Even though the COVID-19 pandemic continues to rage on, nearly three-quarters of Americans (74 percent) now say their lives have returned to “normal,” according to a new Yahoo News/YouGov poll.
It’s a number that underscores both the progress made possible by safe and effective vaccines and the challenges ahead as the holidays approach and yet another winter wave gets underway in the United States.
The survey of 1,696 adults, which was conducted from Nov. 17 to 19, found that only 15 percent say that things “never stopped being normal” for them — a reminder of just how profoundly the virus has disrupted American life.
Yet as the U.S. pandemic enters its 21st month, most Americans now characterize their own lives as either “very normal” (21 percent) or “somewhat normal” (53 percent), considering “the impact of COVID-19.”
Far fewer say their lives are either “not very normal” (19 percent) or “not normal at all” (7 percent).
After falling nationally for more than a month, COVID-19 cases are surging again in places with cooler weather that were spared the worst of the initial Delta spike in the U.S., which hit undervaccinated Southern states hardest this summer. Hospitalizations, up 6 percent nationwide over the last two weeks, are beginning to rise, too.
In that light, a return to “normal” may seem premature — and for many, it very well could be. A full 70 percent of unvaccinated Americans, for instance — the people who continue to account for nearly all COVID hospitalizations and deaths — describe their own lives as normal, and about a quarter of them say their lives are “very normal” (25 percent) or “never stopped” being normal to begin with (27 percent). That’s more than the number of vaccinated Americans who say the same (19 percent and 8 percent, respectively).
Likewise, nearly two-thirds of unvaccinated Americans (65 percent) now say that COVID poses either a “small” threat (31 percent) or “no” threat (34 percent) to them personally, and just 42 percent of unvaccinated Americans — compared to 63 percent of fully vaccinated Americans — say they wear a mask in public always or most of the time.
This suggests that in many cases, the people with the least protection against COVID are also the ones being the least careful about it — a dynamic that could make the coming winter wave more difficult and deadly than it needs to be.