Three years after the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, Americans’ views of the disease’s impact have stagnated into a complex set of mixed feelings, recent polling suggests, with few believing that the pandemic has ended but most also saying that their lives had returned mostly – if not entirely – to normal.
The US Senate passed a bill last week that would end the national Covid-19 emergency declared in March 2020. The US House approved the measure earlier this year, and the White House has said President Joe Biden will sign it despite “strongly” opposing the bill. The administration had already planned to wind down the emergency by May 11.
In a recent Kaiser Family Foundation survey about the Biden administration’s original plan to end the public health emergency by May, 59% of Americans said they expected the decision to have no impact on them or their family, with the remainder about evenly split between the 20% who thought it would have a positive effect and the 21% who thought the impact would be negative.
Only 24% of Americans personally feel that the pandemic is over, a recent Monmouth University poll found, with 20% saying it will end eventually and 53% saying that it’ll never be over. Those numbers were very similar to Monmouth’s polling last fall, suggesting that a sense of some lingering abnormalcy may well be the new normal.
Relatively few Americans say either that their lives have completely returned to a pre-pandemic normal or that their lives are still completely upended by it. The Monmouth poll found a 69% majority saying that their daily routine was at least mostly back to what it was pre-pandemic – but only about a third, 34%, say that things were completely the same as they were three years ago. Another 20% said things were partially back to normal, and 11% that they were still not normal at all.
Declaring to pollsters that the pandemic is over may be something of a political statement for ordinary Americans as well. Republicans were 17 points likelier than Democrats to say that their own routines were mostly back to normal, the Monmouth poll found, and 28 points likelier to say that the pandemic had completely ended.
The results of the Monmouth survey echo a February Gallup poll that found 33% of Americans saying that their life was completely back to pre-pandemic normal, 20% saying that they expected it would eventually return to normal and nearly half that their life would never fully return to the way it was pre-pandemic. Gallup also found that views about the pandemic’s trajectory were nearly unchanged from their polling in October, when 31% thought normalcy had completely returned.
“The 47% who don’t foresee a return to normalcy may be getting used to a ‘new normal’ that, for some, means occasional mask use, regular COVID-19 vaccines and avoidance of some situations that may put them at greater risk of infection, particularly at times when COVID-19 infections are spiking,” Gallup’s Megan Brenan wrote.
About half of Americans, 48%, are continuing to mask up in public on at least some occasions, the Monmouth poll found, though only about 21% said they do so most or all of the time. In KFF polling from earlier this year, 46% of Americans said they’d taken some form of precautions – including mask-wearing or avoiding large gatherings, travel or indoor dining – over the winter due to news about the triple threat of Covid-19, the flu and RSV.
In KFF’s latest poll, just over half the American public said they’d been boosted against Covid-19, but only 23% reported receiving the latest bivalent version of the booster vaccine.
At the broader societal level, in a CNN poll last fall, more than 6 in 10 Americans said they believed the pandemic had permanently reshaped multiple aspects of the American landscape, from healthcare (66%) and education (63%) to the economy (61%) and the way most people do their jobs (69%).
But while the public sees the pandemic’s effects as far-reaching and ongoing, they’re also not top of mind. In a Quinnipiac University survey released last week, fewer than 1% of Americans picked Covid-19 as “the most urgent issue facing the country.”