The purpose of this study was to investigate how young adults in Virginia received, evaluated, and responded to messages related to the coronavirus/COVID-19, a major disruptor of our time, and to understand how and when these messages influenced behavior. This was a sequential explanatory mixed methods study, including an online survey (quantitative) and virtual focus groups (qualitative). We surveyed a convenience sample of 3,694 Virginia residents by distributing a link to complete the survey online. Only data from18-24 year old adults (n=207) were included in the analysis for this study. Focus group participants were recruited from the survey participants as well as from a college-level introductory health class. Most (83%) young adult respondents reported national science and health organizations as a trusted source for COVID-19 information and over 50% of respondents reported getting information from state/local health departments (72%), healthcare professionals (71%), and online news sources (51%). Focus group participants emphasized social media as an additional major source of COVID-19 information. Focus group data revealed that young adults struggled with deciphering contradictory messaging, had a mix of logical and emotional reasons for deciding whether to adhere to guidelines, had a desire for consistent, fact-based public health messaging at the national level. The findings from this study underscore the importance of consistent, positive public health messaging in a public health crisis.



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