Written by Bryce Boyd on February 3, 2021
When the semester ended rather early here on campus, before Thanksgiving to be specific, the hundreds of students at Kansas Wesleyan University went home for the holidays, wherever that may be. Last year was one of the most interesting times in recent memory, mainly due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, which has led to a variety of states going about their own ways of combating the virus. From sea to shining sea, the nationwide response to the outbreak has been one of, in many cases, disorganization and confusion, with some areas taking things far more seriously, and some leaving them rather ambiguous. To help understand the response that different states have had to the virus, I talked with two students to gain a wider understanding about how differing locales are handling things differently, and the results were actually nearly the opposite.
California might be the most though of state when it comes to the pandemic, it’s had one of the highest rates of infection, and, according to most sources, one of the strictest lock downs. However, California is a big state, and as a result, the lock down has been different in each city you travel to. One such instance was found when I was able to talk with TJ Robertson, a Sophomore from Roseville, just north of the state capital Sacramento. He told me that the lock down and restrictions in Roseville aren’t what you would expect in California: “It’s been a “lock down”, but realistically people can just do whatever.”.
When asked about the strictness of the policies, and whether or not they’re actually enforced, or people ignore them, he said that, “Yeah… I also live in a pretty conservative county… so not a lotta people care about it. It is one thing with mask mandates, they’re everywhere, but people just do what they normally do with the mask on.”.
While most states’ responses to COVID involve the closing of some businesses, in northern California, that doesn’t seem to be the case, life seems to be going on normally, with many not even caring about mandates or lock downs.
When looking to the experience from a student here in Kansas, I was expecting something vastly different, after all, California was supposed to be taking things far more legitimately everywhere, but it seemed to be the same here as well. For a look at Kansas during Christmastime, I talked to Nic Cheney, a Junior from Scott City. I asked him the same questions, and his responses are similar: “In Scott County it’s kinda by your discretion, if you want to wear a mask you can, but if you’re not you don’t have to. So they left it up to the people, some places you have to wear a mask but not everywhere.”
This was the most interesting thing I had learned, two states with reportedly vastly different responses to COVID-19 are experiencing almost the exact same thing, with simple rules like wearing a mask if you need to, but broader rules and restrictions seem absent or ignored for the most part. Interestingly enough, to find the most disparity in pandemic responses, I had to look to my own home state of Oklahoma.
In Oklahoma City, there’s been a mask mandate for some time, with everyone having to wear one when inside of stores and other commonly traveled locations, and while some don’t comply, most people do, with the vast majority of locations in the city refusing service without a mask. Likewise, there have been restrictions on business hours since the fall, with every location in the city, unless stated otherwise by the government having to close at 11 pm. As for mask use, many still don’t comply with the rules, although most people you’ll see in OKC do seem to wear masks more often than not.
Initially, I had set out to compare two seemingly polar opposite states in their response to the COVID-19 pandemic, however, I had learned that depending on the part of the state in question, despite the reputation larger cities have given them, the reaction seems to be the same, with some minor differences. Surprisingly, a city in a state that has appeared to bungle every aspect of pandemic response is the one handling things the best, at least on the administrative level. Although every city is different, the comparison between two cities in California and Kansas was interesting, despite geography, things seem eerily similar.