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Mount Sinai South Nassau "Truth in Medicine" Poll: Two-Thirds of Metro Area Residents Would Forgo Sporting Events, Movies, and Public Transportation

Only 45% would get a COVID-19 vaccine

Posted: Jun. 3, 2020
Mount Sinai South Nassau "Truth in Medicine" Poll: Two-Thirds of Metro Area Residents Would Forgo Sporting Events, Movies, and Public Transportation

Two-thirds of metro area residents would not attend a sporting event, watch a movie, or ride mass transit because of COVID-19 fears as Long Island reopens, the latest Mount Sinai South Nassau public health poll shows. Eighty-six percent of respondents said they would not shake someone’s hand.

A majority also are uneasy about flying on an airplane, eating in a restaurant, or going to a bar, the poll showed.

Despite 100,000 recorded deaths due to coronavirus nationwide, notably, 55 percent of area residents said they are either unsure (30 percent) or would not (25 percent) roll up their sleeves for a COVID-19 vaccine, if one were available.

In a previous Truth in Medicine Poll, sponsored by Bethpage, conducted in early February before the height of the outbreak, 55 percent of respondents said they would get vaccinated compared to just 45 percent now. Respondents 65 and older remained committed to getting a vaccine, with 53 percent saying they would get vaccinated in both polls. This poll showed that interest in a vaccine also increased depending on whether or not the respondent was diagnosed with the virus or knew someone personally who was.

“It’s disturbing that there is reluctance about a potential vaccine. However, we’re hopeful that as one is developed, tested, and proven effective, people’s attitudes will change,” said Aaron E. Glatt, MD, Chair of the Department of Medicine at Mount Sinai South Nassau and a national expert on infectious diseases. “Although a vaccine is still some months away, early research shows promise that a vaccine could prevent a resurgence of COVID-19. Science is on our side. Right now, there is still too much unknown about a potential vaccine, and I assume that uncertainty is what we are seeing reflected in the poll results.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has announced a phased reopening of Long Island’s economy. During Phase One of the reopening, Long Island and the Mid-Hudson Valley may begin construction staging to prepare for resuming projects, curbside retail, manufacturing, agriculture, and fishing. However, most residents made it clear they are not willing to resume their pre-pandemic activities, the poll showed. New York City is the only region to remain on New York’s PAUSE, Gov. Cuomo’s 10-point executive order to keep New York safe during the coronavirus outbreak.

While there is some tolerance for outdoor activities, it may be awhile before the majority of metro area residents feel comfortable attending indoor events, using public transit, or flying on an airplane.

One-third of area residents have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or know someone who was. Nearly all respondents said they will continue to wear a mask to protect themselves until circumstances change. Only 3 percent of respondents report that they are not currently wearing a mask.

“Very few aspects of day-to-day life have remained unchanged during the COVID-19 era,” said Adhi Sharma, MD, Mount Sinai South Nassau’s Executive Vice President for Clinical and Professional Affairs and Chief Medical Officer. “It is a positive sign that the vast majority of people remain reluctant to resume normal life post-COVID-19. The public health education that has been going on during the last two months has made a lasting impact, which is good. The virus is still out there and active. We must remain vigilant in our social distancing effort. There is good reason why we should not be returning to life as normal just yet.”

New York City has been the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak. Long Island and Westchester County also have been particularly hard hit.

This is Mount Sinai South Nassau’s second Truth in Medicine poll, sponsored by Bethpage, on the region’s response to coronavirus. The first poll, conducted February 5-9, found that 62 percent of respondents were very concerned about the coronavirus outbreak. However, at the time, residents saw the flu as a more serious threat than coronavirus.

A majority of respondents in this poll said they felt comfortable receiving medical care, going to an emergency room and returning to work, only if safety precautions were followed. Fifty-two percent said they would go to a beach or park with social distancing and sanitizing practices in place.

Nearly one in 10 respondents has either personally delayed seeking treatment or has a family member who did so for chest pain, trouble breathing, weakness in the limbs, or slurred speech due to fear of catching COVID-19. Thirteen percent of those who had been infected with the virus or had a family member who was have delayed care. As the rates of COVID-19-related hospitalizations and deaths decline, some 25 percent of poll respondents said they would still not visit an emergency room. Sixty-three percent said they would seek ER care only if social distancing guidelines and sanitizing measures were enforced.

There is concern among physicians about the impact of delayed medical care. For example, individuals with chest pain who avoided the emergency room could damage their heart muscle and cause additional blockages or, worse, a severe heart attack.

“People should not delay seeking care, including going to an emergency room if necessary,” said Dr. Sharma. “Visits to emergency rooms remain low compared to pre-COVID-19, which is an indication that people are delaying seeking treatment due to coronavirus fears. We have taken all necessary precautions, including deep cleaning and segregation of COVID-19 versus non-COVID-19 patients in our ER, so people should not put their health on hold. It’s more dangerous to sit home when you are experiencing serious symptoms.”

In another major area of concern, residents are eager to have children return to school. Seventy-one percent of respondents with children under the age of 18 said they will send their children back to school in the fall, although 52 percent will do so only with appropriate social distancing and sanitizing practices in place. Sixteen percent said they will not send their children back to school in the fall. A majority of parents believe remote learning has gone “very well” or “well.”

Concern about coronavirus returning in the fall is high. On a scale of one to ten with one meaning “not concerned at all” and 10 meaning “extremely concerned,” the mean level of concern was 7.71. Concern is higher than average among Hispanic respondents, women and those 65-plus.

In every case, men are more willing than women to resume public activities, both with and without restrictions. Respondents under age 50, especially parents of children under age 18, are more likely to return to the workplace, go to the beach or a park, attend a religious service, eat in a restaurant/go to a bar, attend a sporting event, and go to a movie than older respondents and those without children.

Mount Sinai South Nassau’s experts recommend that people remain vigilant and wear masks in public. Handwashing is key, as is maintaining social distancing and avoiding unnecessary gatherings, even through the summer months. These practices can help reduce a second surge. “A resurgence of the virus is certainly possible, and it is up to our community to keep its impact minimal,” Dr. Glatt said.

The Mount Sinai South Nassau Truth in Medicine Poll, sponsored by Bethpage Federal Credit Union, is a quarterly survey of Long Island and New York City residents that aims to gather data about attitudes on key public health topics and help spur education to improve public health. The poll was conducted May 11-14 via both landlines and cell phones with 600 residents in New York City and on Long Island. Poll findings are subject to a sampling error of plus or minus 3.9 percent.

“At Bethpage, we understand that personal attention to health and wellness is essential to the quality of life of our members and the communities served by our local branches,” said Linda Armyn, Senior Vice President of Corporate Affairs at Bethpage Federal Credit Union. “We believe that this Truth in Medicine Poll supplies the public with insight and information that will empower it to make choices that will facilitate a safe, healthy and robust re-opening of the region for business, entertainment, dining and outdoor activities.”

The Truth in Medicine Poll was conducted as part of the hospital’s mission of improving education around critical public health issues. The poll was conducted by a nationally recognized, independent polling firm, LJR Custom Strategies, with offices in Washington and New Orleans. LJR has conducted more than 2,000 studies for a broad spectrum of health care, business, education, cultural, and political clients in almost every state in the country and around the world.

Mount Sinai South Nassau began conducting the public health poll in January 2017. This is Mount Sinai South Nassau’s second public health poll of 2020. Previous polls have focused on holiday stress, HPV vaccine, legalization of recreational marijuana, vaccines and supplements, antibiotic use and misuse, screen time, and others. For more information about the polls, please visit www.southnassau.org/truth.

The Long Island flagship hospital of the Mount Sinai Health System, Mount Sinai South Nassau Hospital is designated a Magnet® hospital by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) for outstanding nursing care.  Mount Sinai South Nassau is one of the region’s largest hospitals with 455 beds, more than 900 physicians and 3,500 employees. Located in Oceanside, New York, the hospital is an acute-care, not-for-profit teaching hospital that provides state-of-the-art care in cardiac, oncologic, orthopedic, bariatric, pain management, mental health and emergency medicine.
In addition to its extensive outpatient specialty centers, Mount Sinai South Nassau provides emergency and elective angioplasty, and offers Novalis Tx™ and Gamma Knife® radiosurgery technologies. Mount Sinai South Nassau operates the only Trauma Center on the South Shore of Nassau County verified by the American College of Surgeons as well as Long Island’s only free-standing, 9-1-1 receiving Emergency Department in Long Beach. It is also is a designated Stroke Center by the New York State Department of Health and Comprehensive Community Cancer Center by the American College of Surgeons and is an accredited center of the Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery association and Quality Improvement Program.

In addition, the hospital has been awarded the Joint Commission’s gold seal of approval for disease-specific care for stroke, hip and knee replacement, heart failure, bariatric surgery, wound care and end-stage renal disease.  For more information, visit mountsinai.org/southnassau.