Is the COVID-19 pandemic over? Here’s what Americans think

It’s been two years since the COVID-19 pandemic began, and many Americans are cautiously optimistic that a new normal is on the horizon. They just don’t think it’ll come quickly.

Gallup polling released this week found 63% of Americans believe the coronavirus situation is getting better, up from just 20% in January. It’s the highest the percentage has been since before the delta variant.

The newfound outlook comes as newly reported COVID-19 cases in the U.S. have dropped to their lowest point since last summer following a surge in record-high COVID-19 infections in January. Though deaths have declined, more than 1,000 Americans continue to die daily, according to the CDC’s seven-day average.

Most Americans aren’t under the impression that COVID-19 will end soon. The poll found 91% believe pandemic restrictions will continue for at least a few more months, including 38% who believe they will continue through the end of 2022 and 29% think it will go on even longer.

Yet many restrictions have already been lifted. In 38 states, there are no current restrictions, while eight states, including California and Hawaii, are easing them according to a USA Today analysis. Public transportation remains one area where masking remains required. The TSA announced Thursday that the federal mask mandate on planes, buses and trains will continue until at least April 18.

While most Americans think things are getting better, a quarter believe they’re staying the same, and 12% believe they’re getting worse. And many still have concerns, including 55% who said they are very or somewhat worried about new strains or variants, and 50% who are very or somewhat concerned about people choosing not to get vaccinated. Nearly two-thirds of Americans are fully vaccinated, but vaccination rates vary by state.

“With COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths declining in the wake of the omicron surge, Americans’ views of the state of the pandemic are sharply improved,” Gallup wrote. “Yet, Americans remain largely unconvinced that the end of the pandemic is near, and a majority still worry about the spread of new strains of the virus. With many Americans not fully or at all vaccinated, the U.S. remains vulnerable to new variants.”

COVID-19 has killed more than 964,000 Americans, and a study from the University of Michigan found more than 40% of survivors have had long-term effects that occur a month or more after infection.