics appears to be stiffening. Even state officials who can no longer ignore the virus continue to lash out at public health authorities. (Last week, Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick criticized Dr. Anthony Fauci, saying that Fauci “has been wrong every time on…

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Markham Heid
Elemental

I’m a frequent contributor at TIME, the New York Times, and other media orgs. I write mostly about health and science. I like long walks and the Grateful Dead.