COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – As the United States’ coronavirus outbreak rages on, six months after the World Health Organization declared the virus a worldwide pandemic, an increasing number of Americans see COVID-19 as more of an economic crisis than a health crisis.
NBC/SurveyMonkey’s latest weekly tracking poll, released Tuesday, finds that 47 percent of U.S. adults see the pandemic as more of an economic crisis, while 52 percent see it more as a health crisis. When the weekly poll began June 29-July 5, the economic/health split was 43 percent to 56 percent.
A record number of poll respondents also said businesses in their area are reopening too slowly (42%). The percentage saying businesses are reopening too quickly has, in turn, fallen to a low of 54 percent.
On July 5, the “too slowly”/“too quickly” split was 33% to 63%.
This week’s poll, conducted Aug. 31 to Sept. 6, surveyed 35,847 adults and is nationally representative of age, race, sex, education and geography. Its margin of error is +/- 1 percentage point.
The U.S. unemployment rate skyrocketed from 3.5 percent in February to 14.7 percent in April, the highest since the Great Depression. As of August, it has lowered to 8.4 percent, but that is still more than double its pre-pandemic figure.
The same situation is playing out in Ohio as the entire state continues to recover from unprecedented economic harm. Ohio’s unemployment rate of 8.9 percent in July – the latest month available from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics – is more than double what it was in February (4.1%). Unemployment peaked in April at 17.6 percent.
Some areas of Ohio have begun to recover more quickly than others. Economically diverse metros like Columbus (8.2%) have seen their unemployment rates dip below 10 percent, while economically distressed areas like Youngstown (11.8% unemployment) are struggling more.
Eighty-nine percent of the U.S. adults surveyed in NBC/SurveyMonkey’s poll say they worry that the pandemic will have a negative economic effect on the U.S., and 71 percent worry it will negative affect their household’s finances.
Last week, more than 18,000 new Ohioans applied for unemployment insurance benefits, which is much lower than the 250,000+ peak earlier this year. However, 340,000 Ohioans continued their unemployment claims last week.
Over the last six months, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services says it has distributed more than $6.2 billion in unemployment benefits to nearly 800,000 people. ODJFS has also given another 5.4 billion, through the federal CARES Act, to more than 550,000 Pandemic Unemployment Assistance claimants.
The human toll of the pandemic has also been obviously horrific. More than 6.3 million Americans have gotten sick from the coronavirus, and nearly 190,000 have died, according to the latest totals from Johns Hopkins University on Tuesday afternoon.
Also as of Tuesday, nearly 132,000 people in Ohio have been infected and nearly 4,300 have died.