Americans are broadly aware of the highly transmissible Delta variant of the coronavirus and more than 70% are at least somewhat concerned about it, a new Axios/Ipsos poll finds—but despite warnings from public health officials, Americans are increasingly getting back to normal and do not foresee a new spike in cases from the variant changing that.
The Axios/Ipsos poll, conducted June 25-28 among 1,065 U.S. adults, found 48% of respondents were at least somewhat familiar with the Delta variant—a highly infectious coronavirus strain first identified in India and now fueling outbreaks around the world—while another 36% had heard of it but know nothing about the variant.
Among those familiar with the variant, 72% are either very or somewhat concerned, including 92% of Democrats and 50% of Republicans.
Despite their concern, the poll found only 55% are wearing a mask all or sometimes when they leave their home—which Axios notes is the lowest share since polling began in April 2020—and the percentage of respondents saying they social distanced in the past week (34%) is 10 points lower than at the start of the month.
If there was a new spike in cases in their area, respondents were mostly unlikely to say they’d start taking precautions again: Only 43% said they would self-quarantine and 57% say they’d stop gathering with friends and family, while only approximately half would curb non-grocery shopping trips.
Respondents did not seem to be concerned about the variant’s effect on summer activities, with 59% saying July 4 celebrations pose little or no risk—versus 71% in 2020 who believed the celebrations did pose a risk—and 64% saying summer travel would not be particularly risky.
Axios noted that respondents were more likely to say they would stop socializing outside the home in the event of a new outbreak if that’s what their governor or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended.
What To Watch For
The Delta variant accounted for approximately 20% of U.S. cases as of last week, Dr. Anthony Fauci said, and is doubling in prevalence approximately every two weeks. The variant, which is more transmissible than past strains of the coronavirus, is expected to soon become the dominant strain in the U.S., CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky has projected. Public health officials have warned the variant will likely fuel “dense outbreaks” in areas where vaccination rates are low, such as Southern states like Mississippi and Alabama, and Fauci has said the variant poses the “greatest threat” to the country’s efforts to eradicate Covid-19.
The Delta variant has spurred new surges of Covid-19 around the world including in the United Kingdom, Australia and Israel, which has reimposed their mask mandate and is seeing an outbreak despite being among the most highly vaccinated countries in the world. Covid-19 vaccines are considered to be largely protective against the variant—studies show two doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is approximately 90% effective—but public health officials have cautioned even fully vaccinated people not to forgo public health protocols in light of the variant’s spread. World Health Organization officials urged people on Friday to continue wearing masks and social distancing even if they’ve received both doses, with WHO senior advisor Dr. Bruce Aylward saying the fully vaccinated should “play it safe” since there is a risk they could still “end up as part of a transmission chain.” While the CDC has yet to change its guidance saying fully vaccinated Americans do not have to wear masks, some localities are offering their own guidance, with Los Angeles County recommending Monday that all residents now wear masks indoors.
While the Axios/Ipsos poll showed Americans being broadly ready to get back to some sense of normalcy despite the threat of the Delta variant, other recent polls have shown people are largely hesitant to say that the pandemic is over.. A Gallup poll released Monday found only 29% of Americans are willing to say the pandemic in the U.S. is “over,” and while 53% now say the pandemic is disrupting their lives either not much or not at all, only 15% of respondents said their lives are now “completely back to normal.” Though most Axios/Ipsos respondents believe July 4 celebrations and summer travel should pose little to no risk, a Monmouth University poll released Monday found fewer Americans will nevertheless be out celebrating the holiday this year than pre-pandemic, and only 48% of respondents planned to travel this summer, versus 49% who said they wouldn’t.