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New Yorkers Think Worst of COVID-19 Is Over (But Still Want a Vaccine)

Many New Yorkers say they believe the worst of COVID-19 is over. Still, food insecurity remains high as the health crisis continues, according to a new tracking survey from the CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy.

Although many in a survey of 1,000 New Yorkers said they believe the worst of the pandemic has passed, many consider a vaccine to be the key to “normalcy,” according to survey results. Many said they won’t participate “fully in everyday life” until a vaccine becomes available.

“They know we can’t just flip a switch and go back to the way things were,” CUNY SPH Dean Dr. Ayman El-Mohandes said. “Many people believe a safe, effective coronavirus vaccine is essential to restoring public confidence, which suggests that they know they are facing a fairly long period of uncertainty, even with the expedited vaccine development program now under way.”

New York has more than 175,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and more than 19,000 people have died as a result of the illness, according to Johns Hopkins University’s Coronavirus Resource Center. However, the number of new hospitalizations and hospital deaths is going down, The New York Times reports. Additionally, the number of deaths in one day in the state was recently down 70 percent from early April, according to the Times.

Even despite the positive figures, CUNY SPH distinguished lecturer Scott Ratzan tells SUM that surveyed New Yorkers seem to simply feel better about the pandemic than in past week. 

“From a mental health perspective, social isolations, people feeling anxious, people who feel depressed, and anxiety — that’s gone down,” Ratzan says. “They’re not as worried. Perception of risk has gone down and anxiety has gone down.” 

Still, many surveyed New Yorkers said they believe a vaccine is necessary.

“We’re all trying to think, ‘How do we live with this virus in our midst?’ Some of us are willing to wear masks, New Yorkers are willing to social distance,” Ratzan tells SUM. “This has been showing that New Yorkers are resilient, they can live with [COVID-19], but to really get back to normal we need to have a vaccine that covers the population.” 

Meanwhile, 44% of households have said they’re worried about running out of food before they have money to buy more, according to the survey. Latinx/Hispanic households and households with lower incomes are disproportionately impacted by this food insecurity.

“These findings show food insecurity levels in New York City three times higher than before the epidemic,” said CUNY SPH Professor Nicholas Freudenberg.

For the last seven weeks, CUNY SPH researchers have surveyed New York residents to determine attitudes and outcomes about everything from job loss and mental health to housing and testing amid the COVID-19 health crisis. (The weekly survey is published in JHC Impact, a blog of the Journal of Health Communications.)

On Friday, Dr. Ratzan will join Dean El-Mohandes and other professors to discuss the overall findings of the weekly tracking survey. The public is invited to register for the free event

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Scott Ratzan (Distinguished Lecturer, Community Health and Social Sciences) | Profile 1