By Meera Jagannathan, MarketWatch
David McNew/Getty Images
Americans say they’re worried about the coronavirus, but most think the U.S. government is doing a good job responding to the outbreak.
Some 66% of Americans say that the virus is “a real threat,” while only 27% think it has been “blown out of proportion” and another 7% are unsure, according to a poll of 808 U.S. adults conducted between Jan. 31 and Feb. 1.
About 41% of poll respondents in the NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll said they were “concerned” about the spread of coronavirus in the U.S., and 15% reported feeling “very concerned”; respondents aged 45 or older were nearly twice as likely as their under-45 counterparts to express any level of concern. Looking closer to home, just 30% of respondents said they were “concerned” about the spread of coronavirus to their community, while 14% said they were “very concerned.”
U.S. health officials have confirmed 11 cases of coronavirus in the U.S., including two cases of person-to-person spread. This strain of coronavirus, which can cause symptoms including cough, fever and shortness of breath, had killed at least 425 people and infected 20,438 in China as of Tuesday, Chinese officials said. Confirmed cases outside of China totaled 159 as of Tuesday, according to the World Health Organization .
A majority of Americans are satisfied with the U.S. government’s response, the recent poll suggests: 61% say they think government officials are “doing enough” to prevent the virus’s spread in the U.S., while just 26% say they’re not doing enough, and 14% are unsure.
Despite an increasing number of airlines axing China-bound flights and the U.S. government urging against traveling there, just 1% of Americans say they or someone in their household has changed travel plans due to the new coronavirus, the poll showed.
Multiple U.S. airlines, including Delta Air Lines /zigman2/quotes/200327741/composite DAL +2.60% , American Airlines /zigman2/quotes/209207041/composite AAL +2.40% and United Airlines /zigman2/quotes/205037281/composite UAL +3.13% , announced temporary flight suspensions in response to the deadly outbreak of coronavirus, which was first detected in Wuhan, China.
The U.S. State Department and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have both advised Americans not to travel to China, and the Department of Homeland Security said Sunday that flights from China and passengers who had traveled to China in the past two weeks would be routed through 11 U.S. airports with enhanced screening procedures.
The CDC, which remains unsure of how exactly this new coronavirus spreads, says that “the risk to individuals is dependent on exposure.”
“At this time, some people will have an increased risk of infection, for example healthcare workers caring for 2019-nCoV patients and other close contacts of 2019-nCoV patients,” the agency says . “For the general American public, who are unlikely to be exposed to this virus, the immediate health risk from 2019-nCoV is considered low at this time.”
The Trump administration late last week declared a public-health emergency over the coronavirus and announced that foreign nationals who had been in China within the previous two weeks would be denied entry to the U.S. Returning U.S. citizens who had traveled in the past 14 days to China’s Hubei province, which includes Wuhan, would also be subject to a quarantine, the federal government said.
The Chinese government, for its part, has expressed frustration with the United States’ coronavirus response. Hua Chunying, a spokeswoman for China’s foreign ministry, said the U.S. had “unceasingly manufactured and spread panic” and pointed out that the World Health Organization had not recommended imposing travel or trade restrictions, Reuters reported.
Some public-health experts have also criticized bans on travel to China, Stat News reported, citing the economic toll they can take on countries grappling with a virus outbreak, as well as the diversion of limited resources away from other public-health efforts.
“It is precisely developed countries like the United States with strong epidemic prevention capabilities and facilities that have taken the lead in imposing excessive restrictions contrary to WHO recommendations,” Hua said.