A staggering amount of people who live in this city think they are immune to Covid-19

New Yorkers are a special breed. Empire State residents have known the world over for their no-nonsense attitude and resilient spirit. The five boroughs can feel like a cold place on any given day, but when times are tough New Yorkers come together and support one another; look no further than the city’s resolve following 9/11. 

Now, with the Covid-19 outbreak changing Americans’ lives all over the country, a survey taken last week has gauged how New Yorkers are reacting to this new and unique threat to our way of life. 

The research, conducted by the CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy, came to a number of interesting findings. In short, while most New Yorkers support the current measures being taken (school closings, limited travel) many don’t feel particularly at risk themselves.

In total, 1,000 New York households participated in the survey between March 13-15th 2020. This is an incredibly fluid situation and it wouldn’t be outlandish to say that many of the respondents’ feelings may have already changed since last week. Still, these statistics provide some fascinating insight into how the city that never sleeps is processing all of this.

Right off the bat, 60% said they believe their chances of contracting Covid-19 are “low or very low.” 

That optimism, though, maybe a bit misguided. Especially considering the fact that 55% of respondents live in a home with at least one person aged 60 or older. At this point, it’s well established that the elderly are most at risk when it comes to the coronavirus. Despite that fact, only 27% said they are living with someone who has a high chance of becoming sick. With these numbers in mind, it sounds like quite a few New Yorkers need to be more aware of the dangers Covid-19 represents for their older loved ones.

As far as general knowledge and awareness, 51% believe they have “some knowledge” of the coronavirus and its tendencies and 34% consider themselves very well informed.

Moving onto containment policies, the majority of NY residents appear to be fully on board despite the inevitable inconveniences they are sure to cause. Regarding the closing of schools and universities, 68% support the decision. Meanwhile, 69% are in favor of current travel restrictions, and 71% believe that two weeks of quarantine for anyone exposed to the virus is a necessary measure.

In another promising sign, it seems many New Yorkers have already started to change their behavior and daily routines. Nearly one-fourth (24%) said they had skipped an event that they had paid for due to Covid-19 concerns. Another 39% have already started working from home, and 40% have canceled upcoming vacation or travel plans. 

New York City is famous for its incredible dining and entertainment options, so it’s encouraging to see that locals are following the advice of medical professionals and opting not to socialize. For example, 57% have stayed home instead of going to the movies or going out to eat, and 64% are avoiding all handshakes and hugs.

But, what about perhaps the single most important measure an individual can take during these trying times? Rest assured that New Yorkers are washing their hands; 88% of respondents reported stepping up their hygiene game in regards to both hand washing and using hand sanitizer.

“We conducted this survey and will update it regularly over the course of this public health crisis as a part of our unique mission within the City’s largest public university,” says CUNY SPH Dean Ayman El Mohandes in a press release. “Working together promoting evidence-based communication with innovative approaches for individual and community action, we can and will help address the threat of COVID-19.”

Survey participants were also asked about their most trusted sources of Covid-19 information, and the results don’t paint a pretty picture for President Trump. Only 7% said the president is their most trusted source of coronavirus information. Most turn to major TV news outlets (29%), while others prefer the CDC (26%) or WHO (15%).

In times like these social media often does more harm than good in terms of anxiety, so it’s a good sign that most respondents said they don’t turn to Twitter and the like for their news. However, 51% admitted that they do tend to share Covid-19 information on social media at least once daily. Troublingly, 30% said they had shared a piece of coronavirus news on social media without actually verifying if it was accurate. When browsing the web, 36% said they get their coronavirus news from verified news media posts, 27% obtain their news from friends’ posts, and 20% stick to government sources.

Last month feels like a lifetime ago. All of our lives have changed over the past two weeks, and we’re all hoping things get back to normal sooner rather than later. For now, though, we’re all stuck in the same quarantined, social isolating boat. These findings are encouraging in the sense that even New Yorkers, a group of people often defined by their rebellious, free-thinking spirit, for the most part, appear to be on board with these public safety necessities.

If these safety measures can make it in New York, they can make it anywhere. 

The full survey can be found here. It is also published in the Journal of Health Communication: International Perspectives.

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