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UVa survey indicates concern about outbreak, impact of social distancing

Residents of Central Virginia are feeling the economic impact of the novel coronavirus as they follow social distancing guidelines, according to results of a new poll from the University of Virginia Center for Survey Research.

Released Friday, the results detail the impact of the pandemic and perspectives of area residents.

Per a news release from the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service, the survey was conducted from March 25 through April 1 via BeHeardCVA — the first survey panel in the state designed to represent the residents of the city of Charlottesville and Albemarle, Fluvanna, Greene, Louisa and Nelson counties.

Overall, 579 panelists responded to a variety of questions, indicating, among other things, concern about hospitals’ ability to keep up with health care demands and the long-term negative impact of the virus on the economy.

“Overall, the survey results show that our community understands the seriousness of the situation we are facing, is doing its part to comply with the directives of government, and supports social distancing even though many households are already feeling the economic impact,” said Tom Guterbock, academic director at the Center for Survey Research.

Nearly one in six respondents has a friend or relative somewhere who has tested positive for the coronavirus or shown significant symptoms.

However, respondents were generally more concerned about a widespread breakout of the coronavirus in the United States — 78% said they were very concerned — than they were for such an occurrence in Central Virginia — 60% said they were very concerned.

Per the survey, more than one-third of working respondents have been affected by the economic downturn, with about 3% of respondents indicating that they lost their job due to coronavirus, 8% indicating they are unable to work any hours and another 26% working fewer hours than typical.

More than half of respondents who are currently employed indicated they thought they had at least a 10% chance of losing their job in the next three months.

Around 80% of respondents indicated that they have a job where working from home is an option, and 90% of people who can work from home are currently doing so.

Respondents said they have embraced four lifestyle changes more than others: 92% indicated they are avoiding public spaces and large gatherings; 92% are washing their hands or using hand sanitizer several times a day; 91% said they are canceling or postponing social activities; and 77% said they are avoiding eating at restaurants.

Respondents overwhelmingly indicated that their doctor was the most trusted information source, with 94% either trusting their doctor completely or mostly.

Local public health officials, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization also garnered trust from respondents, per the release.

Sources of information and media outlets such as Fox News, President Donald Trump, social media contacts and the Federal Coronavirus Task Force overseen by Vice President Mike Pence were either not trusted or only somewhat trusted.

Results indicate that while 74% of respondents did not believe the U.S. government was doing enough to combat the virus, only 30% and 27% are dissatisfied with the state and local government response, respectively.

“Most local residents think the Virginia state government has responded adequately, but they expect more action from the national government than they have seen so far, and residents of the outlying, more rural counties in our area are unclear on what actions their county governments have undertaken,” Guterbock said. “If you are hunkered down at home with your family, actively keeping ‘social distance,’ feeling the mental strain and worried about where our economy is headed, know that you are not alone!”

Guterbock said the Center for Survey Research plans to conduct another local poll later this month and that more than 1,000 local residents are already signed up to take it.

Any adult resident of the survey are who is not already signed up can take part in future surveys by enrolling at


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