Even in a city famous for its Seattle Freeze, social distancing is starting to get pretty old. It can be boring and it can be lonely. But it’s a sacrifice we’re willing to make. We understand slowing the spread of the novel coronavirus will save lives in our community.
Most of us — but not everybody. By now we’ve all seen footage of those kids partying on the Florida beaches for spring break. But they’re not the only ones exhibiting a cavalier attitude toward the coronavirus. There are plenty of anecdotal reports of folks here in Seattle who continue to socialize.
In fact, I have my own anecdote to share: My mom, who lives in a retirement community in Seattle, was invited to a gathering in one of the neighboring apartments last weekend (she sent her regrets). So it’s not just the young who are defying social distancing rules.
We don’t have to rely on anecdotes to know this is happening. Some new survey data confirms it.
According to the most recent results (March 22) of a tracking poll of Seattle city residents, when asked, “To what extent are you currently isolating yourself from close contact with other people?” 5% of respondents said, “None. I’m doing everything I usually do.” Now 5% might sound like a low number, but that translates to about 32,000 Seattleites.
“It’s not insignificant,” said Michael Simon, co-founder & CEO of Elucd, a Brooklyn-based public-sentiment polling firm which conducted the surveys over a 10-day period. Elucd also contracts with the Seattle Police Department to monitor city residents’ perceptions of safety. The coronavirus polling, though, was done on Elucd’s own initiative. Elucd is also tracking coronavirus public sentiment in some other states and cities.
Simon hopes the public-sentiment data can help inform government officials on the most effective ways to communicate information and actions to take in response to the crisis.
Elucd polled a representative sample (based on age, sex and race) of Seattle residents daily from March 12 to March 22 (some survey questions were added later). At least 400 people were surveyed each day.
The good news is that the percentage of Seattle adults who said they were doing nothing differently because of coronavirus dropped dramatically in a short span. On March 17 it was 17%, which seems remarkably high for a city that was the epicenter of the crisis. So the most recent figure of 5% is a huge improvement.
Even so, Elucd also conducts a national poll, and it shows Seattle is higher than the U.S. average on this question. Only 3% of Americans say they’re doing nothing differently.
Also in Seattle, 18% of respondents (equal to 114,000 people) to the question about self-isolating said Sunday, “Some of the time. I have reduced my exposure,” up from 15% at the beginning of the survey. Not great.
The remaining 77% said they were self-isolating nearly all of the time or most of the time.
Looking at these numbers, nobody can be surprised Gov. Jay Inslee felt the need to issue a temporary “stay-at-home” order Monday evening.
Another survey result I found striking is that Sunday, 17% of Seattle adults (equal to 108,000 people) said they felt social distancing should be voluntary and the government should not force businesses to close. Seattle is higher than the U.S. average on this question. Currently only 11% of Americans think social distancing should be voluntary and the government shouldn’t force businesses to close.
There is some positive news for Seattle in this tracking survey.
When asked “Do you know what to do if you were to be exposed or come into contact with someone who has/is believed to have coronavirus?”, the number who responded “very much” skyrocketed from 30% on March 12 to 70% on Sunday.
“That chart looks different from any other place,” Simon said. “Something is working in Seattle when it comes to coronavirus education.”
Nationally, 59% say they “very much” know what to do if exposed to the virus.
Some other findings from the surveys: They show on Sunday, 28% of Seattle adults say they, or someone they know, are self-quarantining due to symptoms that might be related to the coronavirus. That number is only slightly higher than it was on the first day of polling, at 25%.
Also, nearly half of us feel there is a very high level of risk of serious harm to a loved one — that number has nearly doubled. Only 2% are not at all worried.
Slightly more than half (52%) are confident the mandated social distancing and closures will be over within four months.
Seventy percent of Seattleites trust national public health officials, like the CDC, for information about disease, the most trusted source for medical information. About half rely on national and local news websites, making them the most trusted source for news on the virus.
To see the complete results of the tracking survey, follow this link: https://elucd.com/covid19/Seattle.