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MSSN hospital in Oceanside's latest 'Truth in Medicine' poll shows residents are wary of returning to normal life

Respondents are eager for students to return to school this fall, however

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Two-thirds of Long Islanders and New York City residents would not attend a sporting event, watch a movie or ride mass transit because of Covid-19 fears as Long Island reopens, the latest Mount Sinai South Nassau hospital public health poll shows. Eighty-six percent of respondents said they would not shake someone's hand, while most were still eager to have children return to school.

Seventy-one percent of respondents with children under the age of 18 said they will send their children back to school in the fall, although 52 percent will do so only with appropriate social distancing and sanitizing practices in place. Sixteen percent said they will not send their children back to school in the fall. A majority of parents believe remote learning has gone "very well" or "well."

The Mount Sinai South Nassau Truth in Medicine Poll, sponsored by Bethpage Federal Credit Union, is a quarterly survey of Long Island and New York City residents that aims to gather data about attitudes on key public health topics and help spur education to improve public health. The poll was conducted May 11-14 via  landlines and cell phones with 600 residents in New York City and on Long Island. Poll findings are subject to a sampling error of plus or minus 3.9 percent.

Despite 100,000 recorded deaths due to coronavirus nationwide, notably, 55 percent of area residents said they are either unsure (30 percent) or would not (25 percent) roll up their sleeves for a vaccine, if one were available.

In a previous Truth in Medicine Poll, conducted in early February before the height of the outbreak, 55 percent of respondents said they would get vaccinated compared to just 45 percent now. Respondents 65 and older remained committed to getting a vaccine, with 53 percent saying they would get vaccinated in both polls. This poll showed that interest in a vaccine also increased depending on whether or not the respondent was diagnosed with the virus or knew someone personally who was.

"It's disturbing that there is reluctance about a potential vaccine,” Department of Medicine Chairman  Dr. Aaron Glatt said. “However, we're hopeful that as one is developed, tested, and proven effective, people's attitudes will change, Although a vaccine is still some months away, early research shows promise that a vaccine could prevent a resurgence of Covid-19. Science is on our side. Right now, there is still too much unknown about a potential vaccine, and I assume that uncertainty is what we are seeing reflected in the poll results."

One-third of area residents polled have been diagnosed with Covid-19 or know someone who was. Nearly all respondents said they will continue to wear a mask to protect themselves until circumstances change. Only 3 percent of respondents reported that they do not wear a mask.

"Very few aspects of day-to-day life have remained unchanged during the Covid-19 era," said Dr. Adhi Sharma, the hospital’s executive vice president for clinical and professional affairs and chief medical officer. "It is a positive sign that the vast majority of people remain reluctant to resume normal life post-Covid-19. The public health education that has been going on during the last two months has made a lasting impact, which is good. The virus is still out there and active. We must remain vigilant in our social distancing effort. There is good reason why we should not be returning to life as normal just yet."

This is Mount Sinai South Nassau's second Truth in Medicine poll, sponsored by Bethpage, on the region's response to coronavirus. The first poll, conducted February 5-9, found that 62 percent of respondents were very concerned about the coronavirus outbreak. However, at the time, residents saw the flu as a more serious threat than coronavirus.

A majority of respondents in the poll said they felt comfortable receiving medical care, going to an emergency room and returning to work, only if safety precautions were followed. Fifty-two percent said they would go to a beach or park with social distancing and sanitizing practices in place.

Nearly one in 10 respondents has either personally delayed seeking treatment or has a family member who did so for chest pain, trouble breathing, weakness in the limbs or slurred speech due to fear of catching the virus. Thirteen percent of those who had been infected with the virus or had a family member who was have delayed care. As the rates of Covid-19-related hospitalizations and deaths decline, some 25 percent of poll respondents said they would still not visit an emergency room. Sixty-three percent said they would seek emergency care only if social distancing guidelines and sanitizing measures were enforced.

"People should not delay seeking care, including going to an emergency room if necessary," . Sharma said.. "Visits to emergency rooms remain low compared to pre-Covid-19, which is an indication that people are delaying seeking treatment due to coronavirus fears. We have taken all necessary precautions, including deep cleaning and segregation of Covid-19 versus non-Covid-19 patients in our ER, so people should not put their health on hold. It's more dangerous to sit home when you are experiencing serious symptoms."

In every case of the poll, men are more willing than women to resume public activities, both with and without restrictions. Respondents under age 50, especially parents of children under age 18, are more likely to return to the workplace, go to the beach or a park, attend a religious service, eat in a restaurant/go to a bar, attend a sporting event and go to a movie than older respondents and those without children.

Courtesy MSSN; compiled by Mike Smollins