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New Yorkers Are Divided On When to Reopen the Economy

Many New Yorkers say they don’t believe it’s a good idea to reopen the state’s nonessential businesses before at least June — even though job loss as a result of COVID-19 continues to rise, according to a new survey from the CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy

In a weekly tracking survey from CUNY SPH, nearly half of surveyed New York City residents (49%) said non-essential businesses should remain closed until after June 1. And just 19% said openings should start in mid-May. 

“As more New Yorkers have been dying, people are still home and reporting that someone is sick at home,” CUNY SPH distinguished lecturer Dr. Scott Ratzan tells SUM. “People know that this is not something they can go back to work and feel safe.”

The news comes as several states — including Georgia, South Carolina, and Tennessee — have begun to lift coronavirus restrictions and reopen non-essential businesses, according to The Washington Post. The reopenings have been met with criticism from many who say doing so could put residents at risk of sickness and even death

Groups across the country have been participating in anti-lockdown protests and pushing leaders to reopen nonessential businesses. As for many New Yorkers, “Until they feel that the government has the right checks in place, they don’t want to go back to work,” Ratzan says. 

New York City is considered the epicenter of the COVID-19 crisis. There are more than 141,000 confirmed cases in the city and more than 14,000 New Yorkers have died as a result of the virus, according to Johns Hopkins University’s Coronavirus Resource Center. New Yorkers are becoming more and more panicked — a sharp change from the very first survey that found a majority of residents believed they were at “very low” risk of contracting the virus. 

The latest survey found 37% reporting that either they or someone in their household have lost their job due to COVID-19. Household job loss among African Americans has doubled in the last five weeks (now at 35%), the survey found. Forty percent of Asian Americans reported job loss and the Latinx/Hispanic community is still the hardest-hit group — with 44% reporting household job loss. 

The survey also found that a large number of New Yorkers are feeling anxious and depressed more than half the time due to the pandemic, and Asian Americans reported the highest rates of hopelessness.

Even in the midst of the health crisis, three in five New Yorkers said they are feeling more connected to one another as well as a feeling of solidarity with Americans nationwide.

“The grit and the resolve and the resilience of New Yorkers from past challenges — whether it be Sept. 11 or other outbreaks — has an effect on the population that creates a solidarity both with New Yorkers as well as the rest of the country,” Ratzan says.

“New Yorkers are in this together. That’s why they’re practicing social distancing, they’re supportive of schools being closed, they’re supportive of wearing a face mask, and they’re also supportive of waiting until the threat of COVID is gone before going to work.”

The weekly survey is published in JHC Impact, a blog of the Journal of Health Communication

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New Yorkers Say: Don’t Re-open the Economy Before June
CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy, 2020

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