Many Americans Plan To Continue Practicing COVID-19 Precautions Post-Pandemic

A diverse group of people standing in line outside a building, socially distancing and wearing face masks.

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Key Takeaways

  • A new survey found that many individuals in the U.S. plan to continue practicing COVID-19 safety precautions even after the pandemic is under control and public health guidelines have relaxed.
  • Experts say the pandemic will likely change our relationship to public health measures, work, and more.

Researchers from The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center have released the results of a survey indicating that most Americans plan to continue following COVID-19 protocols after the pandemic ends and public health guidelines relax.

For the survey, the researchers asked more than 2,000 Americans about their plans for life after the COVID-19 pandemic is under control. Not surprisingly, many of the respondents said that they were looking forward to life returning to something close to normal in the future.

However, it might be more of a "new" normal: most of the people who responded also said that they’ll still take safety precautions even when COVID-19 poses less of a threat.

Some key findings from the survey include:

  • Nearly three-quarter of the respondents said they plan to keep wearing face masks in public
  • Four out of five people said that they will continue to avoid crowds
  • 90% of the respondents said that they will still practice frequent handwashing and sanitizer use

What This Means For You

Most Americans say that they will continue to take safety precautions, like wearing a face mask, social distancing, and washing their hands often, even after the COVID-19 pandemic is under control. As vaccine efforts continue around the world and we get closer to a "new normal," it's important that we all do our part to keep each other safe.

Hoping for Change

“I’m happy to see that a large proportion of Americans expect to continue safety protocols after the pandemic ends,” Allen Furr, PhD, professor of sociology at Auburn University in Alabama, tells Verywell. However, he wonders whether people will really make the changes they say they'll make if the perceived risk is low.

"It may be that people are saying it now because the risk and people’s anxiety levels are still high," Furr says. "We are only going to manage our public and personal health based on what we learn from this crisis."

Furr says that the results of the survey tell him that "we have learned that we can take responsibility for the health and wellbeing of ourselves and others."

That said, Furr adds, he is "hopeful that we have learned to think in terms of public health rather than solely personal health, and that we are sensitive to the health and well-being of other people.”

What the Future Holds

The pandemic learning curve has been steep, with the public often confused about what the scientific community knows (and doesn’t know) about the COVID-19 virus.

“This pandemic has exposed weaknesses in our collective science literacy," Furr says. "But I believe we have learned that infectious diseases are as much a sociological issue as they are medical."

Our Relationship to Viruses—and Each Other

Furr also points out that viruses are primarily spread socially, through our social behavior. Social inequalities and irresponsible behavior worsened the pandemic.

"We know that masks are important in controlling the spread of this and many other viruses," Furr says. "So I hope people will continue to be more careful in the future."

More than our relationship to the virus, Furr also sees the pandemic as a chance for us to reflect on our relationships with each other. "The COVID-19 crisis should be seen as an opportunity to become better prepared, more sympathetic for vulnerable groups, and appreciative for the low-wage work," Furr says.

A Shifting Work/Life Balance

The report also says that changes like working from home are also likely to stay when the pandemic is over—but Furr's not sure that's a positive.

“I wouldn’t say that a shift in labor from a workplace to the home is a good thing, as the [report] implied,” he says, pointing out that boundaries are easily blurred when work and home environments are combined.

"Having work intrude the home “space” degrades the value of the home as a place of respite and privacy," Furr says. "Is all our life meant to be about work? If work shifts to the homeplace, it will be hard for us to answer no to that question."

Public Health Support

To support life after the pandemic—whatever form it takes—Furr says that robust support for public health and preparedness will be essential.

The existence of such supports "are policy decisions of political will," Furr says. "And part of any policy shift to strengthen our preparedness must include a public that is willing to change its behavior in everyday life."

And it looks like many people are already taking—and maybe even starting to get used to—those precautions that will continue to be helpful even when the worst of the pandemic is behind us.

The information in this article is current as of the date listed, which means newer information may be available when you read this. For the most recent updates on COVID-19, visit our coronavirus news page.

1 Source
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  1. The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. Survey: most Americans say they’ll continue health precautions after COVID-19.

By Erica Gerald Mason
Erica Gerald Mason is an Atlanta-based writer with a focus on mental health and wellness.