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COVID-19

Survey shows mixed feelings about contract tracing, quarantining

Jasmine Garsd Nov 2, 2020
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A woman looks out from her front door while quarantining at home this April in Long Island, New York. John Moore/Getty Images
COVID-19

Survey shows mixed feelings about contract tracing, quarantining

Jasmine Garsd Nov 2, 2020
Heard on:
A woman looks out from her front door while quarantining at home this April in Long Island, New York. John Moore/Getty Images
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Americans have some discomfort over one of the main tools for fighting COVID-19: contact tracing.

New polling data from the Pew Research Center finds a significant minority of people would be wary of engaging with public health officials over the phone, by text or in person, and don’t trust their personal information will be kept safe and secure.

And 32% of Americans would find it somewhat to very difficult to quarantine if asked to do so by contact tracers. Among the reasons they gave? Too difficult to miss work or arrange child care.

“Essential workers were probably more likely to fall in that category,” said Lee Rainie from the Pew Research Center. “Black Americans and Hispanic Americans were somewhat more likely than white Americans.” 

In the survey, Republicans, young people and those who identified as Hispanic were less likely to engage with contact tracers. 

As cases surge in the U.S., experts are increasingly worried about this. Marissa Baker from the University of Washington said public health isn’t separate from economic recovery.

“You need to have workers who are safe,” she said. “Workers who are empowered to stay home when they are sick and take care of themselves and their family, and workplaces that are encouraging that.”

But Jacob Bor, a professor of global health and epidemiology at Boston University, said it is getting a little late for contact tracing and quarantining.

“Those are effective once the amount of virus going around in the community and the number of new cases is relatively small,” he said. 

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

So what’s up with “Zoom fatigue”?

It’s a real thing. The science backs it up — there’s new research from Stanford University. So why is it that the technology can be so draining? Jeremy Bailenson with Stanford’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab puts it this way: “It’s like being in an elevator where everyone in the elevator stopped and looked right at us for the entire elevator ride at close-up.” Bailenson said turning off self-view and shrinking down the video window can make interactions feel more natural and less emotionally taxing.

How are Americans spending their money these days?

Economists are predicting that pent-up demand for certain goods and services is going to burst out all over as more people get vaccinated. A lot of people had to drastically change their spending in the pandemic because they lost jobs or had their hours cut. But at the same time, most consumers “are still feeling secure or optimistic about their finances,” according to Candace Corlett, president of WSL Strategic Retail, which regularly surveys shoppers. A lot of people enjoy browsing in stores, especially after months of forced online shopping. And another area expecting a post-pandemic boost: travel.

What happened to all of the hazard pay essential workers were getting at the beginning of the pandemic?

Almost a year ago, when the pandemic began, essential workers were hailed as heroes. Back then, many companies gave hazard pay, an extra $2 or so per hour, for coming in to work. That quietly went away for most of them last summer. Without federal action, it’s mostly been up to local governments to create programs and mandates. They’ve helped compensate front-line workers, but they haven’t been perfect. “The solutions are small. They’re piecemeal,” said Molly Kinder at the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program. “You’re seeing these innovative pop-ups because we have failed overall to do something systematically.”

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