Most Oregonians Wear Masks But Gatherings A Concern
Eight in 10 Oregonians are wearing masks regularly indoors, and most are taking other protective measures to slow the spread of Covid, but over half report recently socializing outside the home as well, according to a new poll from the Oregon Health Authority and DHM Research.
Researchers and health officials said the findings illustrate the challenges of trying to slow the spread of the virus as the state saw a record 484 people newly infected on Thursday, and 11 new deaths from the virus.
“This increase in cases has reversed the progress we made in late summer,” said Dr. Tom Jeanne, health advisor for OHA. He said community spread of the virus, often driven by social gatherings, makes outbreaks in workplaces and long-term care facilities more likely.
OHA conducted the survey to get a better idea of Oregonians' behaviors and concerns about the virus to help them better tailor public health messages, spokesman Robb Cowie said at a news conference Thursday.
Cowie said the findings suggest a minority of Oregonians are engaging in multiple risky behaviors like frequently gathering in large groups indoors and not wearing masks.
“Most people get it and are limiting their risks. The problem is that there’s a relatively small portion of people who are taking big risks and we know that a small number of people can still wind up being super-spreaders,” he said in an email. Those are the people health officials need to focus on reaching, he said.
The poll of about 1,000 Oregonians found gaps between residents along geographic, political and racial lines, with liberal Oregonians, those living in the Portland metro area, and Asian and Black respondents most concerned about Covid.
Just 22% said they were personally worried about getting sick with Covid. Instead, most reported they were taking precautions like wearing a mask out of concern for family, friends or the community at large.
People living in the Willamette Valley, including Marion, Polk and Lane counties, typically fell between Portland and the rest of the state on measures of concern about the virus.
A separate poll of 468 Spanish-speaking Oregonians by Lara Media found 70% were “very worried” about the pandemic in Oregon, versus 42% of those responding to the general poll. Latinos were more likely to believe public health measures were working, and more likely to wear face masks indoors. But they were also less likely to report staying home except for work and essential trips to the store, and less likely to say they’d be willing to share personal information with a contact tracer.
About 89% of those polled said they would quarantine at home if exposed to someone with Covid, versus just 56% of Latinos. But the reasons varied between the two groups. Latinos most often said they would not quarantine because they needed to work and were the primary source of family income. Other respondents most often said they didn’t believe quarantining was necessary.
The results suggest most Oregonians are trying to balance socializing with safety precautions. While most people are socializing outside the home, the most common type of gathering reported was spending time with a few people outdoors, something two-thirds of respondents said they’d done in the past two weeks.
About half said they’d attended a small social gathering indoors. Just 20% reported attending a gathering of 10 or more people, and 7% said they’d gone to a bar, club or show.
A small minority of Oregonians are regularly gathering socially with other households, with about 16% of those surveyed saying they attended 11 or more social gatherings in the past two weeks. Those people were more likely to identify as politically conservative, and to live outside the Portland area and Willamette Valley.
“People who are gathering together frequently are also the people who are skeptical that taking protective measures helps and they’re also less likely to be taking protective measures very often,” said Michelle Neiss, president of DHM Research at a news conference Thursday discussing the findings.
-- Rachel Alexander
This story was originally published by Salem Reporter and is posted here through an arrangement among a dozen Oregon media outlets that are sharing coronavirus coverage.