Beginning late last month, nearly half of all states have now taken steps to reopen businesses shuttered by the coronavirus pandemic. Since then, an estimated 55 million more Americans have reentered the world, according to a new Gallup poll.
However, pollsters point out that it’s not just citizens of those states who are adding to the decline in social distancing.
More than half the country (58%) continues to observe strict public health guidelines by either completely (17%) or mostly (41%) isolating themselves, the poll found. Meanwhile, 17% have resumed pre-coronavirus activities (wherever possible).
The record to date for the number of self-isolating Americans was an estimated 75% between March 30 and April 5; the share fell from 71% between April 20-26 to 64% between May 4-10.
“It’s certainly [happening] in those states,” Jeffrey Jones, senior editor for the poll, tells USA Today, “but it’s also in the states that aren’t loosening their restrictions as well.”
The latest research includes responses from 4,159 US adults surveyed between May 4 and 10, and reports a margin of error of 3 percentage points on either side.
By May 4, 21 states had either removed or never implemented stay-at-home orders. Still, 51% of individuals from those states said they have continued to self-isolate to some extent, down from 64% two weeks prior.
Meanwhile, in the states that have maintained lockdown orders, including New York, California and Massachusetts, a 64% share say they are still self-isolating, per governors’ restrictions, though that number was 71% during the last full week of April.
That’s got health experts worried that we could soon unleash a second wave before flattening the first spike in coronavirus cases. Indeed, some of the states among those reopening have already reported a jump in newly diagnosed COVID-19 patients, including Texas, who reported a new single-day high in coronavirus deaths between Wednesday and Thursday this week.
“In a lot of these states, even the worst ones, the curve has flattened a little bit,” Jones said, “so maybe people are feeling a little braver about going out than they used to, seeing what’s happened in the course of the disease.”
Jones points to boredom, economic concerns and political disputes as reasons for the decline. Notably, the percentage of those still self-isolating diverges drastically between party lines, with 72% of Democrats social distancing compared to just 45% of Republicans. Somewhere between the two are the undeclared with 57% continuing the practice.
Men, too, are more likely to venture out (and get sick), with less than half (49%) still social distancing. A majority of women (67%) are staying inside. The recent decline in social distancing has been sharper among men, too, with 14% fewer isolating than two weeks ago, compared to just 7% fewer women.
While the number of people stepping out to grocery stores, places of work or other homes has increased slightly during the past two weeks, restaurant traffic has remained the same overall, with just 13% of respondents reporting a trip out to eat in the past 24 hours since April 26.
Currently, over 1.46 million American are confirmed to have been sickened by the virus. Over 87,000 of them have died.