SUBSCRIBE NOW

Arizona most resistant to wearing masks, study finds

Emily Wilder
Arizona Republic

Arizona is the most resistant state in the country when it comes to wearing masks, according to a recent study examining anti-mask activity online. 

The analysis conducted by Survival At Home, a survival and preparedness website, with direct access to what Twitter calls "tweet geospatial metadata," or the location information that's built into tweets and the profiles that post them. Survival At Home frequently posts this kind of ranked analysis using trends software on twitter metadata.

Compiling over 150,000 geotagged Twitter posts that referenced popular hashtags like "#nomask," "#burnyourmask," "iwillnotcomply" and others, Survival At Home was able to produce a map of the hotspots for anti-mask sentiment.

"As you can see, there are pockets of anti-mask activity all across the US, however the upper northeast (outside of Maine) is the most pro-mask region," Ryan Taylor, a publicist for the marketing and brand firm Fresh Marketing, said. 

Taylor added that the analysis only tracked anti-mask Tweets and that "tweets in favor of wearing masks (pro-mask activity) far outweighs the anti-mask sentiment in each state."

After Arizona, the states with the most anti-mask online activity are Nevada, Florida, Idaho and Maine, Taylor said.

Widespread anti-mask sentiment on- and offline

Using geotagged Twitter data, this map shows anti-mask sentiment on the social media platform by state.

These findings may not come as a surprise to people in Arizona where mandatory face coverings, which Gov. Doug Ducey gave cities the authority to require rather than included in either of his two statewide executive orders, have become the site of outrage and opposition as COVID-19 continues to surge statewide.

In one of the most well-known examples, a Scottsdale woman was seen destroying a mask display at Target in an expletive-filled fury in a video that went viral on July 6.

People have also cited supposed health risks to mask-wearing and the importance of bodily autonomy in their rationale on the subject.

“I have 17 pre-COVID scientific, peer-reviewed studies/references that detail the health risks of prolonged wearing of face masks," Republican State Rep. Kelly Townsend said in a tweet on May 19. "Therefore, I will not be wearing one today. Mask-wearers should have nothing to worry about, if they work. '#MyBodyMyChoice' #FetusBodyFetusChoice.”

Another local politician, Scottsdale Councilperson Guy Phillips received national attention when he ripped off his face mask and yelled into the microphone, "I can't breathe" at a protest against Scottsdale's mask mandate on June 24.

While critics demanded Phillips resign from his post claiming that his outburst was a callous and disrespectful evocation of George Floyd's last words, Phillips denied that it was intentional and declined to step down.

And at a rally for President Donald Trump at Dream City Church in Phoenix on June 23, Trump spent little time addressing the COVID-19 pandemic surging across the state in his speech to a crowded and mostly mask-less room.

Supporters in attendance referenced the typical reasons for their refusal to don face coverings. 

Protesters gather for the "Unmask Us" protest against mandatory mask wearing in Scottsdale on June 24, 2020.

“I don’t think it’s a right for others to make you wear one because I don’t live in a communist country,” said volunteer for the event April Armen Dariz, who added that wearing a mask makes her "feel sick."

Despite the issue becoming deeply politicized across Arizona and the country, recent research studies have found masks to be effective in preventing transmission of COVID-19, particularly in preventing asymptomatic carriers from spreading the virus.

Reach the reporter at emily.wilder@arizonarepublic.com or on Twitter @vv1lder.