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Perceptions of a Pandemic

June 3, 2020

What are your beliefs about the threat of COVID-19? And what steps are you taking — or not — to avoid the virus?

These are just two of the questions that SUNY Potsdam researcher Dr. Kelly Bonnar hopes to answer in a new study looking at the way beliefs and information consumption affect personal habits in relation to the novel coronavirus.

Bonnar’s research harkens to a personal story which illustrated the manner in which the disease has become politicized, after she was approached in a store by a man who was not wearing a face covering.

“He came within two feet of me and told me, ‘Trump doesn’t think you need that mask,’ and walked away. I was with my five-year-old,” said Bonnar, an associate professor in the SUNY Potsdam Department of Public Health and Human Performance. “It was scary, but I absolutely know there is a lot of confusion. With this study, I’m trying to flesh it out and perhaps do some community-wide education about that.”

Using an online questionnaire, the study, titled “Health Beliefs as Predictors of Adherence to COVID Protective Behaviors,” will examine which media and social media channels people are using to get their COVID-19 information, their perception of the danger posed by the virus and the methods they are using to stay safe.

What are your views of the pandemic and associated safety issues? Bonnar would like to hear them. Participants can complete the online survey found here:

“I am really interested in finding out how beliefs about COVID are influencing whether or not people are engaging in protective behaviors and then what barriers they may be encountering,” Bonnar said. “I’m also looking at how the beliefs are related to media consumption and how the behaviors are linked to general health status and home safety. My hope is that we can use this information to encourage more protective behaviors.”

The SUNY Potsdam Department of Public Health and Human Performance offers both a Bachelor of Science and a Master of Science degree in community health, as well as a Bachelor of Science major in exercise science. In addition, the department offers minors in wilderness education, therapeutic recreation, nutrition, sexual health, fitness and community health. To find out more, visit

About SUNY Potsdam:

Founded in 1816, The State University of New York at Potsdam is one of America’s first 50 colleges—and the oldest institution within SUNY. Now in its third century, SUNY Potsdam is distinguished by a legacy of pioneering programs and educational excellence. The College currently enrolls approximately 3,600 undergraduate and graduate students. Home to the world-renowned Crane School of Music, SUNY Potsdam is known for its challenging liberal arts and sciences core, distinction in teacher training and culture of creativity. To learn more, visit

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