The percentage of Tampa Bay residents who believe the pandemic is nearly over more than doubled in the past two weeks.
That’s according to survey results released by the Tampa Bay Partnership. The same poll showed stronger confidence in Tampa Mayor Jane Castor than in St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, although both municipal leaders boast stronger support than either President Donald Trump or Gov. Ron DeSantis.
The third batch of results from a weekly scientific poll show 24% of respondents believe the end of the COVID-19 crisis is near but that the “virus will have a lasting impact on the way we interact with businesses and each other.”
The poll shows the sentiment of residents as of April 30, around the time Gov. DeSantis announced Phase One of reopening Florida after a month-long stay-at-home order lifted.
About 1% now believe the pandemic is “over,” a number unchanged from two weeks ago and within a 5% margin of error for the poll.
But 33% believe the pandemic is near its peak, 31% say it’s not yet halfway over and 10% say it’s just beginning. Those numbers are all down from two weeks prior, but show almost three quarters of residents still bracing for a longer wind-down.
Castor was the only elected executive in the poll to be rated excellent or very good by a majority of respondents. About 52% give her high marks, a bump from 50% two weeks ago and from 48% prior to that. Mayor Kriseman, meanwhile, has seen support bounce around and sits at 41% now. That’s up from 34% two weeks ago but down from 41% at the start of April. Both mayors were rated poorly by only 9% of residents.
DeSantis has dropped from 39% giving him high grades at the start of April to just 33% who feel that way now. His approvals in Tampa Bay did jump 1% from the last Partnership poll. About 27% rate the Governor’s job performance as poor, but that’s down from 31% who said the same two weeks ago.
The Governor fares better that President Trump now, who two weeks ago earned good marks from 37% of respondents but now only has support from 32%. Trump remains underwater in Tampa Bay, with 46% rating his performance as poor.
Local county commissions in the region don’t fare well either, claiming the support of just 33% of residents, but only 7% rate their job as poor. The Florida Legislature and Congress perform considerably worse, with 25% and 23% respectively giving the bodied high marks 19% and 31% grading their work as poor.
Belief the pandemic will linger could be seen with consumer sentiment regarding the precautions expected as businesses reopen. The Partnership survey shows a vast majority will only feel comfortable returning to establishments that implement rigorous health and safety precautions. A full 79% percent expect intensified cleaning and disinfecting, 72% want customers provided with sanitizer or wipes, 71% favor limitations on capacity, and 65% want social distancing between employees and customers.
About 61% expect businesses to require employees to wear face masks, but only 41% want that requirement on customers. Likewise, 54% would like employees tested for COVID-19 at businesses, but only 31% favor temperature checks on customers before they can enter.
Among the less popular provisions, only 39% of respondents demand allowing cashless payments, only 35% want partitions set up between customers and employees and 35% expect business hours to be staggered for at-risk individuals.
Many residents changed their personal behaviors amid the pandemic, though a majority don’t report major shifts. About 32% of individuals who did not normally maintain social distancing are doing so now, and 26% more residents now will wear masks in public. Some 21% more will now use tele-medicine.
The number of people who greet others with a hug or a handshake dropped 20%.
There seems to be a jump in financial confidence within the region, likely a response to re-opening of more non-essential businesses. The Partnership found half of area residents say if their hours or wages were reduced because of COVID-19, they can support their families for more than 62 days. The survey two weeks prior showed individuals could only swing that for 34 days.
Overall, about 58% of Tampa Bay residents remain “very concerned” about COVID-19, a number that jumps to 68% among black residents. African-Americans remain more pessimistic overall about the consequences of the pandemic. That’s unsurprising considering other reports from the Partnership show minority-owned businesses in the area disproportionately affected by the crisis.