A 55% majority of Americans now believe there’s little to no risk associated with returning to their normal pre-pandemic lives, a new Axios/Ipsos poll found, as people’s comfort with various activities rebounds to where it was before the delta variant surged over the summer in light of declining Covid-19 cases—even as transmission is still far higher than it was then.
The poll, conducted November 5-8 among 1,033 U.S. adults, found 38% of respondents believe returning to pre-pandemic life carries a small “risk to [their] health and well-being,” while 17% believe there’s no risk.
That’s up from 40% who said there was little to no risk in late August, and marks the highest share since July 16-19, when 60% said they were comfortable getting back to normal.
A larger majority of respondents said they associated little to no risk with specific activities, such as gathering in person with family and friends (61%), dining at a restaurant (59%), shopping at retail stores (63%) and working indoors at an office (62%).
Those percentages have also gone up as cases have declined after peaking in August and early September: Only 47% of respondents were comfortable gathering in person and going out to eat from August 27-30, for instance.
Most respondents are still taking precautions even if they’re returning to normal activities, however, with 66% saying they’re at least sometimes wearing a mask and 69% staying at least six feet from others.
A 70% majority of respondents still say they’re at least somewhat concerned about Covid-19, though the share of people who are “extremely concerned”—now at 13%—is going down. There are also some activities that a majority still believe carries at least a moderate risk. Only 41% of respondents believe traveling on an airplane or mass transit or attending a sporting event is associated with only a small or no risk, though people’s comfort with those activities has also gone up since the delta surge.
73,875. That’s the seven-day average of daily Covid-19 cases in the U.S. as of Tuesday, according to public health data compiled by the New York Times. That’s down from approximately 200,000 daily cases that were being recorded at the height of the delta variant surge in August and early September, but still far higher than an average of approximately 11,000 nationwide cases in June and July. Cases are also now plateauing after an initial decline, with the Times noting nationwide cases have gone up by 5% over the past two weeks, though both hospitalizations and deaths are still going down.
The Axios/Ipsos poll is in line with other polling showing people’s confidence growing in returning to activities like dining out or socializing. A Morning Consult poll conducted October 28-30 found 70% of Americans said they’re comfortable going out to restaurants, for instance, which was the highest share since early July. Some remaining restrictions like mask mandates have also been lifted recently in a number of areas as fears about Covid-19 transmission have lessened. In addition to the declining case rate, people’s confidence in returning to normal activities may also be buoyed by the increasing rate of Covid-19 vaccinations, with 70% of U.S. adults now fully vaccinated, as well as the new availability of Covid-19 booster shots and vaccines for children ages five to 11.
What We Don’t Know
If Covid-19 cases will go up again, particularly as people gather and travel for the holidays. The U.S. has also now reopened its borders to fully vaccinated foreign visitors, even as Covid-19 has surged throughout Europe.