After two years of COVID-19 pandemic, 59% of adults not yet back to ‘normal’

Masks stay on, activities curtailed, precautions continue for some.

After two years of COVID-19 pandemic conditions, almost six in 10 adults say they have not fully returned to “normal” pre-pandemic activities, according to a survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF).

Masks remained on, at least for 51% of adults who said in the past 30 days they wore a face covering every time or most of the time when indoors in public places. That included 28% who said they wore one every time, the survey said.

KFF published its latest “COVID-19 Vaccine Monitor: Views on the Pandemic at Two Years,” with an accompanying analysis of the survey results. The monitor is an ongoing research project tracking the public’s attitudes and experiences with COVID-19 vaccinations.

The results published April 6 came from surveys of 1,243 adults conducted March 15 to 22, marking the two-year anniversary of the pandemic.

“Conventional wisdom may be that Americans are ready to put COVID-19 in the rearview mirror and cast precautions aside,” the analysis said. But the report found “most adults have not yet resumed all of their normal pre-pandemic activities and most continue to mask regularly in public places.”

By the numbers

  • 59% - Adults who said they have not fully returned to their normal pre-pandemic activities, including 42% who say they have returned to doing only some of these activities and 17% who say they are doing very few of the activities they did before the pandemic.
  • 27% - Adults who said they have basically returned to normal.
  • 14% - Adults who said they never changed their routine at all. Majorities of unvaccinated adults (57%) and Republicans (55%), and nearly half of White adults (47%) report they never changed activity levels or have basically returned to normal.
  • 61% - Black adults who wore a mask out every time.
  • 20% - Black adults who wore a mask out most of the time.
  • 18% - White adults who reported using a mask every time.
  • 59% - Adults who think people should continue to wear masks in public places to minimize the spread of COVID-19.

The survey, which was conducted prior to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval of a fourth booster dose for certain groups, shows 40% of adults think people should stop wearing masks in public places “so things can get back to normal.”

Larger shares of Black adults (88%) and Hispanic adults (69%) say people should continue to wear a mask in public places, versus white adults (49%). “This finding may be reflective of larger shares of Black and Hispanic adults working in service industries compared to White adults, increasing their risk of exposure to COVID-19,” according to KFF.

Transportation

With the federal public transportation masking requirement set to expire April 18, adults split on whether the requirement should expire (51%) or be extended (48%). Views were largely partisan.

A majority of Democrats (72%) and vaccinated adults (54%) said they support extending the public transit masking requirement. Supporting the April 18 expiration were most Republicans (76%) and unvaccinated adults (73%).

More effects

  • 63% - Adults who said the pandemic negatively affected their child’s education.
  • 55% - Adults who said the pandemic had a negative impact on their child’s mental health.
  • 49% - Adults who said the pandemic had a negative effect on their mental health.
  • 67% - Young adults age 18 to 29 who said the pandemic negatively impacted their mental health.
  • 53% - Young adults age 18 to 29 who reported a negative impact on their physical health.

“When asked to name in their own words the hardest part of the pandemic over the past two years, people most often cited the lack of human interactions with about one in four (27%) adults saying the hardest part of the pandemic was isolating and not seeing people,” the KFF report said. “On the flip side, when asked about the positives of the pandemic, 24% of adults say changes brought about by the pandemic have made them closer to their families.”