As reopening begins, Americans concerns about COVID-19 may be easing, poll finds

As reopening begins, Americans concerns about COVID-19 may be easing, poll finds

As President Donald Trump encourages the country to resume economic activity amid the coronavirus outbreak, Americans' concerns that a family member could contract the illness have eased compared to a month ago, according to a Monmouth University poll published Monday.

Forty-two percent of Americans said they were "very concerned" that someone in their family could become seriously ill from COVID-19 and 28% said they were "somewhat concerned."

Those numbers were down from 50% and 33%, respectively, in Monmouth's April survey. Fourteen percent said they were "not too concerned" and 16% said they were "not at all concerned," which were up from 9% and 7% the month before.

When asked how the pandemic had affected them personally, 56% said it had a "major impact" (down from 62% in April), 31% said it has a "minor impact" (up from 27%) and 13% said it had "no impact" (up from 10%).

"Concern about Covid seems to have returned to where it was in the early days of the public response to the pandemic in this country," said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute.

The easing concern comes even as the percentage of Americans saying they knew someone who had become infected rose from 26% in April to 40%.

Virtually every governor has eased in at least some form the restrictions they put in place to slow the spread of the virus. A majority have lifted stay-at-home orders, or never imposed them to begin with.

Americans were split, 50%-50%, when asked if they were confident the country would be able to manage the outbreak as it reopens in the coming weeks.

Trump has encouraged governors to accelerate their reopenings as the lockdowns have stifled the economy and sent the unemployment rate soaring. He has expressed support for protesters objecting to the measures, even where governors are adhering to guidelines put out by his own administration, and on Monday he accused Democrats of dragging their feet for political gain.

"The great people of Pennsylvania want their freedom now, and they are fully aware of what that entails," the president said in a tweet. " The Democrats are moving slowly, all over the USA, for political purposes. They would wait until November 3rd if it were up to them. Don’t play politics. Be safe, move quickly!"

Former Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, in turn, said Trump was playing politics with the pandemic, accusing the president of "deflecting blame and dividing Americans."

"His goal is as obvious as it is craven: He hopes to split the country into dueling camps, casting Democrats as doomsayers hoping to keep America grounded and Republicans as freedom fighters trying to liberate the economy," Biden wrote in a Washington Post op-ed. "It’s a childish tactic – and a false choice that none of us should fall for."

The poll reflected the ideological split that has emerged over the coronavirus. While an equal percentage (27%) of Democrats and Republicans said they were "somewhat concerned" about a family member getting ill, 25% of Republicans said they were "very concerned," compared with 38% of independents and 60% of Democrats.

More Republicans (21%) said they were "not too concerned" about the possibility than independents (12%) or Democrats (10%). And while 25% of Republicans were "not at all concerned," 19% of independents and 3% of Democrats said the same.

The response all fell along racial lines, as the outbreak has taken a more severe toll on minority communities. While 34% of whites said they were "very concerned" about someone in their family contracting COVID-19, that number was 55% among minority respondents.

The number of Americans saying they have been hurt economically by the outbreak was almost unchanged from the previous Monmouth survey. Twenty-three percent described themselves as "struggling" compared with 63% who said "stable," and 40% said they had suffered a loss in income. And 23% said they have struggled to pay their bills. Twenty-six percent said at least one person in their household had been laid off because of the outbreak.

But 91% of Americans said they were still hopeful (63% of them "very hopeful") that their lives would return to normal when the outbreak is over.


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