5 On Your Side

WRAL poll: Majority of NC residents fear worst of pandemic still to come

Posted April 30, 2020 7:02 p.m. EDT
Updated May 7, 2020 1:06 p.m. EDT

— A majority of North Carolinians fear the worst of the coronavirus pandemic is yet to come, according to a WRAL News poll released Thursday.

SurveyUSA contacted 700 adults statewide April 23-26 for the exclusive poll. The results have credibility intervals of plus or minus 4.8 percentage points.

Twice as many respondents, 52 percent to 26 percent, believe the worst is ahead as opposed to in the rearview mirror. The remaining 22 percent said they don't know enough to say either way.

Women were far more pessimistic than men, with 36 percent of men and 17 percent of women saying the worst is over. The survey also revealed a political divide, with people who identified themselves as Democrats or liberal or supporting Joe Biden for president being much less optimistic than Republicans, "very conservative" respondents and supporters of President Donald Trump.

When asked to give their best guess as to when life would return to "normal," the biggest segment, 29 percent of respondents, said not until next year. Only 4 percent said they expect it to happen in May, with another 11 percent picking June, 10 percent July and 12 percent August.

Public health experts have said they expect the virus to make a resurgence in the fall, and those surveyed seem to have heard that message. Each month from September through December was in single digits in the poll for when people thought life would return to normal.

Six percent said "never" when asked the question, while 11 percent said they weren't sure.

"I think that the thing that we all need to understand is this is going to take a long time," Raleigh restaurateur Greg Hatem said. "We're talking about a one- or two-year proposition before we get back to normal."

Hatem recently showed 5 On Your Side how he is reworking one of his downtown hot spots, The Pit, to create a "sparse" new layout, with plenty of space between each table. Only every other booth will be used, he said.

He said he's also looking at a limited menu.

"Things that we can cook and prepare more easily to keep distancing," he said, adding that some foods are now less available.

The decisions include everything from utensils to place settings.

"We're not putting things on the tables, like sauces. We'll bring them in if [customers] ask," Hatem said.

"Do we just do the prepackaged and plastic [utensils] that's disposable? Or do we have it pre-wrapped, and it's on the table waiting for you?"

"People realize it's different now," Hatem said. "Ordinarily, you wouldn't go to a restaurant where someone greets you with a mask, but these are different times, and I think they appreciate those extra measures."

Masks might also greet customers when salons and barbershops reopen.

The North Carolina Board of Cosmetic Art Examiners, which oversees hair and nail salons, is considering the option, as well as recommendations for 6 feet between stations, adequate time between appointments to sanitize and limit the number of people in the waiting area and prohibiting magazines or beverages inside.

As for barber shops, the reopening plan could involve temperature checks and lists of customers for possible contact tracing.

Less than a third of WRAL News poll respondents said they would likely attend a concert or sporting event this summer if allowed. Thirty-six percent said there is no way they would go.

Women were more reluctant than men, as were older and poorer people when compared with younger and wealthier ones.

PNC Arena General Manager Don Waddell said he doesn't expect a full house of screaming fans anytime soon, but arena staff is doing whatever they can to prepare for future events.

"We want to make everything be touch-less as much as possible," Waddell said.

That means all tickets will be digital, and plastic security bins for keys and phones could be replaced with paper baskets.

"I call it a giant coffee filter that they just slide through. It gets disposed of," Waddell said.

Food orders might need to be made on the phone.

"I'm sitting in my seat, I can order. I go to this window there, my food's ready, pick it up," Waddell said.

The number of available seats will be limited, starting with using every other row.

"The rows that you don't have people in, you remove the center seats so that people don't have to walk right in front of them. They walk in a row in front," Waddell said. "So, everybody technically will be at an aisle seat."

Staff will use backpack sprayers to disinfect seats after every event.

"We're on multiple venue calls a week with all the other venues, seeing what they're doing," Waddell said.

"It's going to be something that's, you know, not everybody's going to be comfortable with right away," he said. "But, in time, we'll get back to what was somewhat of a normal world."

Our commenting policy has changed. If you would like to comment, please share on social media using the icons below and comment there.