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New Yorkers Aren’t Quite Ready to Reopen: ‘The Stakes Are Very High’

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is allowing some regions of the state to reopen — as long as they meet certain criteria. But many New Yorkers say they need more testing, safety assurances, and even a vaccine before returning to work outside the home

The CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy conducted a tracking survey of 1,000 New Yorkers and found that many residents believe the city is not yet ready to reopen fully as COVID-19 continues to batter the state. 

According to the findings, the highest percentage of people testing positive for the virus were Hispanic/Latinx (90%), followed by African Americans (65%), Caucasians (58%) and Asians (50%).

“These results indicate that at present we are still testing only the sickest New Yorkers,” said CUNY SPH Dean Ayman El-Mohandes. “If our goal is to reopen the city safely, most of those tested should be testing negative, which would mean that the spread of the virus is on the decline. We cannot open up until we ramp up our testing of people without symptoms, and conduct thorough follow-up contact tracing.”

More than 1.5 million people in the U.S. have tested positive for COVID-10, according to Johns Hopkins University’s Coronavirus Resource Center.  New York has been called the epicenter of the outbreak, with more than 193,000 confirmed cases and more than 26,000 deaths linked to the illness, according to the center.

However, the number of new hospitalizations and hospital deaths is going down, The New York Times reports. With that, Gov. Cuomo launched a plan to reopen parts of the state that met seven requirements. Despite the decline in confirmed cases and plans to reopen, New Yorkers are still very concerned about the virus, the study found. 

Fifty-one percent of survey respondents said they believe they are at high risk of contracting COVID-19 and seven out of 10 said they were either opposed to or unsure about reopening public schools in the fall. 

Seventy percent of employed New Yorkers are working from home amid the health crisis, and more than one in five said they aren’t sure they’ll still have jobs when the state reopens fully.

Eighty-four percent of responding New Yorkers said they’d feel safest returning to everyday life if a vaccine or medicine was available to fight COVID-19. El-Mohandes echoed these concerns in an op-ed for the New York Daily News.

New Yorkers continue to make substantial sacrifices, but they’re also making rational choices based on sound public health guidance. They don’t want to go back to work without adequate safety measures in place,” Ayman El-Mohandes wrote. 

“The stakes are very high in New York. For our own common good, we must continue to go slow, go smart and be safe.”

For the last several 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.)

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