Survey: More Confidence in Tampa Bay region about COVID-19

TAMPA -- Tampa Bay residents may be showing signs of optimism compared to two weeks ago about the COVID-19 pandemic. But they're not ready to jump on a cruise anytime soon.

The Tampa Bay Partnership has released results of a survey of 384 area residents taken in mid-April. Compared with a similar poll two weeks earlier, it finds more optimism that we're getting closer to the end of the pandemic, as well as much greater optimism among people who have been furloughed or laid off, that they'll be able to support their household and find a different job if necessary.

The survey, conducted by Downs & St. Germain Research, finds 61 percent of Tampa Bay area residents believe the COVID-19 situation will improve by 60 days out (mid-June), with only 28 percent believing it will be worse.

Tampa Mayor Jane Castor gets the highest marks among politicians for her response to COVID-19, half ranking her response as "excellent" or "very good." That's higher than St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, local County Commissions, Governor DeSantis, the Legislature, the U.S. Congress, and President Trump. As far as the people they'll listen to in deciding whether it's safe to go out, the most popular answer is "public health officials," with about 50 percent picking that answer.

The survey finds strong support for most viral mitigation measures. For example, 90% support or strongly support enforcing social distancing in businesses. The public is split on reopening beaches and parks, with 49% support. Exempting houses of worship from stay-at-home orders is less popular, with only 32% support.

African-Americans are more likely to be concerned about COVID-19 than other population groups, according to the Partnership survey... 76 percent say they're "Very concerned" and 34% say they have been laid off... compared to about one in four overall.

60 percent of residents in the survey say they'll be ready to go back to work either immediately or within 30 days. Smaller percentages say they'll be ready for other activities, such as travel. Asked to create a timeline of when they'd be ready to take part in certain activities again, median answers ranged from 19 days to go back to work and 35 days to go to a public park, all the way up to 124 days for taking an airline flight and 332 days for going on a cruise.

Partnership CEO Rick Homans says that business owners need to show customers that they're serious about cleaning and safety issues, perhaps including letting customers see people involved in disinfecting the premises.

"In (the) pre-vaccine stage, it appears that for people to begin to resume 'normal' activities, they're going to have to feel... safe doing it, and businesses are going to have to demonstrate that," Homans told reporters in a virtual briefing.

Panelists said the attitudes about airline flights and cruising, if projected to people who live outside the Tampa Bay area, could indicate that Tampa Bay's tourist industry has challenges to recovery ahead.

Photo: Getty Images