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Mike Barnhill

Ashland

Dear Editor:

During the pandemic, the number of infections, hospitalizations and deaths have varied greatly from country to country, said Fareed Zakaria, of the Washington Post. Culture has played a central role in how nations have fared. Cultural psychologist Michele Gelfand, of the University of Maryland, has categorized countries as having "loose" or "tight" cultures; in "tight" ones, people respect norms and their obligation to others, whereas in "loose" ones, social bonds are weak, and individuality and defiance are strong.

In a study of how 57 countries responded to the pandemic, Gelfand found that "loose countries had five times the rate of COVID cases and nine times the rate of COVID death cases as tight countries." In the tighter countries, people followed the advice of scientists and government, wore masks, and kept their distance, denying the virus an easy means of spreading.

In the U.S., a loose country, we have had 562,000 deaths, compared with 1,777 in tight South Korea, 41 in Cambodia, 35 in Vietnam and 11 in Taiwan. Loose cultures like the U.S. can be more "innovative and dynamic," but need to tighten up in response to a pandemic. That's what New Zealand, Australia and Greece did — keeping infections and deaths extremely low.

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