TAMPA, Fla. -- The vast majority of residents in the Tampa Bay area say that when governments begin to remove stay-at-home restrictions imposed to deal with the novel coronavirus, they want businesses to strongly enforce social distance measures when they reopen.
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An online survey of 384 people published by the Tampa Bay Partnership of residents living in Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco, and Hernando counties also show that most residents are most likely to be comfortable returning to work, while less likely to engage in travel behaviors.
“If I were a business looking at this data, I would be rethinking my business model,” said Rick Homans, president and CEO of the Tampa Bay Partnership in a conference call Friday morning. “I would be first and foremost I would think that safety is going to be on the top of everybody’s mind, and that businesses need to visibly show how they are taking steps to ensure the safety or their customers.
The survey also shows that the COVID-19 situation is of much greater concern among African-Americans, where reports have shown that they are disproportionately infected by the virus. While 58 percent of all surveyed said that they remain “very concerned” about the impact of the virus on themselves or their household, 83 percent of African-Americans surveyed said they're very concerned. According to an Associated Press analysis, of the victims whose demographic data has been publicly shared by officials, about 42 percent were black. Also, 34 percent are more likely to have been laid off due to the virus.
The survey was the second done this month for the Partnership by the Tallahassee-based Downs & St. Germain Research. It shows that residents are slightly less alarmed about COVID-19 than when surveyed two weeks ago.
Stay-at-home orders in Florida and the country have limited most people to only being allowed to leave their homes for very limited purposes such as going to the grocery store or physically working out. Only people with jobs deemed essential are being allowed to travel to their workplace.
The survey asked those polled on average how many days would it be before they would feel comfortable returning to places or events that have now been closed down because of the virus.
Topping the list was returning to the workplace, at a median average of 19 days.
But going out to dinner? The median amount of days before people would feel comfortable doing that is 52 days; 70 days before going to a shopping mall; 90 days before using public transportation; 107 days before attending a sporting event; 124 days before getting on a flight.
And going on a cruise? It would be nearly a year -- 332 median days -- before those surveyed said they would feel comfortable about doing that.
One in four working residents say they have been furloughed or laid off from their job, while one in three working residents say that they have had to take a cut in pay or had their hours of work reduced. And more people who still have their jobs say that they are working from home than when surveyed two weeks earlier.
Tampa Bay residents still don’t believe that the coronavirus situation is close to over, though more now believe the situation is at the peak than two weeks ago.
There is strong support (77 percent) for a requirement that people wear masks in public and nearly as much support (63 percent) implementing a mandatory nighttime curfew. There is no such curfew in the four counties surveyed. Hillsborough County officials supported a curfew earlier last week, but reversed course after receiving enormous public pressure opposing the measure. Manatee County Commissioners voted to lift their curfew of 18 days earlier this week.
When asked to rate public officials on how they’re handling the crisis, Tampa Mayor Jane Castor tops the list with 50 percent approval. Local county commissions (not specified by county) are next with 38 percent. President Trump is at 37 percent. St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman is at 34 percent. Governor Ron DeSantis is at 32 percent. The Florida Legislature 28 percent, and Congress 26 percent.