The short answer is: not yet. According to the latest Yahoo News/YouGov survey, nearly 7 in 10 Americans (69 percent) say the pandemic isn’t “over in the US,” and only a third (34 percent) say it’s “over in terms of [their] own life’, regardless of whether it is ‘over for others’. The fast-moving Omicron variant still causes 500,000 cases and 2,500 deaths per day† more than 140,000 COVID patients are currently hospitalized.
However, the longer answer is that a broader embrace of pre-pandemic normality could be just around the corner.
While many Republicans, who remain disproportionately unvaccinated, say they have been “done with COVID” for a while, and while a small contingent far left saying they can never envision a return to normal, a third group — the fully vaccinated, who are liberal — say they are increasingly ready to end emergency mode.
The survey of 1,568 U.S. adults, conducted from Jan. 20 to Jan. 24, found that a full-third of vaccinated Americans (37 percent) now say that COVID is “more of an inconvenience” than a “health concern” to them, while less than half (49 percent) say the opposite.
Similarly, while most vaccinated Americans (55 percent) still want to “do more to vaccinate, wear masks, and test,” nearly 4 in 10 (37 percent) now insist that “we need to learn to live with COVID-19 and back to normal.”
As a result of this emerging gap among vaccinated Americans — who have long supported COVID mitigation measures by significant margins — more Americans overall (46 percent) are now saying we need to learn to live with the virus and get back to normal than say we should. we need to do more to get it under control (43 percent).
The same dynamics also begin to shape expectations of what comes next.
For example, when asked when the U.S. should “consider the pandemic over,” nearly half of vaccinated Americans (a combined 48 percent) say either “it’s already over” (13 percent) or it could effectively be over soon — that is, when the “current Omicron wave is receding” (6 percent) or when “the risk of COVID-19 for Americans is comparable to seasonal flu” (29 percent).
Many experts expect COVID to become a flu-like threat in the coming weeks or months as basic immunity continues to grow through vaccination and infection and as antiviral pills reduce the risk of hospitalization or death for the unvaccinated become more widely available by 88 percent.
Meanwhile, fewer vaccinated Americans (38 percent) say the US should only consider the pandemic “when global vaccination rates are high enough to prevent dangerous new variants from emerging,” a further target.
“We’re not there yet,” says Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, told the New York Times on Monday† But “Do we have any indications that we might be going there? The indication is yes.” Already already “the combination of the effectiveness of the vaccines and the relative mildness of the Omicron variant means that COVID now seems to present itself less danger than normal flu” for people who have been vaccinated, according to David Leonhardt of the Times — “even among people 65 and older.”
Make no mistake: Democrats in particular — 90 percent of whom say they’ve received at least one vaccination — still take COVID very seriously. A full 69 percent say the pandemic is not over for them personally; three quarters (75 percent) say “we need to do more to vaccinate, wear masks and test.”
Unsurprisingly, Republicans are the complete opposite: Nearly 6 in 10 (59 percent) say the pandemic is over for them personally, and more (65 percent) say “the COVID-19 rules” are a “bigger problem.” are in America today” than “the COVID-19 virus.”
But even among Democrats, a significant minority think the virus has become more of an inconvenience than a health problem (29 percent) and believe we ultimately “can’t control it” (23 percent). A large number of independents (46 percent and 42 percent, respectively) agree.
As a result, Americans in general are now divided on whether COVID-19 is more of a health risk (39 percent) or more of an inconvenience (41 percent), and less than half (44 percent) think it’s a force to be reckoned with. “we have power to control.”
So while 59 percent of Americans are at least somewhat concerned about COVID-19; while 61 percent say they always or mostly wore a mask outdoors in the past week; and while a nearly identical number believe the worst of the US pandemic is yet to come (27 percent) or remain uncertain (33 percent), such vigilance could wane if a worse variant doesn’t emerge after the Omicron wave recedes.
In part, that’s because just as many Americans continue to say the vaccines are performing the same or better than expected (62 percent) and doing a “good” or “excellent” job of “protecting people from hospitalizations and death” (57 percent) despite breakthrough infections — reviews backed by science†
In part, that’s because fewer vaccinated Americans say they are concerned that COVID is harming their own health (60 percent) than say they are concerned that COVID is “harming the health of others” (71 percent), “overwhelming the hospital system” ( 72 percent) or “disruptive” [their] own life, even [they] don’t get sick” (64 percent) — suggesting that they may be ready to transition out of emergency mode, as the declining number of Omicron cases begins to drastically reduce the risk of this kind of ripple effect.
And in part, it’s because most Americans say they’re not willing to change their lives indefinitely for COVID.
Ultimately, most experts believe that SARS-CoV-2 will become an “endemic” virus, like influenza, that circulates seasonally but no longer disrupts society. To “minimize its impact” once that happens, only 46 percent of Americans say they’re willing to “wear a mask inside during peak times”; only 48 percent say they’d be willing to “get a seasonal boost”; only 38 percent say they are willing to “test regularly during peak times”; only 35 percent say they are willing to “make masks compulsory in schools”; only 37 percent say they are willing to “require vaccinations in schools”; only 32 percent say they are willing to “require testing in schools” and only 45 percent say they are willing “to require students to isolate themselves if they are infected”.
The one thing that a majority of Americans would be willing to do once COVID becomes endemic? The bare minimum — that is, “isolating themselves if infected” (57 percent).
In short, Americans — including Americans who have been cautious until now — will one day be “done with COVID.” The question is how soon that day will come.
The Yahoo News survey was conducted by YouGov using a nationally representative sample of 1,568 American adults who were interviewed online from January 20 to 24, 2022. This sample was weighted for gender, age, race and education based on the American Community Survey, conducted by the US Bureau of the Census, as well as the 2020 presidential election (or non-voting) and voter registration status. Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel to be representative of all US adults. The margin of error is about 2.8 percent.