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March 2020

Image of two soapy hands at a sink.

Image of two soapy hands at a sink.

Who Prepares for COVID-19, and Why

A study by Santa Clara Prof. David Feldman explores factors behind why some people take social distancing and other COVID-19 precautions seriously, and some don't.

SANTA CLARA, Calif., March 25, 2019—Why are some people out socializing during the COVID-19 pandemic, while others are disinfecting the dog and never leaving their homes? 

David B. Feldman, professor of counseling psychology at Santa Clara University and co-host of the weekly radio program ‘About Health’ on KPFA 94.1FM, has conducted a study of 222 people across 38 states—with a range of ages and backgrounds—to find out how much they were taking steps to protect themselves from COVID-19; how their perception of virus mortality rates correlates with willingness and desire to take precautions; and what sources they trust for factual information about the pandemic.

The results, which have been submitted to a journal for academic peer-review, showed several things: 

  • About 49% of participants said that a 3% mortality rate (current for COVID-19) wouldn’t spur them to do much to protect themselves.
  • Two simple human experienceshope and fearmost robustly related to how much people said they’re taking steps to protect themselves.
  • People are getting COVID-19 news from many sources. They trust the CDC website the most; social media sites the least; and White House statements no more than Twitter. 

Feldman said the findings have many implications, including for public media campaigns to emphasize both somber facts but also a hopeful outlook and "can-do" spirit. He is available ( to discuss the study and its implications for:

  • public health information campaigns
  • how people can best convince loved ones to protect themselves
  • how people can manage their feelings most usefully
  • psychological counseling


A summary abstract of the academic paper can be found here.

A podcast containing partial results of the study can be found here.   


Media Contact
Deborah Lohse | SCU Media Communications | | 408-554-5121


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