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September 27, 2022

Charted: How America feels about Covid-19 today

Daily Briefing

    A recent poll from Axios and Ipsos found that Americans' concern about Covid-19 is "among the lowest captured throughout the pandemic"—but there are still some activities that many Americans are hesitant to do.

    A recent shift to pre-pandemic life?

    Last week, President Joe Biden declared that "the pandemic is over." He cited the return of large events and a lack of masking nationwide as proof that the acute phase of the pandemic has ended.

    "We still have a problem with Covid. We're still doing a lot of work on it … but the pandemic is over," he said. "If you notice, no one's wearing masks. Everybody seems to be in pretty good shape. And so I think it's changing. And I think this is a perfect example of it."

    Biden also acknowledged the "impact on the psyche of the American people as a consequence of the pandemic."

    "Think of how that has changed everything," Biden said. "You know, people's attitudes about themselves, their families, about the state of the nation, about the state of their communities. And so there's a lot of uncertainty out there, a great deal of uncertainty. And we lost a million people. A million people to Covid."

    However, as Americans shift away from multiple years of caution, many remain conflicted about what activities are considered safe.

    "The demand for in-person events isn't back to 2019, but it's strong and growing," said Amy Calvert, CEO of the Events Industry Council. "There's almost this euphoria: People are so glad to see each other."

    How America feels about Covid-19 today

    For the poll, Axios and Ipsos surveyed 1,158 U.S. adults ages 18 and older between Sept. 9 and 12.

    Notably, this survey represents the final regularly scheduled wave of the Axios-Ipsos Coronavirus Index, which has been ongoing since mid-March 2020.

    According to the latest results, many Americans have moved on from the pandemic. Americans' perceived risk of the coronavirus has been steadily declining since the omicron surge began in the winter of 2022.

    While only 11% of Americans believe there is no risk of them contracting the virus, 46% said they have already returned to their normal, pre-pandemic life—the highest percentage ever reported.

    In addition, just 57% of Americans said they are still concerned about Covid-19. Among respondents who said they are concerned about the virus, 28% said they are more concerned about spreading it to people with a higher risk of serious illness than themselves.

    Almost two in three (65%) Americans said they believe there is little to no risk in returning to their pre-pandemic lives.

    Meanwhile, the share of Americans who claim they occasionally or never wear a mask when they leave their homes has remained steady since June, with around 37% of Americans reporting occasional mask use outside the home.

    Notably, 88% of respondents said they believe Covid-19 changed Americans' lives forever, and 85% said they do not believe the virus will be eradicated in their lifetime.

    Moving forward, a majority of Americans said they support ending government-mandated Covid-19 restrictions (65%) while also expressing support for free at-home Covid tests (83%) and free Covid-19 vaccines and treatment (87%).

    Activities people are (and aren't) comfortable doing

    "As they choose which activities to resume, people's priorities have varied, resulting in an economic and social hodgepodge—a country still in flux and a comeback that remains spotty," the Washington Post reports.

    For example, concerts are drawing pre-pandemic level crowds, but other live entertainment, such as theater and cinema, is struggling to draw audiences.

    In addition, in-person shopping, dining, and gyms are still struggling to regain pre-pandemic size clientele. However, weddings are nearly back to normal. And while some doctors' visits remain virtual, demand for plastic surgery has been "mind-bogglingly explosive," according to Bob Basu, a plastic surgeon in Houston.

    According to Eric Nelson, who analyzes research for the consultancy TRG Arts, regional differences could explain some of these inconsistencies. "In places that never shut down or never had mask mandates, people are more willing to come back faster," Nelson said. "Some of those people never broke the habit, while in other parts of the country, they had long periods at home and baking banana bread replaced going out for the evening." (Fisher/Telford, Washington Post, 9/24; Axios/Ipsos Coronavirus Index poll, 9/13)

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