Omicron is fading, as are Americans’ concerns about COVID-19.
According to a new poll, as the number of coronavirus pandemic cases, hospitalizations, and deaths continues to fall, fewer people now than in January are concerned about becoming infected following the rise and fall of the wildly contagious virus variant.
Only 24% are “extremely” or “very” concerned about contracting COVID-19 themselves or through a family member, compared to 36% in both December and January, when omicron caused a massive spike in infections and taxed public health systems. Another 34% say they are somewhat concerned. Since omicron became the dominant strain of the coronavirus in mid-December, more than 140,000 deaths in the United States have been attributed to COVID-19.
Trucking dispatcher Erica Martinez in Lincoln, Nebraska, said she relaxed her guard last summer, before the deadly delta variant took hold, then “stopped doing a lot of the social stuff” when cases spiked again during subsequent waves of delta and omicron. She said she is more comfortable socializing now than she has been in months, thanks to the rapid decline in virus numbers.
“I have the impression that the country is desperately trying to recover from the last two years,” Martinez, 36, said. “I believe there will always be new variants appearing left and right.” Unfortunately, I believe that this will become the new norm for society,” with people taking fewer or more precautions as cases ebb and flow.
According to a January poll, the majority of Americans believe the virus will persist as a mild illness. Only 15% believe COVID-19 will be largely eradicated once the pandemic is over.
There are numerous indications that the country is ready to move on from the largest COVID-19 wave to date. Statewide mask mandates have all but vanished, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced on Friday that, based on current data, it no longer recommends indoor masking for the majority of Americans.
Cities are removing the requirement for a vaccination to enter bars, restaurants, and entertainment venues. Companies are returning employees to the workplace. California has stated that it is taking a “endemic” approach to the virus, emphasizing prevention and rapid containment of outbreaks.
Both vaccinated and unvaccinated Americans are less concerned about infection. Nonetheless, roughly two-thirds of vaccinated Americans are concerned about COVID-19 infection. Approximately four out of every ten unvaccinated Americans agree.
Unvaccinated Amie Adkins of Gassaway, West Virginia, said she was “surrounded” by omicron but never worried about getting it because she relied on a mask and good hygiene to protect herself. Unvaccinated people are at a much higher risk of serious illness and death than vaccinated people.
Public support for masking requirements has also dipped, though the new poll shows that Americans are still more likely to favor than oppose requiring masks in public, 50 percent to 28 percent. In August 2021, 55% were in favor. In 2020, support was much higher, with roughly three-quarters of the public in favor.
George Reeves, an 83-year-old semiretired electrical engineer from Raleigh, North Carolina, believes his mask will soon be removed.
Concern about the spread of infectious diseases as a threat to the United States has dropped dramatically from a clear majority just six months ago, according to the poll.
In August, roughly two-thirds of Americans said they were “extremely” or “very” concerned about the threat posed by infectious diseases. Nonetheless, only about two out of every ten people are unconcerned.
Dave Pitts, a computer engineer and college math and science tutor in Denver, is vaccinated, avoids socializing, and wears a mask when he goes out, so he isn’t concerned about getting COVID-19. But Pitts — who spent three miserable weeks battling influenza in the 2009 H1N1 pandemic — predicts infectious disease will continue to pose a huge threat to the country.