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Americans are starting to feel like the COVID-19 pandemic is over, and a majority have returned to pre-pandemic activities like dining out, visiting friends and family in person and going shopping – even as daily case figures rise in many parts of the country.
An Axios-Ipsos poll published Wednesday found that 30 percent of Americans believe the COVID-19 pandemic is now over, with nearly 60 percent of Republicans in particular considering the virus’s dominance over the world to be a relic of the past.
Even many of those that do consider the pandemic to be ongoing are still returning to normal life, with more than 60 percent of survey respondents saying they had returned to regular, in person, activities that were largely halted when the virus broke out across the world in early 2020.
The data is revealed as Covid cases begin to increase once again after sharp decreases coming off of the mid-January peak of the Omicron variant. Daily cases have jumped 20 percent over the past week to 95,719 per day – the highest point since early February.
Despite the rising cases, deaths have remained low – partly because of America’s high vaccine coverage and the more mild nature of the Omicron variant when compared to previous forms of the virus. The nation is averaging 340 deaths per day, a 35 percent drop over the last seven days.
Researchers surveyed 982 participants between May 13 and 16 for the survey, which has been conducted frequently since the pandemic first emerged in March 2020.
When asked if they believed the COVID-19 pandemic was over, ten percent of respondents said they ‘strongly agreed’, and 20 percent reported that they ‘somewhat agreed’.
A majority of Americans still think the situation is continuing, with 39 percent of respondents saying they ‘strongly disagreed’ with the statement that the pandemic was over, the largest share of respondents.
Still, though, that 30 percent of Americans now think that the situation has been resolved represents a major shift in the dominance the virus has in many people’s lives – with some feeling so comfortable at the moment that they believe the whole situation is over.
Participants were also asked if they had taken part in some regular activities that may have been halted during the early stages of the virus. When asked if they had gone out to eat over the past week, 65 percent of Americans responded that they had.
Nearly 70 percent of Americans said they had visiting a friend or a relative over the past week as well. Just over 60 percent said they went to a non-grocery retail store in person over the last seven days.
This shows that many Americans who still believe the pandemic is active are even returning to somewhat normal life, and taking part in activities that were deemed unsafe early on in the virus’s life-span.
More than one-in-five participants in the survey said that they felt there was no risk in returning to what they considered to be normal life, with 41 percent saying there was only a small risk.
Less than ten percent of Americans still think there is a large risk to living life as they normally had before the virus erupted two years ago.
Respondents are also ditching some of the pandemic related guidelines they dealt with over the past two years, like masking and keeping six feet of space between themselves and others in public.
Less than 20 percent of respondents said they were ‘always’ taking both precautions when in public over the past week. More than a third of participants said they ‘never’ wore a mask in the last seven days, and a fifth of Americans are no longer maintaining six feet of distance ever, the study found.
Americans’ increased comfort with the virus comes as a result of its lessoning mortality. While cases in the country are rising, deaths have remained at one of their lowest points during the pandemic over the past month.
Officials are warning that more pandemic related threats are forming around the world, though, and that it could be too early to let their guard down.
The prevalence of the new BA 2.12.1 Covid strain – the most infectious version of the virus being sequenced by U.S. health officials – is continuing to grow, officials report.
The strain, which was first detected in New York last month, now makes up 48 percent of sequenced Covid cases in America, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported on Tuesday. It is an increase from the 43 percent of cases the strain made up the prior week.
This newly detected version of the virus is a sub-lineage of the BA.2 ‘stealth’ variant, which remains the dominant strain as it makes up 51 percent of cases. The new strain is believed to have around a 27 percent growth advantage over its predecessor, and will likely take over as the nation’s dominant strain by the end of the month.
Every single Covid case sequenced by the CDC falls under the umbrella of the Omicron variant, with the Delta variant now having been totally snuffed out by its successor.
The BA.1 strain of the virus, which caused record case outbreaks across the world over the winter, now only makes up 0.3 percent of cases in the U.S., as its sub-variant have almost entirely overtaken it.
Newer versions of Omicron may be on their way to America as well.
There are growing concerns about the BA.4 and BA.5 strains of the virus, which are now making ground in South Africa, causing another surge in the nation. The country was also the first to suffer from the original version of Omicron in late November.
This week, both the World Health Organization and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control declared them both ‘variants of concern’, acknowledging the dangers they pose to the global population.
A pre-print study out of South Africa also found that the two variants may have the ability to evade immunity to the virus provided by previous infection.
That could be a grave concern for officials, as the massive spread of Omicron during the winter months – giving a vast portion of Americans immunity to the virus in the process – will no longer protect people going forward, opening the door for yet another large surge.