More Americans see the pandemic over the Wuhan virus as a peril on the economy rather than a threat to personal health, a new poll from the Pew Research Center released Wednesday finds.
Pew reports that 70 percent of Americans believe that the outbreak poses a major risk to the nation’s economy, while 47 percent say it is major threat to the population’s health. Just 27 percent said they believe that the new virus presents a major hazard to their own personal health and 51 percent say it’s a minor threat. Twenty-two percent even believe that the outbreak poses no risk at all to their health.
Americans have good reason to worry about the economy in the wake of the global pandemic. On Wednesday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average erased all gains made under the Trump administration while thousands of workers are lining up at unemployment offices to claim benefits after being put out of work. Even as the federal government takes drastic measures to pass massive stimulus packages and lower interest rates to the floor to reassure Wall Street, stocks continue their downward spiral while the virus keeps spreading. Nearly a third of Americans surveyed by Pew reported that if they did not get paid it would be difficult to keep up with expenses if they were unable to work throughout the pandemic.
Most Americans, 83 percent, told Pew that they were very or somewhat confident in the nation’s public health institutions such as the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to keep the country healthy, with 40 percent reporting that they were “very confident.” When it comes to the president on the other hand, only 45 percent said they were very or somewhat confident that President Donald Trump is doing a good job handling the crisis. Forty-eight percent said the same of Vice President Mike Pence.
As of Wednesday afternoon, more than 200,000 cases of the virus have been confirmed worldwide and the United States is rapidly approaching 10,000 as more testing gets underway. Many believe the number of official cases in the states to be far higher than reported due to lack of testing at the onset of the epidemic. So far, more than 100 people have died from the virus in the U.S. and the number of deaths worldwide is nearing 9,000.
In response to the outbreak, governments worldwide have sealed off their borders and entire localities have been put on lockdown. The U.S. has implemented travel bans on China and Europe and closed its border with Canada on Wednesday. Annual gatherings that draw millions each year have been postponed or cancelled and air travel is coming to a halt while extreme social distancing measures have provoked mayors and governors to shuttered schools, bars and restaurants.
Some have begun to question the cost and benefits of the measures being put in place. Is effectively shutting down the world and wrecking the global economy for a virus with a low fatality rate (as we know so far) worth is? The long-term effects, and how long social distancing measures will be put in place, remain unclear.