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Tampa Bay residents growing more optimistic about the crisis but remain cautious

A new survey also shows that people have strong feelings about social distancing and going on cruises.
Clients line up for food at the Salvation Army's mobile food pantry in St. Petersburg last week.
Clients line up for food at the Salvation Army's mobile food pantry in St. Petersburg last week. [ SCOTT KEELER | Times ]
Published Apr. 24, 2020
Updated Apr. 24, 2020

You aren’t alone if you feel a little more confident about getting through the coronavirus crisis. A new survey from the Tampa Bay Partnership shows that area residents are less concerned than a couple of weeks ago, particularly about getting sick.

Even people laid off or furloughed are more confident than two weeks ago, when the same researchers conducted a similar survey. That said, people are still worried about their health, jobs and community.

About 51 percent of respondents remained very concerned about the crisis’ impact on themselves and their household, down from 58 percent two weeks earlier. Getting sick was the biggest concern, with 68 percent ranking it first, down from 76 percent in the earlier survey.

Related: Florida let its unemployment benefits system crumble. Now we all pay the price.

Two weeks ago, laid off and furloughed workers said they had about 19 days before they would run out of money. Now they say they can last 35 days. The $1,200 federal stimulus checks that went out in recent weeks likely helped people feel a little more financially secure, said Joseph St. Germain, president of Downs & St. Germain Research, which performed the study for the Tampa Bay Partnership.

People are also getting used to the fallout from the crisis, he said.

“At the start of April, a lot of people were getting laid off and there is a shock to the system,” he said. “Now you’ve at least had two weeks to understand your financial situation a little bit better.”

The most recent of the two surveys was performed on April 15 and 16 of a demographically representative group of 384 adults in Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco and Hernando counties, and has a margin of error of 5 percent. The Tampa Bay Partnership, a business-supported group that focuses on big issues like transportation and building a skilled workforce, plans to update the survey every two weeks during the crisis.

Some other questions from the survey:

How long will it take you to feel comfortable ...

Going to work — 19 days

Going to a public park — 35 days

Going to a public beach — 47 days

Going out to dinner — 52 days

Sending your children to school — 60 days

Going to the mall — 70 days

Going to the gym — 78 days

Using public transportation — 90 days

Going to professional sporting events — 107 days

Staying in a hotel — 108 days

Attending special events — 123 days

Flying on an airplane — 124 days

Taking a cruise — 332 days

Related: Empty cruise ships anchored off of Pinellas coast.

When will you feel safe returning to all normal activities?

When public health officials say the pandemic is over — 50 percent

When there is a vaccine — 48 percent

When stay-at-home and social distancing restrictions are lifted — 45 percent

Follow trends affecting the local economy

Follow trends affecting the local economy

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When the infection rate drops — 40 percent

When there are no more attributed deaths — 35 percent

When government officials say the pandemic is over — 31 percent

Never — 4 percent

Other — 2 percent

Don’t know — 4 percent

Do you support the following policies?

Enforcing social distancing in businesses — 90 percent

Requiring residents to wear face coverings in public — 77 percent

Implementing a mandatory nighttime curfew — 63 percent

Re-opening beaches and parks with social distancing — 49 percent

Re-opening schools before the end of the school year — 33 percent

Exempting places of worship from stay-at-home orders — 32 percent

The results show that businesses thinking about reopening will have to ensure they have a plan to keep customers safe, said Rick Homans, president and CEO of the Tampa Bay Partnership. Depending on the type of business, that could include constant cleaning, directions on how customers can keep 6 feet apart, Plexiglas shields at cash registers, and employees wearing gloves and masks.

“If I were a business looking at this data I would be rethinking my business model,” Homans said. “First and foremost I would think that safety will be on top of everybody’s mind, and that businesses need to visually show how they are taking steps to ensure the safety of their customers.”

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