This staggering number of New Yorkers say Gov. Cuomo is their most trusted source for COVID-19 news

Governor Andrew Cuomo announced on Monday that the worst is over for New York City in its battle against the coronavirus. Those words came as a wave of relief for millions of New Yorkers, but Cuomo was also quick to reel in expectations by emphasizing that we’re still a long journey away from a return to normalcy. The Governor recommended that NYC residents take comfort in the progress being made, but maintain committed to the social distancing policies still in place.

As this awful pandemic has unfolded and wreaked havoc in the NY area, Cuomo has emerged as a voice of reason and resolve. Perhaps then, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that 35% of surveyed NYC residents say Governor Cuomo is their most trusted source of COVID-19 related information and news. 

The research, the latest in a series of surveys conducted by the CUNY Graduate School of Public Health & Public Policy, was just administered a few days ago (April 10th-12th) and included 1,000 NYC residents as well as 1,000 NY State residents (NYC, Long Island, Upstate).

After Governor Cuomo, the CDC was listed as the second most trusted source of information for New Yorkers (18%), followed by TV news (13%), the WHO (8%), and President Trump (8%). Smaller percentages of respondents usually turn to social media (5%), Mayor De Blasio (4%), print media (3%), and family & friends (2%) for coronavirus information.

This past week was a big one for both Christian and Jewish New Yorkers due to the Easter and Passover holidays. Of course, this year was anything but normal in terms of holiday celebrations. In all, 77% of NYC residents who would usually attend holiday services last week found alternative ways to celebrate their respective holidays. Most (43%) watched or listened to services on TV or radio, while 29% found a way to celebrate remotely online. Meanwhile, 22% decided not to celebrate at all this year. A much smaller percentage (5%) disregarded health recommendations and attended services in person.

One of the biggest challenges facing New York parents is the prospect of home-schooling their children. Parents have always worn many hats in regards to raising their kids, but a full-time teacher usually isn’t one of them. COVID-19 has changed all that, though, and the survey has noted that parents with more education themselves seem to be handling the role of teacher a bit better than others. Among surveyed parents with a high school degree or less, 37% say their child is completing all of their online school work. In comparison, 67% of parents with a college degree or more say the same. 

There were also observed educational differences among English-speaking and Spanish-speaking households. While 56% of Spanish-speaking parents say they are having a hard time homeschooling their children, only 33% of English-speaking parents share the same sentiment. Access to the internet is also a more frequent problem among Spanish-speaking households (27%) in comparison to English-speaking families (15%).

“Many New York parents seem to be coping with the challenge of schooling their children at home,” says CUNY SPH Dean Ayman El-Mohandes. “However, when it comes to schoolwork delivered on-line, families with fewer years of education and those responding in Spanish experience the greatest challenges. Their children risk falling behind in the future and deserve immediate attention.”

One of the hottest topics regarding COVID-19 is the development of an effective vaccine. Governor Cuomo even asserted during his latest press conference that it’s unlikely life will ever truly be normal again until a vaccine is widely available. Cuomo believes that won’t happen for another 12-18 months, but 26% of New Yorkers are optimistic that a vaccine will be available within six months. Another 27% think it will take a year or longer.

Even after a vaccine is developed and approved, how many New Yorkers are open to being vaccinated? According to the survey, 53% would absolutely take it, 29% would refuse, and 18% are unsure right now. Surprisingly, two weeks ago there was more widespread support for vaccination (62% in comparison to 53%). Broken down by age, respondents 45 and older are less likely to be vaccinated (44%) compared to younger adults (62%).

Among surveyed parents 53% would vaccinate their children, 24% would not, and 23% aren’t sure. Stances on vaccination also varied greatly among ethnic groups; Latinc/Hispanics are least likely to pursue vaccination (30%), with African Americans (50%), Caucasians (71%), and Asians (73%) much more open to being vaccinated.

“Medical and public health experts believe that only a coronavirus vaccine can truly protect us from future outbreaks, and a massive effort is underway to produce a new vaccine in record time. But what if the effort succeeds and large numbers of people decide not to vaccinate themselves or their children? Right now, barely more than half of New Yorkers tell us they’ll do that. If that is the case, we won’t be able to protect our community against a new wave of coronavirus infections,” comments Dr. Scott Ratzan, Distinguished Lecturer at CUNY SPH.

Unsettlingly, 34% of New Yorkers say they weren’t able to pay their rent or mortgage this month. Of that group, 62% are worried about being evicted. 

Another disconcerting finding from the survey was that nearly one in five (19%) New Yorkers have seen or experienced racism, harassment, or violence due to the coronavirus. Asians were the most likely to report such incidents.

On a better note, 10% of New Yorkers have been tested for coronavirus, a big increase over just 1.3% two weeks ago. Similarly, nearly half of respondents (49%) say they know someone who has tested positive.

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

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