BeHeardCVA Coronavirus II Survey, April-May 2020

UVA’s Center for Survey Research conducted a survey of the BeheardCVA panel members to gather information about area residents’ perceptions and experiences regarding the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic in our community.  Interviews were conducted from April 28 to May 5, 2020.  The survey questionnaire focused on four main themes, physical health and health care; effectiveness of government policies; economic impacts, and mental health.  Questions were formulated considering the input from over 300 BeHeardCVA participants and suggestions from several local non-profits, government agencies and health officials.

BeHeardCVA is the first survey panel in the state of Virginia and is designed to represent the diverse people of Central Virginia. "CVA" stands for both Central Virginia and Charlottesville Area. BeHeardCVA is a movement meant to listen to the voices of residents in every part of the greater Charlottesville area, including Albemarle, Fluvanna, Greene, Louisa and Nelson counties. Overall, 683 panelists responded (over 60% of those contacted).  Survey results were weighted to reflect the demographic characteristics of the region, resulting in a statistical margin of error of plus or minus seven percent.

Key Findings

The objective of this survey was to provide federal, state, and local decision-makers, the health care community, the media, and the general public with information so they have a better understanding of how the coronavirus outbreak is impacting people’s lives.

Physical Health and Health Care

  • Nearly one in three respondents reported having a friend or relative who has tested positive for COVID-19 or shown clear symptoms.
  • Almost half of all respondents felt that they could definitely or probably would be able to get a test for COVID-19, if needed in the next two months.  An even higher proportion (69%) indicated they would definitely or probably get an antibody test when available in our area.  Men and women were equally receptive to the antibody testing.
  • Three in four Central Virginians reported having access to their primary care provider either in person or virtually. Half indicated that they have not been contacted by their health provider since the pandemic started. The vast majority (73%) have access to telehealth options.
  • In terms of taking care of routine health care needs, dental and eye exams were the least accessible with clinics being temporarily closed and/or routine care being postponed.  A large majority (79%) indicated they had no trouble getting a prescription refilled.  Very few respondents indicated a need for elective surgery, but nearly 80 percent of those wanting an elective procedure could not get it at this time.  Nearly one in four avoided going to a hospital or clinic, while 15 percent avoided going to an emergency room.
  • Of the more than 80 percent of respondents who indicated that they wear a mask either frequently or occasionally, they reported wearing them most often to go to a store or business (90%), at any public place (40%), at their workplace (21%), and at hospitals or clinics (19%).

Effectiveness of Government Policies

  • Confidence in the government response varied considerably with Central Virginians being generally more supportive of the job that the state was doing to prevent the spread of coronavirus than the federal government. Specifically, 62% of respondents consider the Virginia state government to be “doing the right amount” in response to COVID-19, whereas 66% of respondents consider the U.S. government to be “not doing enough”. Results varied by locality, with a higher percentage of Nelson County residents indicating that the state was not doing enough (34%) while Louisa and Greene residents reported that the state was doing too much (29% and 26%, respectively).  In terms of the federal response, the majority of participants from Louisa (53%) felt the U.S. government was doing the right amount. Most all other localities considered the federal response to not be enough. 
  • Two-thirds of area residents say keeping people at home during current conditions of the COVID-19 pandemic is more important than re-opening businesses.  Fewer than one in four said it is more important to open things up.  Men were more likely than women to say that opening up is more important, and respondents who have jobs that they can’t do from their homes were also much more likely to choose “opening up” as the more important concern.
  • Respondents were evenly split on their support of a policy that would open Central Virginia before the entire state is opened (48% opposed versus 45% favored).  Again, men were more likely to favor a regional approach to opening, as were those with jobs they cannot do from home.
  • A slim majority of residents (52%) would disapprove of people starting to go on trips to other parts of the United States once the stay-at-home order is lifted. A majority (56%) would also disapprove of encouraging tourists and travelers from elsewhere to visit Central Virginia.
  • Under the current stay-at-home order, nearly every household has had someone leave home for one reason or another in the past seven days. The most common reasons for leaving the home were to: shop inside a grocery store (81%), walk a pet or get exercise (70%), pick up food or beverages from a restaurant (52%), go to work (44%), or to shop for household goods or home improvement supplies (35%).
  • Given a choice from among 24 different activities, under current COVID-19 conditions but with the stay-at-home order lifted, majorities of residents would be willing to shop inside a grocery store (78%), pick up food from a restaurant (64%), pick up groceries with curb-side pickup (56%), and travel outside our area by car (56%).  Activities in which residents report they would be least likely (less than 5 percent) to engage under current conditions included traveling by train, attending a party with more than 10 people, or attending religious services or events at either indoor or outdoor arenas when normal seating arrangements are in place.
  • Respondents were also asked about willingness to do the same things under somewhat more favorable future conditions: fewer deaths, fewer cases, widespread availability of testing, and some effective treatments for COVID-19, but still with no vaccine available. Under these more favorable conditions, willingness does increase but still at a limited rate, indicating that much economic activity will be hampered by people’s caution about COVID-19. For example, less than 20 percent of respondents were willing to: travel outside our area by air or train, attend an event at an outdoor arena or pavilion with normal seating, eat inside a restaurant with normal seating, attend religious services with normal seating, and attend an event at an indoor arena or auditorium with normal seating.

Economic Impacts

  • Nearly three out of four respondents that are working reported they had the type of job where they could work from home, with over 90 percent indicating that they were doing just that.  Of those who are employed, 22% are working fewer hours and another 5% are unable to work any hours as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Central Virginians indicated that they had less than a 20 percent chance of losing their job in the next three months.  The results were consistent by locality and respondent age groups.
  • 60% of small business owners report that the coronavirus pandemic has had a negative effect on their business. One third applied for an SBA Disaster Loan as of the time of the survey.
  • Most Central Virginians (70%) reported having received a stimulus check but varied in how much support the check will actually provide their household. For in two-fifths of these respondents, the stimulus money won’t sustain their financial well-being for even a month. For one-fifth of these respondents, the stimulus will help them sustain financial well-being for one to three months. Respondents also varied in how they planned to allocate the stimulus funds. The most favored uses of the stimulus included putting it towards savings (36%) and paying monthly bills (35%). The highest priority differed by age group, with the oldest (38%) and youngest (48%) age groups saving the funds, while those in the 35 to 64 years age group highest use was paying monthly bills (46%).

Mental Health

  • Most Central Virginians have maintained their mental and emotional well being during the coronavirus pandemic.  A majority (63%) reported only slight impacts, with nearly equal proportions reporting serious impacts (17%) and no effect (18%).
  • The most common activities that people reported doing in the last two weeks to cope with social isolation included: communicating with friends and relatives (73%), exercise (65%), keeping a regular routine (53%), and limiting exposure to media (51%).
  • In terms of adverse impacts, the most often reported side effects from the coronavirus pandemic were having trouble sleeping (50%) followed by an inability to concentrate (38%).
  • Many central Virginians have gone out of their way to help others during the pandemic.  Nearly everyone (95%) reported trying to contact friends and neighbors to see how they were doing, others donated food, time, or money to help local charities (39%) or get groceries for those who need help (28%).
For more information see the detailed report:

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