New Yorkers are worried reopening schools could create too great a risk of spreading coronavirus, while majorities are also hesitant to embrace indoor activities like working out at the gym, watching a movie or eating inside at a restaurant, a Siena College poll released Wednesday morning found. 

The poll comes six months into the declared pandemic, offering a snapshot of how New York residents feel about returning to some semblance of mask-wearing normalcy as businesses and other entities like schools enter a reopening phase. 

And the poll comes as summer is nearing its end, giving businesses fewer options for alternatives to being inside. 

Broadly speaking, skepticism of the safety of indoor activities abounds amid the ongoing pandemic, even if New York has largely leveled off its coronavirus cases. 

The poll found:

  • 62 percent of New Yorkers believe a full reopening of schools runs too great a risk; 32% believe it can be done safely. Schools are reopening in the coming weeks, though many schools are putting students and teachers on a staggered schedule and the largest school districts in the state are beginning the year remotely. 
  • 66 percent of of New Yorkers told the survey that colleges should only deliver remote eudcation offerings and not bring students back to the campus, compared to 27 percent who believe it's safe to do so. 
  • 58 percent of New Yorkers would not dine indoors in a restaurant; eating establishments in New York City can only offer outdoor dining, restaurants elsewhere can provide limited capacity seating indoors; 72 percent would not have a drink at a bar
  • 70 percent of residents in New York are not comfortalbe with working out at a gym
  • 73 percent would not watch a movie in a theater and 65 percent would not go to a bowling alley. 

New Yorkers are more split on museums, however: 45 percent would visit one; 47 percent would not. 

The poll is potentially difficult news for businesses that are trying to entice customers to leave their homes and begin spending money again as they take steps to create social distance, sanitize commonly used areas, and operate at a much lower capacity. 

And for schools, the findings show New Yorkers are ambivalent about whether in-classroom can be done safely.

“As schools across New York grapple with whether to or how to open in the fall, by nearly two to one, New Yorkers say completely opening schools runs too great a risk,” said Don Levy, the director of the Siena College Research Institute. “Despite recognizing how hard not opening is on kids and their families, only a third say that the negative effect on students is too great and that we have to bring the children back to school."

New Yorkers' attitudes as the fall begins are also tilting toward the gloomy. 

The poll found 51 percent of New Yorkers believe the worst of the pandemic is behind us, a decline from 62 percent two months ago. Only 34 percent believe the worst is over. 

A large majority, 86 percent, are either concerned or very concerned the state wil face another outbreak of the virus in the fall.



The poll of 745 New York residents was conducted from Aug. 20 to Aug. 27. It has a margin of error of 4 percentage points.