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Poll: Americans ready to ditch face masks and social distancing

Americans say they're also less concerned they or a loved one will become seriously ill from Covid.

(CN) — More than two years into the Covid-19 pandemic, a poll reports a sizeable majority of Americans from across the political spectrum say it’s time to walk back some of the restrictions.

Released Monday from Monmouth University, the new poll reveals a steep decline in the number of Americans who say they want to keep the Covid-19 safety measures as we’ve come to know them. Nearly 80% of respondents say they’re ready for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to relax their guidelines on mask wearing and social distancing in areas where Covid rates are under control. Just a third of Americans say they want to keep the restrictions in place in their area, down significantly from the 52% who said the same just two months ago.  

The desire to put more Covid restrictions in the rearview mirror stretches across party lines, according to pollsters. While Democrats have historically been more shy to do away with Covid-19 safety measures, 67% of them now say they’re behind the CDC walking back the precautions.

Fears for family members becoming seriously sick have dropped as well. Just 23% of Americans say they’re seriously worried about a loved one getting sick, the lowest since this past summer, with Democrats leading the optimism.

While support for face mask and social distancing requirements has waned since the top of the year, support for workplace vaccination mandates has not. A little under half (44%) of Americans believe its still fine to have employees show proof of their vaccination status in order to work in a public place, virtually the same share of respondents who were fine with it in January.

Moving forward, what many Americans seem to want more than anything is flexibility. Just 14% want to stay on a set of fixed protocols, while half of them say they’d like to see the government adapt guidelines as new developments happen. The remaining 34% would like to see restrictions tossed out altogether.

Still, more people than ever say they’re resigned to the reality that Covid-19 is not going anywhere soon. When presented with the idea that “it’s time we accept that Covid is here to stay and we just need to get on with our lives,” 73% of Americans said they agreed — up a few points from January.

Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute, says the results suggest many Americans’ idea of “getting on with life” might be much different than what we originally thought.

“We asked the same question about accepting Covid is here to stay two months ago and got a similarly high number who want to get on with life,” Murray said. “Our working hypothesis was that many people who support mandates simply wanted consistency in the guidelines. This new data suggests that is not necessarily the case. For some Americans, getting on with life means constantly being on guard and ready to reinstitute restrictions as new situations emerge.”

The number of Americans who’ve gotten a booster vaccinations has remained virtually unchanged and doesn’t appear to show signs of changing much. In line with previous data, just a little less than half of Americans say they got boosted while a third say they’re probably not going to get one at all.

As Americans’ anxieties over Covid have gone down, their appreciation for how the nation is responding to the pandemic has gone up. About half of Americans (49%) say they think President Joe Biden is doing a good job handling the crisis, up six points from two months ago, and other federal agencies and local governments saw similar bumps.

Even the American public, by the far the worst performer on this question in polls past, saw some slight gained confidence. While just 29% said the public at large was doing a good job with the virus at the start of 2022, 35% say we’re doing a decent job with it today.

Monday’s Monmouth poll contained a sample size of 809 adults and a 3.5% plus or minus margin of error.

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