Americans are abandoning their homes more and easing social distancing, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) easing guidelines for vaccinated Americans.
A new Gallup poll shows that since the spring of 2020, more ore people are visiting shops and restaurants than ever before.
Yet the vast majority of Americans report that they still wear masks outside their homes, and significant minorities still avoid crowds and public spaces.
The poll shows the country is moving “back to normal” after vaccinations and relaxed CDC guidance, while some Americans remain cautious.
Fewer Americans remain isolated than ever, according to a May Gallup poll
About 79 percent say they have used a face mask in the past week – less than at any time since May 2020, but still the vast majority
On May 13, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) made an important announcement: Vaccinated Americans could safely go outside without a mask.
In announcing the change, CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky explains that the vaccines used in the US very effective – also against variants – and protect against transmission of the coronavirus.
This means that vaccination not only protects you from getting sick yourself, but it is also unlikely that you will pass COVID to someone else.
Thanks to this protection, the CDC said fully vaccinated people should be able to go maskless in any public place — at the grocery store, at the football stadium, and everywhere in between.
After the announcement, states from Kentucky to New York relaxed their own mask requirements and other steps towards full reopening.
At the time, many Americans said they would continue to wear masks in public regardless of vaccination status.
But one new Gallup poll conducted a week after the CDC’s guidelines were changed, it appears that Americans are beginning to feel more comfortable with a reopened world.
The Gallup survey was conducted from May 18 to May 23, including a random sample of approximately 3,600 adults.
Only 22 percent of adults in the poll said they completely or largely isolated themselves from people outside their household.
This is a long way from spring 2020 — by April, 75 percent of adults were completely isolated. Only 3 percent made no attempt to isolate themselves.
Americans are also returning to the public space. The proportion of adults who say they avoid places where people gather was the lowest Gallup has recorded since March 2020.
Crowded events, travel and other activities that seemed taboo in the spring of 2020 are now becoming commonplace again – but many remain cautious
Yet many Americans still take precautions. Gallup reports that 44 percent avoided events with large crowds during the week they were surveyed.
About 40 percent avoided traveling by plane or public transport, while 34 percent avoided visiting public places in general. Just over a quarter of Americans (26 percent) still avoided small gatherings with family or friends.
These numbers are much lower than this winter, when the country’s biggest surge hit. In January, 72 percent reported avoiding large crowds.
Americans are also becoming increasingly comfortable visiting shops, restaurants and other establishments.
People are increasingly comfortable going out in public, in restaurants and shops
More people are going to supermarkets, pharmacies and other shops
More Americans are visiting restaurants – both takeout and dine in
In the May poll, 60 percent of respondents said they’d gone to a grocery store in the past day, 35 percent said they’d gone to a different type of store, and 24 percent said they’d gone to a pharmacy — all six percent higher than these figures in April.
The number of respondents who recently visited a restaurant increased even more: from 30 percent in April to 38 percent in May. People were also dining – 26 percent said they had eaten in the past day, compared to 22 percent in April.
More Americans reported going to doctors, salons and other service providers as well, although these areas saw fewer usage jumps compared to stores and restaurants.
The CDC no longer requires face masks for fully vaccinated Americans, and people are starting to feel comfortable with that option
The Gallup survey also saw a decline in face mask use, likely inspired by the CDC’s guidance shift.
In the May survey, the poll found that 79 percent of respondents said they had worn a face mask in the past week, compared to 86 percent in April.
However, this still indicates that the vast majority of the country uses masks. And mask use is higher among vaccinated adults, indicating that those people who are more likely to get their COVID shot are also more likely to remain cautious afterward.
Of those respondents who said they had no intention of getting vaccinated, only 49 percent said they had worn a face mask in the past week.
Unvaccinated Americans are less likely to wear a face mask than those who have been vaccinated — and who don’t really need the mask
Those unvaccinated Americans are most likely to need a mask, experts say.
For this group, wearing a mask doesn’t just protect individuals from contracting COVID – it also prevents the coronavirus from spreading to those Americans who are currently unable to get vaccinated. This includes children under 12 and those who are immunocompromised due to medical conditions.
Continued vaccinations and other public health measures are important to ensure that this spring’s reopening – coupled with the highly contagious variety from India – will not lead to spikes in the coming months.