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Many more Americans concerned about covid-19 now than in March, survey shows

Consumer Reports Survey Covid-19 Concerns JumpThe percentage of adults who are “extremely concerned” or “very concerned” about the widespread transmission of novel coronavirus in the United States increased from 44 percent in March to 76 percent in April, an increase of 32 percent, according to a survey from Consumer Reports, a testing and advocacy organization. 

The survey, conducted from April 2 to 14, included questions on the pandemic’s impact on consumers’ attitudes, behavior, and finances.

It found that Hispanic and black adults are much more likely than white adults, 59 percent and 51 percent versus 37 percent respectively, to say they are “extremely concerned” about widespread transmission of the virus. Hispanic and black communities have been especially hard hit by the pandemic, experiencing higher numbers of cases and deaths in some parts of the U.S.

“This is an unprecedented moment in time and the amount of upheaval we have seen across every facet of our lives is overwhelming,” said Marta L. Tellado, president and CEO of Consumer Reports. “Many people are making tough decisions about what bills they must pay, and many others are disadvantaged because they don’t have access to fast, reliable internet to help them stay connected. This pandemic underscores our frailty, both financially and socially.”  

Three in 10 adults have lost wages or income

The covid-19 outbreak has impacted financially at least three in 10 adults nationwide, the survey shows.

By mid-April, 29 percent of U.S. adults have lost wages or income due to the outbreak, 18 percent have already had to cut expenses to pay for housing and other essentials, and 8 percent are behind on the mortgage or rent. Hispanic and black adults have been hit harder economically than white adults, with Hispanic adults hit particularly hard. Adults under age 45 are also more likely to have experienced negative economic impacts when compared with those age 45 and older.

For some Americans, the covid-19 outbreak has meant the loss of a job. But others who are practicing social distancing and working from home have seen their “net” income increase as they avoid commuting costs, eat out less, use fewer services, and have to pay for fewer activities.

When asked about the net financial impact on their household, 26 percent say they are losing more money than they are saving during the outbreak, 27 percent are saving more money than they are losing, and 47 percent say it’s about the same.

Those with a household income under $30,000 and Hispanic adults are most likely to report losing more money than they are saving during the outbreak. However, Americans with higher incomes and higher education levels are most likely to report saving money.

Confidence in the U.S. government’s preparedness for the outbreak dropped slightly from 43 percent who were at least moderately confident in March to 36 percent who expressed that level of confidence in April.

Uncertain consumers hold off on most big expenses

Americans are unsure what the future holds and have hit “pause” on many planned expenses.

Consumer Reports asked Americans if they agree or disagree with the following statement: “I am optimistic that my life will return to normal in a month or two.”

About one in three agreed, 39 percent disagreed, and the remaining 27 percent neither agreed nor disagreed. Given this uncertainty and the unavailability of many services due to public health restrictions, it’s not surprising that large majorities of Americans who were considering major purchases or expenses prior to covid-19, such as a new vehicle or home remodel, now say their plans are on hold or canceled.

However, the survey shows that the outbreak is spurring some new purchases.

About one in four adults purchased games, books, or toys in recent weeks. Fifteen percent bought streaming video subscription services, and 10 percent signed up for delivery services that bring groceries or meal kits to the door.

The survey also showed from 5 to 8 percent of U.S. adults purchasing the following in recent weeks: exercise or home gym equipment; school supplies for kids who are now learning at home; home office equipment such as a keyboard, monitor, or webcam; new or upgraded home cable or internet services; and outdoor recreational equipment such as a bike or scooter.

Wrestling with product shortages

Millions of Americans are experiencing product shortages – including toilet paper, cleaning wipes, disinfectant spray, and hand sanitizer.

Ten percent or fewer of adults said they could “always find” those essential items. Thirty-five percent of people said they can’t find toilet paper, 61 percent said they can’t find cleaning wipes or disinfectant spray, and 74 percent said they can’t find hand sanitizer.

However, large majorities said they could always find fresh fruits and vegetables along with cheese, yogurt, and other dairy products. But only about half of U.S. adults report they can always find over-the-counter medications such as Tylenol, meat, non-perishable foods, eggs, and bread when they’ve tried.

Support for local businesses is strong

Nine out of 10 U.S. adults are taking action to support local businesses that have remained open in their area. Sixty-four percent have continued to shop in person at businesses that are open, 61 percent have ordered takeout or delivery from local restaurants, and 37 percent have shopped from a local store using curbside pickup or delivery options.

The covid-19 outbreak is also impacting Americans’ health and wellness. Thirty-eight percent have experienced anxiety or depression in recent weeks because of the pandemic. Reports of depression and anxiety are particularly high among women, 45 percent; the lowest-income Americans, 47 percent; and adults under age 30, 47 percent.

Eleven percent of U.S. adults who were considering an elective medical procedure before the coronavirus pandemic haven’t gotten it, and 3 percent of adults who’ve experienced a major non-covid medical issue since the outbreak began either didn’t seek treatment or couldn’t get it.

Copyright 2020, Rita R. Robison, Consumer and Personal Finance Journalist

Comments

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Carol Cassara

These are sobering data. We are certainly in a unique chapter of our Boomer lives and it's limiting us .. some of the thing we hoped to do are now just dreams.

Rita

Hi Carol,

Yes, these are troubling times. It's hard to determine how long it will last and what the effects will be both short- and long-term.

Rita

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