American anxiety over coronavirus spikes along with record high cases: Poll

NEW YORK — Anxiety over the coronavirus is rising among Americans along with new COVID-19 cases, reaching the highest level in more than a month, a Reuters/Ipsos poll showed on Wednesday, a day after the biggest single-day jump in U.S. infections since the pandemic began.

With the U.S. death toll at more than 127,000 – about a quarter of the entire global tally – the June 29-30 poll found that 81% of American adults said they are “very” or “somewhat” concerned about the pandemic, the most since a similar poll conducted May 11-12.

The epicentre of the country’s COVID-19 epidemic has moved from the northeast to the west and south, especially California, Texas, Florida and Arizona.

Arizona’s cases rose by 4,877 and deaths by 88 on Wednesday, both single-day records for the state.

“Containing the spread will not be easy, but it can be done and we can protect our family and loved ones if we all do our part. Mask up. Be responsible. And remember: you are safer at home,” Governor Doug Ducey said in a tweet.

The Republican governor, who has taken heat from health experts for a “cavalier” approach to the health crisis, this week joined other states including Florida and Texas in reversing reopenings of bars, gyms and water parks.

Public health officials believe the decision to reopen bars in many states was one of the main contributors to the sharp increases.

Bill de Blasio, the mayor of hard-hit New York City, said on Wednesday he was not going ahead with a plan to allow indoor restaurant dining from Monday, citing the alarming situation elsewhere.

“We see a lot of problems and we particularly see problems revolving around people going back to bars and restaurants indoors, and indoors is the problem more and more,” he told a daily briefing.

The United States recorded its biggest one-day increase of nearly 48,000 new infections on Tuesday, more than 8,000 each in California and Texas, a Reuters tally showed.

Concerns about the pandemic appear to be rising the most among members of President Donald Trump’s Republican Party, according to the Reuters/Ipsos poll.

Republicans have generally been less enthusiastic about imposing and maintaining restrictions to stop the spread of the virus such as sheltering at home or wearing face masks, turning the public safety measures into a partisan issue.

In April, Trump appeared to encourage protesters frustrated by stay-at-home orders by calling on them to “LIBERATE” Democratic-led states.

Trump, who has avoided being seen in public wearing a face covering, told Fox Business Network on Wednesday he would wear a mask if he were in close quarters with other people, but he did not think mask-wearing needed to be made mandatory nationwide.

In the latest poll, about seven in 10 Republicans said they were personally concerned about the virus’ spread, up from six in 10 Republicans in polls conducted over the past few weeks. About nine in 10 Democrats said they are similarly worried, a level of concern that has not changed.

Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee who will face Trump in the Nov. 3 presidential election, has attacked Trump’s handling of the crisis and on Tuesday released an updated plan to tackle the pandemic.

Trump officials have blamed the surge in cases on increased testing, but there has also been a rise in the percentage of people testing positive and in hospitalizations – metrics not tied to more tests.

In addition, three states with at least 500 total deaths – Arizona, Louisiana and Texas – have seen their fatality rate rise for two weeks or more. Deaths in Arizona rose 63% in the week ended June 28.

With limited guidance from the White House, the pandemic fight has largely been left to local officials, and the pressure to re-open their economies has been enormous. Millions have lost their jobs due to business closings, and the economy, after contracting sharply in the first quarter, is expected to crater in the second.

But when asked in the latest poll about the “most important factor” determining their vote in November, 27% of respondents said it was the candidate’s plan to help the nation recover from the coronavirus, compared with 21% who said it was the candidate’s plan to create jobs and boost the economy.

Just weeks ago, it was the other way around. In a June 8-9 poll, 26% said they wanted a candidate who was strong on the economy and 21% said they were looking for someone who could handle the coronavirus.

The World Health Organization said on Wednesday that nations that fail to take a coordinated approach to combating the coronavirus will struggle to beat it.

“These countries face a long, hard road ahead,” WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a virtual briefing.