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Most Americans think owners should be able to deny service to those who don’t social distance, and a majority say they’re taking precautions in public spaces, survey shows

Social-distancing-Two Women Sitting Six Feet Apart With a Social Distancing Sign 4992164_1920A majority of Americans, 75 percent, support states enacting legislation giving business owners the right to deny service to customers who don’t social distance, including 53 percent who strongly support the measures, according to a survey from Consumer Reports, a consumer testing and advocacy organization. About one in six oppose these measures, and another 9 percent are unsure. 

The Consumer Reports survey was done between June 4 to 16, just before the surge in cases now occurring across America. It included questions on the pandemic’s impact on consumers’ attitudes, behaviors, and finances. The respondents said they were very concerned about the potential threat posed by covid-19 to their communities, and many reported taking some action to deal with the pandemic.

“Just prior to the current surge in cases across many parts of the country, most Americans were still very concerned about the continued spread of COVID in their local communities,” said Kristen Purcell, chief research officer for Consumer Reports. “And while a majority also told us they were following recommended safety measures most of the time, the survey data show sizable segments of the population were not adhering to CDC guidelines at that time. It’s not surprising then that many Americans would support measures to encourage greater compliance.”

Asked if all businesses should be legally required to practice recommended safety and social distancing measures to keep workers and customers safe or if business owners should be able to decide for themselves which if any measures to follow, six in 10 Americans say practicing social distancing should be a legal requirement for businesses.

At the time of the survey in early June, most Americans, 58 percent, say that from what they have seen, businesses in their local area are doing “about the right amount” when it comes to practicing and enforcing social distancing and safety measures. About a quarter say they are doing too little and 12 percent say they are doing too much.

Most Americans, 59 percent, also say they are more likely to support local businesses that follow social distancing and safety guidelines; for 26 percent this would make no difference and for 6 percent it would make them less likely to support the business. Another 7 percent are unsure what effect it would have on their support for that business.

Currently, without consistent guidelines and enforcement mechanisms, Americans are divided on who is mainly responsible for ensuring people follow social distancing guidelines in local businesses and restaurants, with 37 percent saying businesses are responsible for adherence and 36 percent saying it’s mainly up to customers. Another 8 percent say local government or law enforcement should be mainly responsible, while the same portion, 8 percent, say they don’t believe social distancing is necessary.

A majority of Americans, 76 percent, are concerned about the continued spread of the virus in their local area, including 41 percent who are “very concerned.”

The portion of Americans “very concerned” is unchanged since May. June continues to show levels of concern varying significantly across different racial and ethnic groups, with black, 58 percent, and Hispanic, 47 percent, more likely than white adults, 37 percent, to say they’re “very concerned” covid-19 will continue to spread in their community.

The June survey also showed a much larger percentage of people 60 and older who reported that they’re “very concerned” with covid-19 continuing to spread in their areas. Looking at different age groups, 37 percent of those ages 18 to 29 were “very concerned,” 35 percent of those ages 30 to 44, 38 percent of those ages 45 to 59, and 53 percent for those 60 and up. 

More black and Hispanic Americans are taking precautions than whites

A majority, but not all, people surveyed are taking safety precautions in public spaces.

Asked how often they’re following CDC-recommended safety guidelines when out in public, about three-quarters of adults who are visiting indoor public spaces say they’re wearing a mask “most of the time,” 21 percent, or “always,” 54 percent, while one in 10 report doing this “hardly ever or never.”

A higher percentage, 85 percent, say they’re maintaining a six-foot distance from others when out in public, though only 41 percent say they “always” do this while 44 percent say they do this “most of the time.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found that black and Hispanic Americans are up to five times more likely to be hospitalized with covid-19 than white Americans. So, it’s important that black and Hispanic Americans are more likely than white Americans to report always using masks, and black Americans are most likely to report always socially distancing from others in public, according to the survey.

Black and Hispanic adults report higher rates of mask usage, with 59 percent of blacks and 65 percent of Hispanics saying they “always wear a mask in public spaces,” compared with 47 percent of whites. Black adults, 55 percent, are also more likely than white adults, 35 percent, to report “always” following social distancing guidelines. Among Hispanics, 43 percent report “always” practicing social distancing.

Consumer Report’s June survey also showed that larger percentages of black and Hispanics than whites are preparing for future outbreaks by making changes in their lifestyles today.

Sixty-one percent of blacks, 48 percent of Hispanics, and 39 percent of whites said they’re preparing by saving money or cutting expenses in case of future lost wages or income. Also, 51 percent of blacks, 42 percent of Hispanics, and 34 percent of whites said they had stocked up on non-perishable food. Twenty-seven percent of Hispanics, 26 percent of blacks, and 16 percent of whites said they had expanded their food storage capacity at home or added a freezer.


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