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Survey: Many In Southwestern Pennsylvania Have A More Positive Outlook As Vaccinations Rise

As vaccination rates grow and many COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, more people in southwestern Pennsylvania have positive feelings and fewer concerns about the direction of the pandemic, according to a recent 90.5 WESA/Campos poll.

The poll noted an overall “thawing,” with feelings trending in a positive direction, researchers found.

For instance, only 28% of those surveyed were very or extremely concerned, down from 41% in a survey earlier this year.

Similarly, 29% of respondents said they think things are getting better, up from 13%.

Among some of the other findings of the research:

  • in line with national trends, women are still less likely to be working than men are
  • “frustration” is still the top emotion people feel about the pandemic, though it has declined to 30% from 39%
  • 22% of those surveyed said their household increased spending in the past 2 months, up from 16% previously
  • of those who received stimulus payments, most people (39%) said they used it to pay bills
  • many in the region continued to report difficulties in applying for and receiving assistance, including unemployment compensation or public benefits such as food stamps; of those who applied for aid, 21% of respondents said they were not able to receive benefits because of issues or problems with the process. No respondents said they were able to get help with “little to no issue.”
  • fewer kids are in hybrid school and more are fully in-person — 34%, up from 19% in the last round of research)
  • those polled said they generally feel the effectiveness of the government response to the pandemic has improved since the last round of polling. The only official or entity who did not see a statistically significant increase in perceived effectiveness was Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat

This is the third and final round of research; it was conducted April 22 through May 5. It included 704 respondents.

Respondent Debbie Schmitt, of Bethel Park, said she takes the virus seriously, but right now she said she is more concerned about the continued impacts of isolation on elderly relatives.

“So as far as the virus itself right now, I am less worried about that than I am the emotional toll it's taking on people who haven't been able to see each other. That's something that needs to be considered,” she said.

Respondent Kathleen Fedarko, of Scott Township, said “hybrid” schooling with her 8-year-old son three days a week at home, while she was also working, was a hardship.

It was extremely stressful," she said. "My son is eight years old and I felt that was very difficult. I don't know how parents [who] weren't able to work from home, how that would have even been a possibility. So, I think that put a strain on families and that was very difficult.”

Like many respondents, Gregory Garvin, who lives in Pittsburgh's Oakland neighborhood, said he has a good outlook on the future.

I have a very positive outlook for myself, the company I work for and the general economy,” he said.

The first survey was conducted last fall; a second wave of research was conducted in January and February of this year.

The 90.5 WESA/Campos COVID Insights Study examined the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the greater Pittsburgh region, and was funded by a grant from the Richard King Mellon Foundation. It included residents of Allegheny, Lawrence, Beaver, Butler, Armstrong, Indiana, Washington, Westmoreland, Fayette and Greene counties.

Kate Giammarise focuses her reporting on poverty, social services and affordable housing. Before joining WESA, she covered those topics for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette for nearly five years; prior to that, she spent several years in the paper’s Harrisburg bureau covering the legislature, governor and state government. She can be reached at or 412-697-2953.