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Coronavirus US: 25% would increase risks to help economy

One-quarter of Americans say there are willing to accept greater risks of contracting the novel coronavirus if it would shorten the timeline of economic recovery, a new study suggests.

Researchers found that about 36 percent of people surveyed were 'risk minimizers' who did not want to accept any increases in risk of becoming ill with the virus to reopen businesses.

But about 25 percent of US adults, concerned about the duration needed for economic recovery, said they were willing to accept a nearly 16 percent risk of being infected if it means shortening recovery from three years down to two years.

What's more, 13 percent of respondents said they would accept COVID-19 risks of 20 percent or greater to avoid any delay in reopening.  

The team, from Duke University, in Durham, North Carolina, says the findings reveal which segments of the population support loosening or tightening restrictions as state governments slowly begin reopening regions.

Researchers asked nearly 6,000 people, split into four groups, about COVID-19 risk, the span of social distancing orders, and the 'depth and duration of negative economic impacts'

About 36% were 'risk minimizers' who did not want to accept any increases in risk of contracting the virus to reopen businesses (top left) while more than 25% said they would accept a nearly 16% risk of being infected to shorten economic recovery from three years down to two years (bottom left)

Researchers asked them question about the risk of contracting COVID-19 risk, the duration of social distancing orders, and the 'depth and duration of negative economic impacts.' 

About 37 percent of people considered reopening nonessential businesses to be the most important policy. 

This was followed, in order of importance, by reopening schools and colleges, allowing people to eat inside restaurant, reopening museums and parks, resuming religious service and resuming sporting events.

Respondents were split into four groups. Class 1 were 'risk minimizers' representing 36% of respondents, the majority, who were in favor of scenarios with lower incidences of contracting COVID-19.

About 44 percent of all Democrats surveyed and 40 percent of all Republicans were predicted to be in this group in comparison with 27 percent of independents. 

Class 2 were classified as 'waiters', people who preferred delaying the reopening of non-essential businesses until October while Class 3 were 'pro-business'.

This means shortening economic recovery from five years to two years was two times more important to them than reducing the risk of COVID-19 cases increasing from two percent to 20 percent through 2020.

Class 4 was made up of about 13 percent of adults who strongly strongly prefer reopening nonessential businesses 'now' and were referred to as openers. 

About one in five independents was likely to be in this group compared to 12 percent of Republicans and six percent of Democrats. 

Around 13% of respondents said they would accept COVID-19 risks of 20 percent or greater to avoid a delay in reopening at all. Pictured: A security guard walks past shuttered businesses in downtown Miami, Florida, May 7

Classes 1 and 2 had a very small maximum acceptable risk for contracting COVID-19 in favor of non-essential businesses reopening.

But the 'pro-business' group was willing to increase their risk of contracting COVID-19 risk to speed up economic recovery. 

They said they would accept a 15.9 percent increase in coronavirus risk to reduce the recovery timeline by at least a year.

And the 'openers' group would accept a 25 percent risk of the virus to reopen essential businesses as soon as possible rather than July.

This risk increased if business had to wait until October to open, 

'We hope that the results of our study can support government and public health officials who must make the difficult decisions about when to tighten and when to loosen social-distancing restrictions,' the authors wrote. 

'Our findings reveal useful information about segments of the population that will be more and less supportive of various policies, findings that do not necessarily track with information reported on social media and traditional media outlets.'  

In the US, there are more than 1.8 million confirmed cases of the virus and more than 105,000 deaths. 

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