by Park MacDougald
Monday, 24
January 2022
Explainer
16:09

To witness the Covid divide, walk from Brooklyn to Queens

Attitudes are no longer about red states or blue states — it's all down to class
by Park MacDougald
Credit: Getty

In the US, the divide over Covid-19 restrictions is often cast as a matter of red versus blue states. Republican states like Florida have banned vaccine passports and school mask mandates, and have heavily restricted the ability of employers to mandate vaccination for their employees. In blue states, and especially in deep-blue cities like New York and Washington, D.C., mask mandates are the norm and patrons are required to show proof of vaccination to enter a bar, eat indoors at a restaurant, or go to a movie theatre or gym.  

Or at least, that’s what the law says. In practice, in vast swathes of America’s blue cities, these rules are entirely theoretical. I live in New York, and stringent Covid restrictions are almost exclusively the preserve of affluent (and predominantly white) neighbourhoods — most parts of Manhattan, plus the expensive, heavily gentrified areas of Brooklyn.

In Prospect Heights, where the median sale price of a home is $950,000 and the vaccination rate is 92.68% mask mandates are strictly enforced in all indoor settings. Most residents have voluntarily upgraded to N95s, and many of them have resumed masking outdoors. Businesses check vaccine cards and photo I.D.s as a matter of course. When I saw Licorice Pizza at a swanky local movie theatre, I was informed that the concession stand had been closed so that patrons wouldn’t be tempted to remove their masks to eat popcorn or take sips of water. 

By comparison, my own neighbourhood, Ridgewood, Queens (median sale price: $646,000, vaccination rate: 78.44%), feels as if it’s a different country. Indoor mask compliance is closer to 50%, and entirely voluntary — I’ve never witnessed an employee ask a patron to mask up or shoo a maskless customer out of an establishment. The vaccine pass is, similarly, almost totally unenforced, except in the hip establishments that cater to young creatives, most of them concentrated in the western portion of the neighbourhood bordering Brooklyn. My gym, on the Hispanic-and-white-ethnic east side, is entirely maskless, and takes a “don’t ask, don’t tell” attitude toward vaccination. When I expressed my gratitude to one of the gym’s employees for the mask-optional policy, she replied, in heavily Polish-accented English, that we were all adults and could make our own decisions.  

Pandemic restrictions may be a partisan divide, but they are also, increasingly, a class divide. Even within one of America’s deepest-blue cities, strict adherence to Covid precautions has become a symbolic gesture among affluent, vaccinated white people — in other words, those least at risk from the virus. But among the people who are, objectively speaking, more at risk — minorities, members of the working class — the attitude seems to be: it’s time to get on with life. 

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Graham Stull
Graham Stull
4 months ago

Brilliant insight, and certainly very true in other places I have visited recently, including heavily class-divided Dublin and cities and neighbourhoods in Brussels.
From the NYC/DC perspective, given that these predominantly white neighbourhoods are the ones with vaxx pass systems, and given the much lower rates of vaxx among African-Americans, I can’t help wonder how these policies are not being seen in the light of ‘effective segregation’. Two years of this garbage has the potential to undo a lifetime of civil rights activism.

George Glashan
George Glashan
4 months ago
Reply to  Graham Stull

it’ll be “enlighted/ ethical segregation” , they are not segregating from them because they are blacks, no no no, never that. They are segregating from them because as a group they are death spreading deplorables who happen to be black, but they will be allowed to have a safe space to roam and intermingle away from the correct thinking elites, who are almost exclusively white.
Similar thing is going on with Trans, under the guise of progressivism, mentally ill, depressed autistic females, and also depressed and porn addicted males are being sterilised, of course this is for their own good and they were literally asking for it, so the correct thinking elites are nothing like the elites of Bedlam,…… who sterilised the depressed and mentally unwell also for their own good.
the world has a surplus of elites, if only the Chinese could invent a plague that specifically targeted Guardian subscribers.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
3 months ago
Reply to  George Glashan

I am working on it

John Aronsson
John Aronsson
3 months ago
Reply to  George Glashan

Maybe getting rid of these elites with their mimeographed diplomas and no-show jobs is the actual objective of these vaccines.

Mike Michaels
Mike Michaels
4 months ago
Reply to  Graham Stull

BLM beat them to it.

Sean Penley
Sean Penley
3 months ago
Reply to  Graham Stull

“given the much lower rates of vaxx among African-Americans, I can’t help wonder how these policies are not being seen in the light of ‘effective segregation’. ”

Easy. If you don’t agree with Biden and the Democrats, you ain’t black. Biden’s words, incidentally.

Caroline Watson
Caroline Watson
3 months ago

I live in a middle class market town in the north of England. My home town is a more working class market town in the north of England. Both places are predominantly white British so race does not apply.
Where I live is mainly populated by the laptop class, most of whom work in the public sector, have been working from home throughout and vote Labour, Lib Dem or Green. We have a Waitrose and a M&S. My home town is populated mainly by locals who work on the railways, in electricity generation, in distribution centres or as prison officers. It is a Red Wall new Tory seat and its supermarkets are Asda, Morrison’s and the Co op.
Where I live there are still very few people out and about, and everyone is masked, even outdoors and even little children. That won’t change with the end of Plan B. In my home town, you would hardly know that there had been a ‘pandemic’. I used to love where I live but I can’t stand it anymore. I am making plans to move back home.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
3 months ago

Good for you!

Warren T
Warren T
3 months ago

I live near the border between a Red state and a very Blue state. When you cross over the border into Red territory, it is like a different world as well. Few wear masks and no silly signs at the entrances of stores. In the Blue state, the masks are ubiquitous and warning signs abound. Yet, there is no difference whatsoever in the infection rates or death rates between the two. In fact, the only difference that seems to exist is the condescension on the part of the Blue citizens, who think the Red citizens are either completely ill-informed, uninformed or just plain stupid.

Johann Strauss
Johann Strauss
3 months ago

What your observations clearly demonstrate are just how wussified the privileged elites have become. They are all about virtue signaling when it costs them nothing. And they are basically frightened of their own shadow. It’s as if the so-called privileged elites have lost any sense of proportion or common sense. Very tragic to realize that the so-called highly educated are really just credentialed but are incapable of any sort of critical thought.

Last edited 3 months ago by Johann Strauss
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
3 months ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

The same privileged elites who are demanding action against Russia and drove the invasion of Iraq.
There should be someway of conscripting them and their children to go and do the fighting

Warren T
Warren T
3 months ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

How true your words are. I am privy to some of these elitists and it is downright hilarious to witness their daily “crises”, such as their hairdresser changing the appointment or, heaven forbid, the hot water temperature in the shower falling below 125 degrees Fahrenheit for a split second. And to top it off, the apoplexy of not being able to get a prime table at a favorite restaurant on a Saturday evening on a whim. Oh, the misery they have to endure!

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
4 months ago

It has been a class thing in many countries. In South Africa, Covidians are all middle class with a salary coming in, or independently wealthy. Lots of scorn heaped on people who are anti lockdown, anti masks, anti vaccine mandates. One and all they are sitting slack jawed in front of CNN, Sky etc, or reading things like NYT or The Guardian.

Last edited 4 months ago by Lesley van Reenen
Fran Martinez
Fran Martinez
3 months ago

Indeed, it all started with the lockdowns: “My job allows me to work from home, hence, lockdowns are fine”. Those same peple went on and became the “if you are not vaccinated do not hang around me” people.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
3 months ago
Reply to  Fran Martinez

Have experienced exactly the same thing…. some old friends have become very off putting to me.

Jon Game
Jon Game
4 months ago

Why aren’t all the unmasked dead by now?

George Glashan
George Glashan
4 months ago
Reply to  Jon Game

Racism, always and only racism. It’s the current masters of mankinds go to answer for everything, maybe the Guardian will discover evidence that white supremacy causes antibodies that give immunity to covid?

Last edited 4 months ago by George Glashan
Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
4 months ago

And who can forget the 1984 divisions where all normal people had to 100% comply – yet ghettos existed in all the cities where illicit booze and vice were available and they were left to their ways (and I expect would also in the countryside, if Orwell had talked of it)

The disenfranchised have always been let to behave ways the enfranchised may not. I think they are too much a bother to force, too hard headed – yet without real power. Orwell said the ghettos were allowed as a pressure relief valve on the oppressed society where they may go for their illegal and illicit pleasures – but as they are so rough and poor one does not wish to join them., and looks down on them.

David Slade
David Slade
4 months ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

Very true; I’ve often thought of that bit from 1984 about the relative freedom of the common people and wondered if that was going to be the only hope for the rest of us.

Of course, if you are going to reference 1984 I believe you should have added a trigger warning these days ….

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
4 months ago
Reply to  David Slade

Yes, people are triggered by reading Nineteen Eighty-Four and finding themselves actually in it.

Andrea Re
Andrea Re
4 months ago

Another marvellous article by Park.
Is he a new addition to the UnHerd flock? This is the second time I read his stuff and I most certainly look forward to the third!

Alka Hughes-Hallett
Alka Hughes-Hallett
3 months ago

“she replied, in heavily Polish-accented English, that we were all adults and could make our own decisions. “ – Are we truly adults ? Most of the “adult” citizens are still holding on to their childhood lesson of “Do as you are told”.
The class division and the following of covid “rules” is interesting. The lower classes are forced to actually grow up and faster too while the nanny panny are still fussing with the “which mask to wear today”.

Last edited 3 months ago by Alka Hughes-Hallett
James Joyce
James Joyce
3 months ago

Good article but the conclusions are very predictable; perhaps he should have mentioned religion. Red states, as per the stereotype, believe in god. Blue states, as per the stereotype, do not. But Blue states and blue sections need their religious rituals, which are BLM rallies, whites publicly washing the feet of blacks, I mean Blacks, wearing masks, submitting to Big Brother.
All of this can be seen as a reaction to the self-hatred they feel at being white, at buying expensive houses, gentrifying neighborhoods, and many other things. The more they mask, the more they check each other to prove vaccination–a meaningless ritual–the better they feel. Masking outside really takes the cake–a very PUBLIC “religious” ritual. How would the world know how virtuous they are if they are not masked outside?
Religion may be the opium of the masses, and this is the new religion.

Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
3 months ago
Reply to  James Joyce

“publicly washing the feet of blacks, I mean Blacks”
Haha!

Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
3 months ago

I am upper-middle/lower-upper class and white. and have worn a mask for probably five minutes in the last nine months. A few days ago I was queuing to place my order in a hipsterish cafe in Bristol, when for the second time in five minutes a staff member questioned me about my masklessness. My response:-
“I’m exempt [untrue, actually]. Also, I looked this morning at the ONS website, according to which 97.5% of us have Covid antibodies. Moreover, Omicron is acknowledged as almost harmless, So what exactly does masking achieve?”
Answer came there none.

Alison Wren
Alison Wren
3 months ago
Reply to  Drahcir Nevarc

Of course not. Bristol is so woke they’re wired! Was thrown out of my choir and discussion group despite having clear natural immunity with an objective antibody test to boot. “Made people feel unsafe”

Gunner Myrtle
Gunner Myrtle
3 months ago

In British Columbia they dropped the mask mandate over the summer – it is back now. We were in Whistler at a very nice hotel the day the mask rule was terminated. Everyone (other than me) at the hotel kept wearing their masks voluntarily. However when we went to a local diner for breakfast the next day away from the tourist area – not one person was wearing a mask – employees or patrons. So there is most certainly is a class divide here as well.

Roger Inkpen
Roger Inkpen
3 months ago

Apologies for the digression. As if America isn’t screwed up enough, how did they get to the idea that blue is Left-wing and red is Right-wing? Whenever I see mention of this I have to do a doublethink: Left is Right, War is Peace, Love is Hate, etc.
I realise they are only colours, but no one associates the political colour red with anything other socialism, or at least diluted forms of it: Red Flag, Red Army, Reds under the bed, etc.
And it seems like it’s only a recent phenomenon to describe Democrats and Republicans this way. Certainly I’d never seen it referred to until a few years ago.
Rant over. As to masks clearly enthusiasm is on the wane. Even up to ‘Freedom Day’ last year it was quite rare to see maskless people in shops, and often I’d see the security guard demand non-mask wearers leave. But when they returned later in the year, I noticed no one has been challenged. Like a good citizen I’ve complied for the few minutes that I’m usually in the supermarket, but will ditch the mask later this week.

Ricki Tarr
Ricki Tarr
4 months ago

If this is a class issue, why does he harp on about skin colour?

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
4 months ago
Reply to  Ricki Tarr

Because there is still a divide iro race… but changing.

Sean Penley
Sean Penley
3 months ago
Reply to  Ricki Tarr

Because a lot of the same folks who are so in favor of mask and vax mandates like to claim they are doing it to protect minorities. He’s pointing out that many minorities don’t agree with that idea and in fact are often victims of these policies.

DA Johnson
DA Johnson
3 months ago
Reply to  Sean Penley

Spot on response.

Ricki Tarr
Ricki Tarr
3 months ago
Reply to  Sean Penley

It still smacks of identity politics to me. White person thinks and behaves one specific way; black/brown person behaves another specific way. It’s perpetuated by the types of generalised assumptions made in the article and your post. I don’t live in the US BTW, so just making the observation.

Last edited 3 months ago by Ricki Tarr
Lena Bloch
Lena Bloch
3 months ago

Thank you, finally someone addressed the real issue of the “pandemic” that is in fact not a pandemic but an exploitation circus, because the real pandemic is not being addressed at all: all measures are counter-effective, all treatment is blocked, banned and not even researched, medical attention is blocked (people are not able to get a doctor, unless they go to an emergency room), poor people, homeless, mentally disabled, drug-addicted people are being simply thrown away. So it is not a pandemic, but a bourgeois spectacle of “safety”. I live in Brooklyn, on the border between Park Slope and Gowanus. I can clearly see that Privilege in the society is in direct proportion to the level of obedience to “safety measures”. It is privileged well-off people (not necessarily white) or those who wish to be privileged and well-off, who are getting out of their skin to be “safe”. It is them who advocate for the removal of all suspicious and “unsafe” people from life (via “vaccine passports”) and removal of any “unsafe misinformation” from the reality. It is them, who are either rich or wanting to belong, that behave like the world police. Not only this disease is a class issue, but the whole show of “safety” is a class issue. The bourgeois class, the class of privileged “good citizens”, who are of course Democrat (in the US) and liberal, is responsible for terrorizing the rest of the population, and the rest of the population suffers from unemployment, homelessness, lack of public services, persecution for non-compliance, malnutrition (and junk nutrition), cancer, diabetes, metabolic and autoimmune diseases, compared to which, covid is just a nasty cold. No one counts how many have lost their lives due to “pandemic response”-generated diseases. Not the pandemic, but the terror of the upper class in the name of “care”. The difference between these two strata of the society is well expressed by this Polish woman in your article: the upper class sees the citizens as children and the State as a Father or a Guardian – and the rest of the population knows that the citizens are responsible adults. Cass Sunstein, the new Bernays, is falling on his face.

Cathy Carron
Cathy Carron
3 months ago

The neuroticism of US urban white elites (especially women) is rather amusing as well as astounding; They seemingly know no bounds. They think very highly of themselves, their virtues and lives in general. Masks are worn everywhere and vax cards mandatory. They are also the enablers and perpetuation of the Woke movement, to be avoided if one wants to feel sane. Pray God they stay in New York.
Here in the CT countryside, for the most part ‘normality reigns’. Only the grocery store requires masks, otherwise we’re ‘free’. That said, we’ve had too many urban New Yorkers decamp to our rural area over the past few years because of the pandemic. There’s indications their attitudes and expectations of what society should do for them are slowly creeping in.

Last edited 3 months ago by Cathy Carron
Susan Lundie
Susan Lundie
3 months ago
Reply to  Cathy Carron

Resist it Cathy. Persist as a group in your normal behaviour.

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
3 months ago

Another tiresome, woke Coronaphobe… who can take anyone who calls himself ” Park” seriously?

Susan Lundie
Susan Lundie
3 months ago

I suspect he was baptised as Park. He’s American, or didn’t you “get” that? Americans might well consider a few English names strange, though in my experience they would resist demonstrating bad manners by sniping about it in the way you have.
Additionally, I would not have called the gentleman woke. He sounds ultra normal to me. Perhaps you’d explain why he’s woke in your opinion, and what a “Coronaphobe” is. It’s a new one on me, but doubtless you’d consider me a deplorable for questioning your views.

Last edited 3 months ago by Susan Lundie