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New Yorkers Think They’re at ‘Very Low’ Risk of Contracting COVID-19

New Yorkers support measures to stop the spread of coronavirus in the city — like social distancing and closing schools and restaurants — but many don’t believe they’re at risk of contracting the viruses, a recent survey from the CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy found.  

Researchers at CUNY SPH surveyed 1,000 New York households from March 13 to March 15 and found that 60% of New York residents believe they have a “low or very low” chance of contracting coronavirus. The survey was led by CUNY SPH Distinguished Lecturer Scott Ratzan

“Messages about ways to prevent the spread of the virus have led many residents to change their plans and routines in the past week,” said officials at the Journal of Health Communication Impact (JHC Impact). “Almost one-fourth (24%) of respondents reported they did not attend an event they had paid for due to concerns about the virus, and almost two in five respondents (39%) decided to stay home instead of going to work or changed existing travel plans (40%).”

Despite believing they are not at great risk, 68% of New Yorkers who responded to the survey said that they believe current safety measures help to contain the virus, like limiting international travel, closing schools and universities, and two weeks of quarantine for those exposed to the illness. 

The survey is the first in a series to be conducted by CUNY SPH amid the coronavirus outbreak in the country. 

“We conducted this survey and will update it regularly over the course of this public health crisis as part of our unique mission within the City’s largest public university,” CUNY SPH Dean Ayman El Mohandes told JHC Impact. 

COVID-19 is a respiratory illness caused by a new coronavirus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. For many, the illness causes mild symptoms like fever, cough, and shortness of breath. But the virus can cause severe illness like pneumonia and can even be deadly for the elderly and those with existing health problems, according to The Associated Press.

As of Thursday morning, there were 4,152 COVID-19 cases in New York State — up 1,770 cases from 2,382 on Wednesday, The New York Times reported. At least 29 people  in New York State have died from the virus, according to the Times.

As officials work to stop the spread of COVID-19, CUNY SPH researchers plan to consistently survey residents for eight weeks to determine attitudes toward the illness.

The findings were first published in the Journal of Health Communication.

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Explore This Work

New Yorkers and Coronavirus – Support for school closures, while most feel not at risk for contracting the illness
Journal of Health communication: International Perspectives , 2020

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