Economy

How Quickly Americans Expect to Resume Their Lives After COVID-19

Paul Ausick

As local governments and businesses gradually lift stay-at-home restrictions, Americans remain cautious about resuming what were once normal activities, such as going out to eat, shop or see a movie. That shouldn’t be too surprising given the wide differences between those who believe that the COVID-19-inspired lockdowns were too strict and those who worry that reopening the U.S. economy too soon could lead to a resurgence of the disease.

Research firm Morning Consult asked 2,200 U.S. adults when they would feel safe doing a particular activity once restrictions on movement are relaxed. The firm asked the question twice, once in early April and again more than two weeks later. Overall, slightly more of the respondents said recently that they would feel more comfortable now than they did earlier this month. In some cases, nearly half of the respondents had no opinion on when they might feel comfortable resuming these activities.

A signal that an economic recovery may take much longer than expected is the percentage of respondents who said they would not be comfortable returning to normal activities for at least six months. In the more recent survey, at least 20% of respondents would wait six months to do every activity except attend a work conference (19%). More than a quarter (28%) would not consider attending a concert or an amusement park for at least six months.

The activity more Americans would be willing to resume most quickly is going out to a restaurant for a meal. More than a quarter (26%) of those surveyed said they would feel comfortable going to a restaurant within the next two months. The second-highest rated activity (19%) said they’d be okay with going to a shopping mall in the next two months.

A fairly steady percentage ranging from about 10% to around 14% of respondents would feel comfortable with any of the listed activities: attending a party, a movie, a concert, a museum, a religious gathering, an amusement park, a theatrical performance, the gym, a work conference or a political rally.

After six months, 78% of Americans would feel comfortable at a restaurant and 71% would go to a shopping mall. Two-thirds would feel comfortable attending a party or the movies, while 60% would attend a concert. More than half (58%) would attend a religious gathering, but that percentage was lower than the 61% who said they would attend church in the earlier survey.

The activity expected to see the least return to normalcy is attending a political rally. Just 19% of survey respondents said they’d be willing to attend a rally in less than six months, and another 22% said they wouldn’t attend a political rally for at least six months.