Coronavirus Concern Is Creeping Up, Finally, in US

(CN) — As U.S. officials ramp up coronavirus safety measures — a critical stage in keeping the death toll low — polling data released Thursday shows that Americans are increasingly worried about the pandemic.

Up from 45% last month, two-thirds are somewhat concerned about someone in their family contracting the new strain of the virus called Covid-19, according to the report from the Associated Press and the National Opinion Research Center.

Older people thought to be more vulnerable to complications from the virus, but the poll found that younger people bear the brunt of the fretting.

Beachgoers enjoy a sunny day in Destin, Fla., on Wednesday. (Devon Ravine/Northwest Florida Daily News via AP, File)

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has issued a worst-case scenario that has between 160 million and 210 million Americans contracting the disease by the end of this year, with between 200,000 and 1.7 million deaths. To limit how quickly virus spreads — a critical measure in ensuring that the unprecedented surge on hospitals does not exhaust limited equipment — experts have been urging the public to “flatten the curve” by quarantining prophylactically or, in the modern parlance, social distancing.

As of Thursday, the virus had spread to all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands. New York and Washington harbor the most cases, but insufficient testing has been an issue for weeks, which puts many states’ numbers in question. Community transmission, an escalation stage in virology, was recorded as beginning March 3 in the country.

While areas such as San Francisco have imposed shelter-in-place rules and curfews, others like New York have closed schools, museums and bars, allowing only restaurants to stay open for take-out or delivery.

Globally as of March 18, according to the World Health Organization, 191,127 cases had been confirmed, with 7,807 deaths. Those numbers change by the hour, however, and limited testing capacity in the U.S. makes it difficult to know exactly how many people are sick.

In the absence of accurate federal data on coronavirus numbers, an independent group of scientists and journalists called the COVID Tracking Project is collecting testing and case data from each U.S. state and publishing it online.

As of midday Thursday, the group had logged 8,131 novel coronavirus cases in the U.S., with 132 deaths.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention admits its numbers are not accurate. A disclaimer on its website notes that, since states are now doing their own testing, the CDC’s numbers “are not representative of all testing being done nationwide.”

(Source: Johns Hopkins University, as of 5 p.m. ET March 18)

Like many issues in the U.S., worries about the virus also fall along party lines: Democrats and Independents are more worried than are Republicans. Just 21% of Republicans reported being “extremely” worried, while 36% of Democrats felt the same way. Compared with 44% of Republicans who are not worried, just 24% of Democrats agreed.

Most people over 30 reported getting their coronavirus news from traditional media, while a quarter counted on social media.

Eighty-eight percent of Americans said they’re washing their hands more, while 68% are avoiding crowds and 59% trying not to touch their faces. Of those who have upcoming travel, about half have canceled or are planning to. Just over a third are stocking up on food and extra cleaning supplies.

“This is tremendously disruptive on all sorts of levels,” New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said in a press conference Thursday morning, comparing the days after Sept. 11, 2001, against the pandemic.

“It’s a moment that just changes your whole life,” he said.

The poll was conducted last week, as U.S. cities began to take more drastic measures to slow the spread of the virus.

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