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Perceptions of the Adult US Population regarding the Novel Coronavirus Outbreak

By SarahAnn M. McFadden, Amyn A Malik, Obianuju G. Aguolu, Kathryn Willebrand, Saad B Omer

Posted 27 Feb 2020
medRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.02.26.20028308

BackgroundCOVID-19 outbreak is spreading globally. Although the risk of infection in the US is currently low, it is important to understand the public perception of risk and trust in sources of information to better inform public health messaging. In this study, we surveyed the adult US population to understand their risk perceptions about the COVID-19 outbreak. Methods and FindingsWe used an online platform to survey 718 adults in the US in early February 2020 using a questionnaire that we developed. Our sample was fairly similar to the general adult US population in terms of age, gender, race, ethnicity and education. We found that 69% of the respondents wanted the scientific/public health leadership (either the CDC Director or NIH Director) to lead the US response to COVID-19 outbreak as compared to 14% who wanted the political leadership (either the president or the Congress) to lead the response. Risk perception was low (median score of 5 out of 10) with the respondents trusting health professionals and health officials for information on COVID-19. Majority of the respondents were in favor of strict infection prevention policies to control the outbreak. ConclusionGiven our results, the public health/scientific leadership should be at the forefront of the COVID-19 response to promote trust.

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