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What’s the Point? On COVID-19, Americans Now Think the Worst of the Pandemic Is Behind Them

What’s the Point? On COVID-19, Americans Now Think the Worst of the Pandemic Is Behind Them

After two years of battling COVID-19, the United States has made important progress and must now take additional steps to prepare for future pandemics.

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A medical professional administers the COVID-19 vaccine. (Getty)

After two years of the coronavirus pandemic—which has claimed nearly one million lives in the United States alone, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)—a majority of Americans now believe the country has moved to a better place beyond the depths of the public health crisis. Looking at the most recent polling from The Economist/YouGov, nearly 6 in 10 Americans say the worst part of the pandemic is over, compared with roughly 1 in 10 who feel that the country is either currently in the worst part of the pandemic or that the worst is yet to come.

Figure 1

A similar proportion of Americans—55 percent—report that the number of cases in the community where they live is decreasing, compared with 18 percent who say case numbers are stable and 10 percent who say they are rising. This is good news overall given the number of Americans who have died or contracted the coronavirus. Fourteen percent of Americans say that a member of their own family has died from COVID-19, with about one-quarter saying that a close friend of theirs has died from the coronavirus.

Nearly three-quarters of Americans report that they themselves or a member of their family have contracted COVID-19. Self-reported vaccination rates in The Economist/YouGov poll show that 71 percent of Americans have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, with a full 60 percent saying they have received the initial two doses plus the recommended booster. These self-reported figures are slightly lower than the CDC’s official number, which shows that 82 percent of eligible Americans have received at least one dose of any vaccine. The differences are most likely attributable to the fact that The Economist/YouGov only polled U.S. adults.

In terms of what people face now and in the future, Americans are virtually split on which is more important to them: 52 percent are more concerned with protecting people from the health effects of COVID-19, while 48 percent find protecting people from the pandemic’s economic effects more important. Moreover, 40 percent of Americans now feel that the pandemic has already ended or will end in 2022, with roughly one-third saying it will end after 2022 and another quarter believing that it will never end.

What’s the point on the COVID-19 pandemic? Although nearly half of Americans—48 percent—believe that the United States has not won the war against COVID-19, the bulk of citizens today do believe the country has made great progress as a nation on this deadly pandemic and that the worst has past. Therefore, this is a good time to start figuring out what the country must do to better prepare itself for the next pandemic and help choke off the remaining grip COVID-19 has on the most vulnerable citizens—starting with passing the bipartisan coronavirus package for testing, treatment, and vaccines that was excluded from the most recent budget deal and is currently moving through the U.S. Senate.

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John Halpin

Senior Fellow; Co-Director, Politics and Elections

Ruy Teixeira

Senior Fellow

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This regular column examines in plain language what Americans need to know about new and interesting public opinion research, from the economy to foreign policy issues.


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