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Survey finds Tampa Bay residents cautiously optimistic on coronavirus future

More people are optimistic, but there’s still broad support for restrictions.

A scientific poll release Friday shows Tampa Bay area residents are growing more optimistic about a post-coronavirus future, but remain cautious about reopening the local economy.

The Tampa Bay Partnership poll, in collaboration with the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay, United Way Suncoast and the University of South Florida Muma College of Business, found that 47% of residents now believe the region is more than halfway through the COVID-19 crisis, up from just 19% two weeks ago.

The number of residents who believe the crisis will remain the same or get better in 30-days increased from 45% two weeks ago to 72%.

 Despite rising optimism that normalcy is ahead, residents still widely support social distancing mitigation policies. Of those polled, 90% support continued mitigation or business while 77% support mandatory facial coverings in public and 63% support a nightly curfew.

The Hillsborough County Emergency Policy Group last week approved a countywide curfew, but rescinded it just days later after intense pushback from the community. The group, at the same time, declined to issue a mandatory facial covering order, citing potential burdens on small businesses already facing mounting challenges. Instead, the county strongly encouraged residents and workers to wear protective face coverings.

Respondents showed a readiness to get back to work, with the average respondent saying they’d be ready to return in 19 days.

Sporting events and travel yielded more hesitance. Respondents indicated, on average, it would be 107 days before they were ready to attend a major sporting event, 108 days before they’d be comfortable staying in a hotel, 124 days before they would fly and 332 days before they would take a cruise.

Residents have also reported a more optimistic financial outlook with half of respondents now saying they can financially support their household for more than 35 days, up from 19 days two weeks ago. Another 44% now believe they can find a job with similar pay to their pre-coronavirus jobs after the crisis has passed, up from 31%.

“We’ve still got a long way to go, but the survey shows us that many of our residents are feeling better about their economic prospects, which could be a sign that the recent stimulus measures are having their desired effect,” said Rick Homans, president and CEO of the Tampa Bay Partnership. “We just need to be mindful that this crisis is disproportionately impacting some members of our community, and ensure that our recovery efforts don’t leave anyone behind.”

Homans has a point.

Optimism lags among African American residents who reported more concern about contracting the illness. Only 68% of all residents reported that fear while African American residents polled at 83%.

One in three African Americans reported job losses due to the virus, compared to one in four overall.

Tampa Mayor Jane Castor, who has led on much of the county’s mitigation strategies, is enjoying a higher approval rating on her response to the virus than other local or state officials with 50% of respondents indicating they thought she was doing an “excellent” or “very good” job.

However, residents are still more likely to get their information from health experts (50%) than from government officials (31%.)

The poll was conducted by Downs & St. Germain Research of Tallahassee among a demographically representative group of 384 adult residents in Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco and Hernando counties April 15-16.

The survey has a 5% margin of error. It will be conducted every two weeks to track COVID-19 sentiments. The first survey was conducted April 1-2.

Janelle Irwin Taylor has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. Most recently, Janelle reported for the Tampa Bay Business Journal. She formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for Patch.com and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a die-hard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics, including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and contentious issues surrounding transit. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also a devoted wife and mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder.

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