Several key policies to stop the spread of COVID-19 were generally a good idea in hindsight according to majority of Americans

In a recent report posted on the Harvard University website, the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and the de Beaumont Foundation present findings from a national poll they conducted to obtain public views on coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic-related policies.

Study: U.S. Views on Pandemic Policies: Lessons for Emerging Outbreaks. Image Credit: Hananeko_Studio/Shutterstock.com
Study: U.S. Views on Pandemic Policies: Lessons for Emerging Outbreaks. Image Credit: Hananeko_Studio/Shutterstock.com

About the study

In the present study, researchers highlight the views and opinions of US adults regarding emergent epidemics based on a poll conducted between March 21 and April 2, 2024.

The researchers surveyed 1,017 individuals in English and Spanish via phone and online. Panelists were selected randomly using an address sampling (ABS) frame and random-digit (RDD) samples from SSRS surveys. Most panelists took the survey online, with a minor subgroup who did not have internet access doing it over the phone.

The researchers evaluated the efficacy of four COVID-19 pandemic-era policies: mask use, health staff immunization, eating closures, and school closings. They invited participants to consider their thoughts on these policies and identify the primary causes of their negative impact.

They investigated participant attitudes toward the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the state public health agency, and the local public health department. They asked the participants if the steps adopted by these agencies were reasonable, excessive, or insufficient. The survey also asked participants about the seriousness of COVID-19 for public health in the United States and their views on COVID-19 policies.

The researchers weighted sample data based on selection and recruitment likelihood, response rates, and demographic characteristics to address non-sampling errors that could arise from non-response bias, question phrasing, and ordering effects. They used procedures like random sampling, contact attempts, replication subsamples, and systematic respondent selection within homes for sample representativeness.

Results

In retrospect, most Americans view four pandemic-related policies positively, with varying percentages believing each was a favorable idea: mask-wearing requirements in businesses and stores (70%), healthcare personnel vaccinations (65%), closing down of indoor dining restaurants (63%), and schools (56%).

Most Americans (79%) believe one or more of the COVID-19-related measures are favorable for public health, with 42% reporting all four were excellent ideas and 37% believing only a few were. About 20% of US adults believe all four programs were terrible ideas in retrospect.

Most subgroups, including rural residents and Republicans, believe one or more of the four COVID-19 policies were favorable for population health in retrospect. Democrats (71%) showed a higher likelihood than Republicans (18%) and Independents (44%) to believe all policies were favorable, as are Blacks (62%) and Hispanics or Latinos (55%) compared to white individuals (32%), and urban residents (55%) compared to those from suburban (39%) and rural (29%) backgrounds.

A few Americans believe that COVID-19 policies are not a good idea due to concerns regarding their long duration (84% to 87% across COVID-19 policies), political motivations (60% to 81%), economic effects (68% to 91%), and apparent lacking of personal choices (75% to 94%). The participants deemed school closures an unfavorable idea since they would negatively impact children's psychological health (91%) and learning (97%).

Americans have varying views on the severity of COVID-19's early-on threat. Only 3.0% of Americans believe it is not a primary health concern, while many believe it is a primary threat to all, including elders (14%) and those with existing medical issues (94%). Approximately 37% considered COVID-19 a primary health concern for everyone at the outset. Those who believe COVID-19 threats were prevalent early on showed an increased likelihood of supporting essential pandemic legislation.

Implications

The findings indicate significant population support for COVID-19 measures and cautionary stories about the difficulties of formulating and explaining the policies. Public healthcare officials could benefit from establishing right-sized strategies that target individuals at high risk over a specific timeframe.

Even if population health groups do not select which policies to enact, it would be beneficial to discuss the epidemiological reasoning behind them and note their societal and economic implications.

Disentangling population health guidelines from local and national politics would continue to be a primary challenge; however, efforts to comprehend public viewpoints and connect with individuals receptive to all parties would be critical to assuring that all US residents benefit from public health protections in emerging pandemics.

Journal references:
  • Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health/de Beaumont Foundation poll, US Views on Pandemic Policies: Lessons for Emerging Outbreaks, June 2024, published online at https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/

     

Pooja Toshniwal Paharia

Written by

Pooja Toshniwal Paharia

Pooja Toshniwal Paharia is an oral and maxillofacial physician and radiologist based in Pune, India. Her academic background is in Oral Medicine and Radiology. She has extensive experience in research and evidence-based clinical-radiological diagnosis and management of oral lesions and conditions and associated maxillofacial disorders.

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Comments

  1. Bob Forapples Bob Forapples United States says:

    Fauci confessed that COVID measures were fake and not scientific at all. Like six foot distancing. This was made very public after this study was done. The study was only done on about 1000 individuals. It proves nothing!

The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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