Mar 19, 2020 - Health

Americans are losing their sense of invincibility toward coronavirus

Data: Harris Poll of 4,069 adults; Chart: Danielle Alberti/Axios

Over the past week, American attitudes toward the coronavirus have become dramatically more serious, as the U.S. has seen an uptick in positive cases and precautionary measures, according to a new survey provided exclusively to Axios by The Harris Poll.

Why it matters: The data shows that the public has developed a heightened sense awareness around the virus, and is losing its feeling of invulnerability.

  • More people are worried about hospitals running out of ventilators, fewer people are willing to shake hands with others, and roughly a quarter of the population fears dying from the virus. 
  • More people say they have canceled or postponed upcoming travel plans due to the coronavirus.

By the numbers: More Americans are taking precautionary measures.

  • More than 80% of Americans say they've increased washing their hands since the virus outbreak and more than 70% say they now use hand sanitizer.
  • A majority of Americans say they're stocking up on bottled water, canned goods, frozen food and toilet paper.

Between the lines: The survey also finds that more Americans are quickly changing their purchasing habits, which could have implications for the economy.

  • More than one-quarter of respondents (27%) say that the virus has had "major impacts" on their shopping habits.
  • More than half (53%) of respondents said Wednesday they that were no longer willing to go shopping, up from 43% just a few days ago.

Be smart: America's wake-up call comes as the administration and local governments have shown more signs that they are taking the spread of the virus seriously.

  • In recent days, more than half of the states in the U.S. have closed schools, cities have announced shelter-in-place orders and the White House has advised that no more than 10 people gather at a time.
  • That level of increased attention from the top seems to be resonating with Americans, as more say they regularly get information from the White House and state governors than they did when the survey was first deployed a week ago.

The bottom line: Americans are finally beginning to take the coronavirus seriously.

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