‘People let their guard down:' Bexar Facts poll shows drop in concern about coronavirus in San Antonio

While respondents were less concerned about spread of COVID-19, majority believes worst is yet to come

Using social distancing and other protective measures against COVID-19, visitors ride a river barges along the River Walk in San Antonio, Monday, June 15, 2020, in San Antonio. The barges, which have been closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, began running again Monday. (AP Photo/Eric Gay) (Eric Gay, Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

SAN ANTONIOEditor’s note: Join KSAT and Bexar Facts for a livestream discussion about the poll results and local policing and inequality from 6:30 p.m. till 8 p.m. on Tuesday. KSAT12 anchors will interview local leaders and community activists. Join the conversation by asking a question here. Want to take the poll or see the full results? Visit Bexar Facts’ website.

Before COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations surged in San Antonio to record levels, a newly released Bexar Facts-KSAT-Rivard Report Poll shows fewer residents were concerned about the spread of the virus compared to the beginning of the pandemic.

The findings come from a phone and internet survey of more than 616 likely Bexar County voters from June 10-14, right as case counts and hospitalizations began to rise in the region.

In the same poll taken in April, 76% of respondents viewed the spread of COVID-19 as a very or extremely serious problem. But in the most recent poll, that number dropped to 66%.

In the Bexar Facts poll, 66% said the spread of the novel coronavirus was an extremely or very serious problem. (KSAT)

The polling backs up comments made by local leaders and health experts that suggest people in San Antonio and beyond became more complacent about following health guidelines and avoiding personal contact.

“People have let their guard down,” Mayor Ron Nirenberg said Monday evening during the city’s COVID-19 briefing. “We’re not out of the woods.”

“We have what I refer to as ‘COVID virus fatigue’ with regard to our social interactions,” said UT Health San Antonio’s president William L. Henrich. “We’ve let our guard down. We must counter this by wearing masks and returning to what thwarted the virus in the first place.”

A similar drop was seen among respondents who were concerned about closures of local businesses compared to April, falling from 77 percent to 69 percent.

A declining concern about the coronavirus and closure of businesses is also reflected in national trends, said Dave Metz, president of FM3 Research, which conducted the poll for Bexar Facts.

“Concern about the pandemic has indeed softened a bit since April – but I would also note that solid majorities believe the worst is yet to come, and are more concerned about social distancing ending too early as opposed too soon,” Metz said.

In the poll, 57% of respondents believed the worst of the pandemic is yet to come, while 31% believed the worst was over.

READ MORE: Widespread support for police reform, officers in San Antonio, new Bexar Facts poll finds

In the Bexar Facts poll, 57% believed the worst is yet to come when it comes to the coronavirus pandemic. (KSAT)

During the four days the poll was taken, San Antonio had reported 880 new COVID-19 cases. Since then, San Antonio cases continued to skyrocket, adding 2,763 cases and testing the county’s health care infrastructure.

The situation has become more urgent — not just in San Antonio, but across the state. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said Monday that the virus was spreading at an “unacceptable rate,” warning that stricter measures would be needed if numbers continued going up.

Texas governor says coronavirus is spreading at ‘unacceptable rate,’ stops short of issuing new restrictions

As the wave of infections evolves, so will the public’s urgency on reducing the spread of COVID-19, Metz said.

“But as case counts and deaths are back on the rise in many parts of the country, that may change – it will be fascinating to watch over the next couple of weeks, as the public’s comfort with re-opening will potentially have a huge impact on where the public health impacts go from here,” Metz said.

More results from this round of polling will be available in the coming days on KSAT.com, including approval ratings, public opinion on the pandemic and how age impacts a person’s answers. Read more about the Bexar Facts-KSAT12-Rivard Report partnership here.

We want you to join the conversation ahead of Tuesday night’s town hall. Send a video-taped question or email to news@ksat.com to have your voice heard — and maybe have your question asked on-air — or submit your question in the prompt below. (Didn’t get the phone survey but want to take the poll? See all the questions and answer them in an online survey on Bexar Facts’ website.)

Read more about Bexar Facts polling and the coronavirus pandemic from KSAT: