Improving conditions that affect quality-of-life issues for residents of Northern New York requires a thorough understanding of what these problems are and how best to address them.

But this isn’t the only thing needed to make positive changes. The people who live here must comprehend what any new policies enacted will mean for them.

It’s incumbent on authorities to seek input from constituents on what they believe will make life better. For more than 20 years, the Center for Community Studies at Jefferson Community College in Watertown has been providing vital data to guide policymakers in making more informed decisions.

Each year, the center presents its Survey of the Community for Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties. This research documents what residents have to say about important issues in their respective areas. It allows community leaders to chart how different issues have improved and where they need additional work.

Representatives of the center recently collaborated with public health officials in the three counties to conduct a survey on how residents were being affected by the novel coronavirus pandemic. More than 2,000 individuals responded.

“The goal of the survey study was to collect primary opinion and behavior data from residents to assist local health departments in better understanding the COVID-19 pandemic effects on the local community, identify priorities for action, understand key implementation challenges, track progress and identify gaps between needs and services offered,” a story published April 21 by the Watertown Daily Times reported. “The health departments will use the data to plan and monitor changes throughout the pandemic by completing the survey again periodically throughout the pandemic and tracking changes.”

According to the article, key results from the survey were:

n 54.5 percent of residents felt more isolated and lonely than usual, and 64 percent felt more anxiety and nervousness than usual. The younger the person, the more likely they were to report these feelings.

n 71 percent reported they were very or somewhat concerned that they or a loved one would get COVID-19; 79 percent were concerned that local health care workers would contract COVID-19 and be unable to work.

n 59 percent had very serious or somewhat serious concerns that not enough testing was being done locally.

n 24 percent had visited with friends inside their friend’s home or their own home at least once in the week prior to taking the survey. The younger the person, the more likely they reported doing this.

n 33 percent reported a loss of income from a job or business. Among those people still employed, 47 percent had very serious or somewhat serious concerns with losing income.

n 59.5 percent reported concern that the United States would not go far enough in limiting the movement and activities of Americans. Residents reported overall trust in the U.S. leadership, New York state government and the local health department; 66 percent reported satisfaction with the local health department, with 9.8 percent “unsure.”

“When asked the open-ended question, ‘please describe what you feel is the single most important thing that north country public health departments and/or economic development leaders could do to help you,’ the top two responses that the majority of the respondents answered with were: 1. Communicate more or better, and 2. Enforce social distancing and restrictions,” the story reported.

Key takeaways from this survey call for policymakers to ensure that mental health resources are available for people to help manage their anxiety or to find resources to help them self-manage; continue social distancing measures; support local agencies that are providing meals, critical needs supplies and care; and engage local representatives in Albany to make sure the economy is opened as soon as it is safely possible in a regional way.

This survey offers a valuable snapshot of how people here are reacting to this health care crisis.

It will help officials make more prudent decisions on how to proceed. Visit http://wdt.me/u3pEQx to read more about the responses provided.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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