Oregonians Are Wearing Their Masks, a New Survey Shows

But they're a lot less certain about whether they want to get a coronavirus vaccine

By Julia Silverman October 8, 2020

Coronavirus cases hit a new daily record in Oregon on Thursday.

Even after seven months of pandemic life, Oregonians still pretty nervous about coronavirus, a new survey conducted for the Oregon Health Authority finds—but also are doing a pretty good job with the mask-wearing, social distancing and hand-washing that help keep the virus at bay. 

The new data, compiled from a survey of more than 1,000 Oregonians by pollsters DHM Research found that 78 percent of residents felt very or somewhat worried about the COVID-19 situation in the state. Makes sense, given that case numbers have been rising again statewide, after an August dip, and K-12 students at the largest districts in the state, including Portland and Beaverton, have been told they won’t return to in-person school until late January, at the earliest. 

(That number varies, by the way, depending on who you plan to vote for in the upcoming election cycle. A whopping 94 percent of self-identified liberals told pollsters they were “very or somewhat” concerned about COVID; only 58 percent of self-described conservatives felt the same way.) 

Still, Oregonians appear to be largely following the constant admonitions from Gov. Kate Brown and health authorities to wear masks in public (84 percent), keep their distance from strangers (64 percent) and wash their hands (75 percent). Gold star for compliance, folks—those numbers might help explain why Portland’s COVID numbers are among the lowest of any major metropolitan area. 

Fear and worry about the virus goes up among communities of color, who have been harder-hit by the virus, particularly the state’s Latinx community. The Oregon Health Authority commissioned a separate survey of just this population from Lara Media Services, including migrant workers and agricultural workers. Seventy-two percent of those contacted for the separate survey told pollsters they were at least somewhat concerned about getting sick from the virus. 

Other interesting takeaways from the survey include a bit of political cover for Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, who is routinely asked why she has allowed bars to remain open for indoor drinking, while schools have remained closed. According to the poll results, only 7 percent of respondents had been to a “bar, club or show” in the previous week, while 52 percent have attended an indoors get-together with people outside their household. 

That tracks with recent messaging from health officials, who’ve described outbreaks stemming from shared vacation rentals and bachelor parties.  

The survey also finds some healthy skepticism about a coronavirus vaccine among the state’s residents. Five in 10 say they are uncertain whether they would get a coronavirus vaccine, though those numbers tick up among Oregonians with a college degree and among Asian residents.  

The bottom line: Coronavirus is still top of people’s minds around here, and no wonder—late on Thursday, the state Health Authority announced 484 new cases around the state, a record high. 

Want to dig into the survey results yourself? Find them here.  

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