New research shows that 40 percent of Americans believe the worst of the COVID-19 outbreak is behind them, even as health officials are warning that the accelerating global pandemic is yet to reach its peak.
A survey conducted by the Pew Research Centre in mid-June found that 40 percent of respondents thought the worst of the coronavirus crisis was over, while 59 percent of Americans expected the worst problems to still lie ahead.
The findings, based on a nationally representative sample of 4,708 randomly selected US adults, indicate changing perspectives on the outbreak in the minds of the American populace as the long crisis rolls on.
Only two months prior, 73 percent of respondents in a separate Pew study said they thought the worst was still to come – suggesting that the longer the outbreak continues, the more Americans are convinced they must have passed its terrible peak.
Unfortunately, the data – both nationally and internationally – don’t support this optimistic outlook.
In the past week, figures from Johns Hopkins University revealed that global infections have now passed 10 million, with 10,275,392 diagnosed COVID-19 cases at time of writing. Over 500,000 deaths globally are now attributed to the novel coronavirus.
Over a quarter of those cases – 2.58 million – have occurred in the US, which has been the global epicentre of the outbreak for months.
While the number of new cases began to level off in April and May, June has seen a significant resurgence in transmissions in the US, with the country repeatedly breaking a single-day record for new COVID-19 infections.
As of this week, new cases are increasing in more US states than the number of states in which new cases are level or decreasing – a trend that many in the health sector attribute to either lax restrictions or premature easing of restrictions amid economic pressures to reopen.
“People got complacent,” Marc Boom, the CEO of the Houston Methodist hospital system, told the Associated Press last week.
“And it’s coming back and biting us, quite frankly.”
Another striking finding in the Pew data is how much expectations about the course of the pandemic are divided along political lines. In the mid-June survey (conducted from June 16 to June 22, so before at least some of the recent increases), 61 percent of Republican respondents thought that “the worst is behind us”, while only 23 percent of Democrats polled did.
Regardless of these partisan perspectives, the current data suggests the worst is not behind America, nor most of the world in general.
Almost five months to the day since declaring the coronavirus outbreak a global health emergency, the World Health Organisation (WHO) warns that the COVID-19 pandemic is far from being done, urging governments and communities to do whatever they can to stop the spread of the virus.
“The worst is yet to come,” WHO’s director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, told media this week.
“We all want this to be over, we all want to get on with our lives, but the hard reality is this is not even close to being over. Although many countries have made some progress, globally, the pandemic is actually speeding up.”
The survey findings are available on the Pew Research Centre website.