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NC Residents Social Distancing, But Problem Behaviors Remain

Weekly Duke survey provides insights on how North Carolinians are changing their behavior

Part of the Hand washing, social distancing & behavior Series

Almost all North Carolinians are practicing social distancing, but some behaviors that could spread infection increased slightly over the past week, a Duke survey finds.

The survey is being repeated weekly to provide insight on how people in North Carolina are changing their behavior over time in response to the outbreak. Small changes in individual behavior can change the peak and length of the epidemic, said Don Taylor, a professor of public policy and director of Duke’s Social Science Research Institute (SSRI).

“One issue of concern is the increase in reports of children interacting in person with kids from a different household,” Taylor said. “In week one, 17 percent of respondents said that a child in the household had been with another child from outside the household in the 24 hours prior to the survey. That rose to 23 percent in week two. This is a potential source of coronavirus spread.”

The survey, now in its second week, was designed by the Duke University COVID-19 Digital Lab, a joint project of Duke Forge and SSRI.

Among the latest findings:

  • Ninety-seven percent of respondents said they were practicing social distancing.
  • Fifty-five percent of respondents said most North Carolinians are reacting appropriately.
  • Seventy-seven percent of respondents said they were washing their hands at least seven times a day.

The latest survey was conducted by phone between April 4 and 6. It asked 1,426 North Carolinians about their behavior in the days since Gov. Roy Cooper’s statewide stay-at-home order took effect at 5 p.m. on March 30. 

“There are still behaviors being reported that could spread the coronavirus,” said Jessilyn Dunn, an assistant professor of biostatistics and bioinformatics. “It is import to remain vigilant, as there is evidence that these efforts are having a positive impact on new cases.”