Post-COVID-19 World Fast Approaching, Americans Believe

Americans seem to be welcoming the post-COVID-19 world with open (and vaccinated) arms these days.

It’s getting better all the time. Not only the numbers for COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations, and deaths, which are trending down, but also the public’s outlook on the future. (Infections and deaths did see a very slight uptick yesterday, according to Johns Hopkins University). Apparently, vaccinations are fueling the optimism, according to the latest Axios/Ipsos Coronavirus Index. The index states that “Americans’ reemergence is moving full steam ahead.”

Only 43% said that returning to their pre-COVID lives would pose a large or moderate health risk, the first time that number has been below 50% since the pandemic began. Another milestone in the survey: 54% of Americans said that they’ve gone out to eat, the first time that number as surpassed 50%. Fewer people are wearing masks while “Americans are reporting small improvements to their mental and emotional health. Finally, as vaccination status is becoming a more common topic of discussion, a majority support having to show proof of the COVID-19 vaccine for travel and leisure activities, like vacationing, traveling on a plane, or attending a sporting event.”

Some of the findings in the report cause a bit of head-scratching. For instance, vaccinated people are more likely to wear a mask outside (65%) than unvaccinated people (46%). In addition, more unvaccinated people say they’ve visited friends or family in the last week (52%) than unvaccinated people (41%). The unvaccinated are also more likely to say that outdoor activities pose no risk.

In addition, while the threat of COVID-19 variants worries many Americans, they don’t worry them enough to alter behavior other than what they’ve been doing since the pandemic began.

Meanwhile, Americans trust the information that they are getting from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and nationally known health care experts. About 70% of them said that they are receiving accurate information about COVID-19.

While the public might have faith in the CDC, health care experts express some exasperation with the speed at which the CDC reviews and disseminates information. The agency goes too slow, the experts say. For instance, it was just last week that the CDC said that COVID-19 can be spread through tiny particles in the air. That’s something other health experts have been saying for nearly a year.

That COVID-19 is primarily an airborne pathogen that doesn’t present that much risk on surfaces has also been explained by medical experts for more than a year, with the CDC only coming to that conclusion last month.

Experts interviewed for an article today in STAT “say the agency has struggled to take advantage of the latest scientific findings to communicate as rapidly as possible with the American public. And when the guidance is issued, it tends to be overly cautious.”

Leana Wen, MD, an emergency physician and visiting professor of health policy at George Washington University, tells STAT: “If their [the CDC’s] advice is too disconnected from reality, and if they are too slow, then they make themselves irrelevant. I understand that they’re in a difficult position. However caution and indecision also comes at a price.”