Record number of Americans name coronavirus as most urgent health problem

Record number of Americans name coronavirus as most urgent health problem
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Roughly 69 percent of respondents in a new Gallup poll released Friday say COVID-19, or viruses in general, is the most urgent health issue facing the country.

The percentage marks the highest number Gallup has recorded since 1987, when 62 percent of Americans polled marked AIDS as the most pressing health issue. Respondents identified AIDS as the top issue in each of the five years the question was asked between 1987 and 1999. 

Friday’s poll, conducted from Nov. 5-Nov. 19, was included in Gallup’s annual health and health care survey.

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In 2020, COVID-19 far surpasses other prominent health concerns listed by respondents, with cancer, health care costs, obesity and health care access each mentioned by just 4 percent of those surveyed. 

No other concern listed in the poll received more than 1 percent. 

Gallup also found that Democrats, including Democratic-leaning independents, were more likely than Republican and Republican-leaning respondents to list COVID-19 as the preeminent health concern, 78 percent to 57 percent. 

Among Republicans surveyed, 8 percent listed cancer as the most important issue, with obesity at 7 percent and health care cost at 5 percent. 

These findings come as the U.S. on Thursday climbed past a total of more than 14 million coronavirus infections, averaging about 1 million new cases every six days over the past month. 

As of Friday, the country has had more than 276,000 deaths due to the virus, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University

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This record came a day after the U.S. saw its highest single-day coronavirus death toll to date with 3,157 fatalities. This number was 20 percent higher than the previous single-day high of 2,603 on April 15. 

Gallup’s Friday poll marks a shift from the trend since 2000 of Americans’ increased preeminent concern for problems with the health care system, rather than specific conditions. 

Health care cost or access has been the top concern among Gallup respondents for most of the past two decades, except for in 2001, when bioterrorism led the list amid a series of anthrax attacks sent via mail, and in 2014, when the Ebola virus tied cost and access as the top concerns.