(TNS)) — More than two-thirds of New Yorkers have worn masks to protect themselves during the coronavirus pandemic.

Fewer than half expect to contract the new coronavirus before the pandemic ends — and more than half believe they will continue to cope well as it continues.

These are among findings that disaster preparedness researchers at D'Youville College in Buffalo and the University at Albany released to The Buffalo News as part of an ongoing study in the states of New YorkLouisiana and Washington focused on personal pandemic beliefs and practices.

"We hope to learn how people are making sense of things, what information is useful and what policies are useful, so the response can be more effective in the current pandemic, but also in future disasters or pandemics," said  Lauren Clay , associate professor of health administration and public health at D'Youville, and head of its Disaster Research Lab.

The research, fueled by the National Science Foundation, also showed that the most common preventative behaviors in New York during the start of summer were staying home more often (80 percent), keeping 6 feet apart in public spaces (75 oercent), wearing masks (69 percent), avoiding handshakes (66 percent) and skipping gatherings outside of their household (65 percent).

Residents favor media, and state and federal health sources over local government when seeking information.

The Risk Perception, Information Seeking, and Protective Actions During Covid-19 study began in March. It will continue through the pandemic and researchers expect things to change when examining fall and winter data.

"Its purpose is to describe how people are accessing health information, and how they're using that health information to make decisions," Clay said.

The first data examined in detail was collected online May 21 to mid-July from 523 New Yorkers who live outside New York City. Research firm Qualtrics accounted for gender, age, race, income and geography when choosing survey participants.

Forty-four percent reported purchasing extra food and one-third reported canceling or delaying a routine health care appointment.

Clay is working on the study with  Samantha Penta  and  Amber Silver , both assistant professors of emergency preparedness in the College of Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security and Cybersecurity at the University at Albany.

The three researchers focus much of their attention on what happens after hurricanes, fires and other disasters. The Buffalo-based researcher specializes on food insecurity in such emergencies. Penta specializes on health and humanitarian care; Silver on risk perception and how information flows through official, social media and interpersonal channels.

The impact of most U.S. disasters is much easier to grasp than with a pandemic that strikes its victims invisibly and individually over time, said Penta, principal investigator for the Covid-related study.

"We wanted to understand the differences, to be able to parse out some of the policy influences and cultural contextual influences that might also be shaping behavior," she said.

The researchers developed their study in March, after Washington State became the leading edge of the U.S. pandemic and the virus began its deadly grip on downstate New York.

They chose to examine Louisiana because Clay is a native, conducts much of her research on the Gulf Coast there, and at that point the state had few Covid-19 cases.

Their research evolved as the presidential race intensified, Gulf states became epicenters for the pandemic and the nation recently entered a new, and potentially most pronounced, wave of cases, hospitalizations and deaths. It continues as Gov.  Andrew M. Cuomo  on Monday is expected to announce new steps to cope with the dramatic rise in cases in Western New York.

As the study progressed, it also has allowed researchers to examine how hurricanes impacted pandemic response in Louisiana and how wildfires and racial protests influenced pandemic decision-making in Washington State. They also aim to study how winter snowstorms impact pandemic reactions in New York.

"We'll be able to look at how local policies are implemented and how that affects perceptions and behaviors," Clay said. "We have three very geographically different states and their responses look very different."

Along the way, the study also began to ask participants about political ideology. The latest waves of data collection explore how those who describe themselves as conservative, moderate or liberal seek information and behave as the pandemic rolls toward its second year.

A newer survey question asks, "To what extent do you trust scientists to act in the best interest of the public?" Those who expressed greater trust have so far been more than twice as likely to report wearing a mask during the past week.

New Yorkers tend to take pandemic prevention measures more seriously than in some other states, the researchers said.

The positive coronavirus test rate reported in New York State last week was 2.7 percent, compared to 8.1 percent in Louisiana and 7.1 percent in Washington.

Rates in each of those three states, which all experienced spikes earlier in the pandemic, paled compared to South Dakota, with a 58.8 percent positive test rate. KansasIowaWyoming and Idaho rounded out the top five with rates from 58.7 percent to nearly 40 percent, respectively.

Study data can help health and emergency preparedness workers better understand how to convey the most accurate information in the most effective ways as the pandemic continues, the researchers said.

"If we were dealing with a hazard like a wildfire, or a hurricane, there are other communities you can contact that have been through it before," Clay said. "There are policies and protocols that have been tried over time. You've had a chance to refine. With a novel threat, everyone is starting from scratch and that's harder."

Penta and her colleagues expect attitudes and behavior to change over time, depending on circumstances, planning and the quality and veracity of shared information.

"This is a novel threat," she said. "We're working without a playbook and the science is evolving as the pandemic is evolving. It's important to keep that in context. Everyone is doing the best that they can, given the best available information, and we're getting new information all the time."

Penta and Clay expressed disappointment with the U.S. pandemic approach.

"The federal response has been minimal at best, and I would say obstructionist at worst," Clay said.

Ceding the pursuit of ventilators, testing materials and personal protective equipment to competing states and health care providers set up competition, price gouging and, in the end, politicization, the researchers said.

"From an outsider's view, nationally we are failing," Clay said, "but if you look at a state-by-state level, certainly some states are faring better than others."

The same can be said for other countries where the vast majority of residents believe civic responsibilities outweigh individual liberties in times of national distress, the researchers said.

Pandemic fatigue raises new concerns across much of the globe, including America.

"People don't want to stay home anymore," Clay said, "and they're tired of wearing their masks and not socializing with their friends and families."

The researchers encouraged patience and vigilance.

"Unless we start doing something dramatically different, we are not turning a corner for a while," Clay said. "It's important for us all to be really compassionate and understanding, and willing to adapt."

The researchers expect their findings to echo across decades. They hope it will improve preparations, responses and attitudes when future pandemics arise.

"Covid-19 requires thinking about the greater good," Penta said. "It requires thinking big, thinking about the levels of communities and your state and the country, not just at an individual level.

"It's hard to stay away from the people you love, especially around the holidays. It can be really hard to work from home while home-schooling kids. There's a lot of individual pain going on right now. But if we don't think collectively, this is going to go on even longer, and more and more people are going to suffer."

(c)2020 The Buffalo News (Buffalo, N.Y.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.