Can Americans Handle Renewed COVID Restrictions?

Survey Results Fielded From Dec. 16 to July 2

Man looks down at face mask conflicted on whether he should wear it.

Brianna Gilmartin / Verywell

Key Themes From Our Survey

  • Despite increasing infections and hospitalizations, COVID-19 vaccination rates remain at a standstill.
  • Americans are worried about the spread of the Delta variant and others like it.
  • States may be forced to reinstate COVID precautions like mask mandates.

As COVID-19 variants circulate widely across the U.S., infection rates and hospitalizations, which were dropping steadily since January, are now on the rise. But vaccinations are still stalling.

Making up most of those new cases and hospitalizations: large chunks of the remaining unvaccinated population. According to Verywell Health’s latest vaccine sentiment tracker survey, nearly a quarter (23%) of our respondents remain undecided or against getting the COVID-19 vaccine. This proportion hasn’t changed meaningfully in two months.

With a significant portion of the U.S. population still unvaccinated, virus variants are given more room to spread—making the risk of COVID worse for everyone. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now estimates that 83% percent of current COVID cases are attributable to the highly transmissible Delta variant. Many Americans are getting worried. 

The data presented in this article is from fourteen surveys of 2,000 Americans asked about their thoughts and feelings towards getting the COVID-19 vaccines. We collected the latest data for the week ending on July 2. Our survey sample highlighted four types of respondents based on their answer to whether or not they’d get an FDA-authorized COVID-19 vaccine if it were free and available: 

  • Acceptors: Those who would agree to be vaccinated but have not yet
  • Rejectors: Those who would not agree to take a vaccine
  • Undecideds: Those who don’t know if they would take a vaccine
  • Vaccinated: Those who have received a COVID-19 vaccination

Overall, half of Americans surveyed—52%—have recently heard of new virus strains and 41% say they’re concerned about the new variant.

People are right to be worried about it. Variants are sparking regional epidemics in largely unvaccinated communities. And even vaccinated individuals can catch the virus—called a breakthrough case—though their course of illness is typically much less severe.

Mixed Feelings About Reinstating COVID Precautions 

The rise of cases and hospitalizations may lead to reinstated pandemic precautions, which can affect everything from schooling to social activities. Some states may be forced to renew COVID measures. So masking up and social distancing are not part of a distant future just yet.

But most Americans feel prepared for that reality. Half of our survey respondents said that if there were another round of shutdowns, they are confident they could handle it. 

Half (55%) of Americans said they’re still wearing masks. And an additional 34% say they would do so again if it were recommended by the CDC.

Most also say they would be equally or more likely to comply with social distancing compared to their behavior in 2020.

While the CDC’s guidelines state that fully vaccinated people don’t need to wear masks indoors, some states and local governments are reconsidering.

Health officials in LA reinstated indoor mask mandates. New Orleans is considering requiring masks for unvaccinated people attending major events in the fall. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends everyone attending or working on-site at schools wear masks—vaccinated or not.

Internationally, the World Health Organization (WHO) still recommends that everyone, continue wearing masks. 

But time will only tell if the fall will spur a renewal of COVID-19 safety precautions nationwide.

A Word From Verywell

The threat of variants is real. Even for vaccinated people.

You can protect yourself by being fully vaccinated against COVID-19. If you haven’t gotten around to getting your second dose, now is the time to follow up with it. The antibodies from just your first dose may not be enough to protect you from this new variant.

If you’re fully vaccinated, the best thing you can do is to continue to mask up if you’re going to be in public places with other people indoors, as the WHO recommends. Masking in public will help stop you from spreading the virus to others, which can happen even if you feel fine or feel like you have the symptoms of a mild cold.


The Verywell Vaccine Sentiment Tracker is a biweekly measurement of Americans’ attitudes and behaviors around COVID-19 and the vaccine. The survey is fielded online every other week. The total sample matches U.S. Census estimates for age, gender, race/ethnicity, and region. It consists of 1,000 Americans from December 16, 2020, until February 26, 2020, after which the sample size increased to 2,000 per wave.

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

By Jennifer Welsh
Jennifer Welsh is a Connecticut-based science writer and editor with over ten years of experience under her belt. She’s previously worked and written for WIRED Science, The Scientist, Discover Magazine, LiveScience, and Business Insider.