An increasing number of Americans from both political parties believe that the worst of the coronavirus pandemic is over, even as the number of daily new cases is rapidly increasing across the country.
A new Pew Research Center survey found that 40 percent of Americans now believe the worst of Covid-19 is in the past, up from 26 percent in early April. That number includes most Republicans, 61 percent of whom said the country has already suffered the worst of the pandemic.
Overall, the survey, conducted June 16-22, with 4,708 American adults and a margin of error of 1.8 percentage points, found a surprisingly deep ideological divide between how Republicans and Democrats think about the continuing threat of the virus .
Democrats were much more likely to say they were concerned about having Covid-19 and needing to be hospitalized; so they can transmit the virus to other people; and that they feel uncomfortable going to salons, restaurants, sporting events or social gatherings. For example, the study found that 65 percent of Republicans now feel comfortable eating at a restaurant, compared to 28 percent of Democrats.
This division is reflected in the clear difference in the response of public officials to the coronavirus. President Donald Trump has long downplayed the threat posed by Covid-19, and has pressured states to reopen nonessential businesses. That momentum was, until recently, widely accepted by its statewide allies. However, some states with Republican governors, such as Texas and Florida, have begun to reduce those reopens amidst more cases.
Many Democrats, on the other hand, have advocated a more cautious reopening, and some, such as Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi, and alleged Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, argue for ordering the use of masks in public.
Beyond partisan leanings, the study also found a racial divide in current attitudes about Covid-19, with black and Latino Americans more likely to fear infection than white Americans.
Sixty-three and 73 percent of African Americans and Latinos, respectively, said they were at least somewhat concerned that they would become infected and need hospitalization; 43 percent of white Americans said they had the same fear. Asymptomatic spread was also a major concern for black and Latinx respondents; 72 percent of African Americans and 79 percent of Latin Americans were found to be at least somewhat concerned about being asymptomatic carriers, compared to 56 percent of white Americans with the same concern.
These findings reflect the work of several other studies showing that people’s political beliefs are one of the biggest indicators of how they respond to the pandemic, as well as data and analysis showing that Americans of color are more likely to become infected and die of Covid. 19 than white Americans.
The study also revealed that, overall, Americans are united in one thing: They are less scared now than they were in April.
Coronavirus cases are on the rise across the country
However, Americans still have many concerns. After nearly two months of decline in coronavirus cases in the US, cases have skyrocketed in the past two weeks. Between June 22 and 26, the country went from having less than 25,000 new cases per day to more than 45,000. On Friday, the United States recorded its largest one-day increase in confirmed cases, documenting 45,498 new cases, according to the New York Times.
States like Arizona, Florida and Texas and others across the south have been the hardest hit. Texas, one of the first states to begin reopening nonessential businesses, and Florida have already begun reversing their economic reopens in response to the increase in cases. When Florida saw nearly 9,000 new cases and Texas nearly 6,000 on Friday, both states ordered the bars closed.
As German Lopez from Vox explained, many states never controlled their outbreaks before reopening sectors of their economy: the public was sent back to offices, restaurants, bars, and salons across the country, as the coronavirus was still circulating in their communities, which caused an increase in cases.
“It is a situation that did not have to be,” said Jaime Slaughter-Acey, an epidemiologist at the University of Minnesota, adding that states were unable “to be proactive about mitigating the Covid-19 pandemic and helping to normalize culture for adopt practices that can stem the tide of transmissions as well as the development of Covid-19 complications. “
Not all states have begun to see an increase in new infections; many of the worst-hit states at the start of the pandemic, such as New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, have been spared the increases. While this could be attributed to a number of factors, epidemiologists believe that these states have avoided large new cases by implementing strict social distancing policies and promoting the use of masks.
As López reports, the most important thing, experts say, is that the reopens take place slowly. Due to the way the coronavirus manifests itself in humans, it can take two weeks, if not more, to see the impact of any policy change. Many experts recommend that states be prepared to quickly reintroduce restrictions when they see cases increase.
Lauren Meyers, a mathematical biologist at the University of Texas Austin, told Lopez: “Relax little by little and see if it works. If we relax some measures, we observe the data for a few weeks; if it doesn’t go up, maybe we can relax a little bit more. “
For now, however, the figures suggest that it is not yet time to relax, and that the worst is not behind the United States.
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