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KATU: Psychology expert looks at why some Americans push back against social distancing
Author: Bob Heye
Posted: March 27, 2020

To read the original story, visit KATU.

A local psychology professor explains why researchers are finding people in some parts of the country – including Eastern Oregon - don't seem to be following recommendations to stay home.

"There is a sense of invulnerability that a lot of people have," said Portland State University Professor of Applied Psychology, Cynthia Mohr.

She says people in smaller communities may feel less vulnerable because few people in those areas have contracted the disease.

"There's a lot of, you know, independence in the United States and [they] really value their sense of making their own decisions," said Mohr. “So I think it will be hard to maintain this focus, but I think what's important is to refocus people's attention not on whether or not you develop symptoms so that you could carry it out to other people.”

Mohr says that dynamic, especially if people begin relaxing their focus on social distancing, will be harder and harder to maintain as the virus continues spreading.

The website Unacast compiled data for average miles driven before and after the coronavirus outbreak to figure out whether people are avoiding contact with others across the country.

This data shows that as the number of coronavirus cases climbed across the country, the average number of miles driven has dropped.

The website gives Washington state a 'B' grade since drivers in most counties, including those in Southwest Washington, generally cut back on driving.

But analysts gave Oregon a grade of 'C' because many Eastern Oregon drivers have been on the road as much as they were before the outbreak.