Despite awareness of COVID-19 risks, many Americans say they’re back to ‘normal’

According to a national survey data from the Annenberg Public Policy Center, many in the U.S. are living ‘pre-pandemic’ lifestyles, despite the continuing risks.

Many Americans know of the potential risks to themselves and their families from infection with COVID-19, but growing numbers say they have returned to living their “normal” pre-pandemic lives, according to July 2022 national survey data from the Annenberg Public Policy Center (APPC).

Graph titled “When do you expect to return to your normal, pre-COVID-19 life?” with data from July 18, 2022, April 4, 2022, and January 17, 2022.
Image: Annenberg Public Policy Center

Increasing numbers say they personally know someone who has died from COVID-19 and personally know someone who has suffered the lingering effects such as neurological problems and fatigue that are commonly known as “long COVID,” according to the APPC survey, which was conducted July 12-18, 2022.

Despite awareness of the continuing risks of COVID-19, worries about its health effects have declined, the percentage of Americans who often or always wear masks indoors with people from outside their household has plummeted, and the number saying they have returned to living their “normal, pre-COVID-19 life” has more than doubled over the past six months.

The nationally representative panel of 1,580 U.S. adults, surveyed by SSRS for the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania, was the seventh wave of the Annenberg Science Knowledge (ASK) survey whose respondents were first empaneled in April 2021. The margin of sampling error (MOE) is ± 3.3 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. All changes noted in this release from previous surveys are statistically significant. See the appendix and methodology for additional information, including the survey questions.

The survey, conducted amid a surge in cases of the coronavirus BA.5 omicron subvariant and spreading cases of monkeypox, found that over half of Americans (54%) personally know at least one person who has died of COVID-19. Nearly 1 in 3 (31%) know someone who has experienced long COVID. Most of the public knows someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 despite being fully vaccinated—or being fully vaccinated and boosted. A majority of Americans (54%) say they rarely or never wear a mask indoors when with people from outside their household—more than double the proportion in January. And 4 in 10 (41%) say they have already returned to their “normal, pre-COVID-19 life”—up from 16% in January.

“After more than two years of experience with COVID-19 and its effects, the public is largely aware of the nature and risks of infection,” says Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center. “A consistent percentage does not believe a pre-COVID normal will ever be restored. But a growing number have returned to their pre-COVID life. One can only hope that those in each group have accurately calculated the risks and benefits that their decision entails.”

Read more at the Annenberg Public Policy Center.