On Monday, several states announced they would start scaling back social distancing measures to reopen their states, but a number of polls show a large portion of Americans are worried about the effects of ending social distancing too soon.
States announce they will reopen soon
The governors of Georgia, Ohio, South Carolina, and Tennessee said they would begin to scale back restrictions on local businesses and social distancing guidelines over the next two weeks. Colorado's governor said his state on May 1 would reopen retail stores.
However, none of the states have met the guidelines released by the White House recommending states wait until they have two weeks of declining cases of Covid-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, Reuters reports.
Most of the governors did not offer specifics on how they would proceed to reopen, but Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) said he would allow businesses such as barbershops, movie theaters, restaurants, and tattoo parlors to reopen under specific rules for hygiene, social distancing among employees, and mask wearing requirements.
Americans worried about scaling back social distancing measures too soon
However, polls show a large number of Americans are worried about the potential consequences that could come with rolling back social distancing policies too soon.
According to a Reuters-Ipsos poll released Tuesday, 72% of Americans said quarantine measures should remain in place until "doctors and public health officials say it is safe."
Similarly, an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released Sunday found that almost 60% of Americans are more concerned about states rolling back stay-at-home orders too soon.
In addition, a poll by Axios and Ipsos found that 72% of Americans said that "[r]eturning to my normal pre-coronavirus life right now is a moderate/large risk."
However, those results vary significantly by geographic location. For example, in California, New York, and New Jersey combined, 44.8% of Americans consider returning to pre-coronavirus life a large risk compared with 28.9% who consider it a moderate risk. Meanwhile, in Florida and Texas, just 30.3% of respondents consider returning to pre-coronavirus life a large risk, compared to 40% who consider it a moderate risk.
Even if places like movie theaters reopen soon, a Morning Consult survey found that roughly a third of Americans say they won't be comfortable going out for entertainment for another three to six months, with around 25% saying they won't be comfortable for at least six months.
According to Michael Pachter, a research analyst at Wedbush Securties, "[I]t's hard to envision people returning with the same vigor they showed in the past, and it's likely that at best, box office would be a fraction of what it was prior to the pandemic … if there is a genuine risk of contracting the virus by attending a theater, it's hard to see how many people will feel comfortable doing so."
Public health officials say a number of things need to happen before states can fully reopen. First, widespread testing and contact-tracing needs to be implemented, which experts say will help determine who is infected and who might be exposed to the virus so they can be quarantined.
Experts also say they need to know whether people who have recovered from Covid-19 have any sort of immunity against the disease, and if so, for how long (Wise, The Hill, 4/21; Talev, Axios, 4/21; Neergaard, Associated Press, 4/21; McKay/Caspani, Reuters, 4/21; Schneider/Sullivan, Reuters, 4/21; Fischer, Axios, 4/21).