Many Americans have taken significant steps back from once-routine coronavirus precautions, with less than half now saying they regularly wear face masks, avoid crowds and skip nonessential travel.
Americans are letting down their guard even as experts warn a new wave of COVID-19 cases is coming. A new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research shows fewer people taking protective measures than at any point in AP-NORC polls conducted since early 2021.
The poll found 44% say they often or always wear a face mask around people outside of their homes, down from 65% in January when infections of the highly contagious omicron variant were soaring. Just 40% say they're largely avoiding nonessential travel, compared with 60% in January. And 47% say they regularly stay away from large groups, down from 65% in January.
Most Americans say they at least sometimes still follow those safeguards. But they're increasingly returning to pre-pandemic norms as coronavirus infections have fallen to their lowest level since July.
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention no longer recommends masking indoors for most Americans, while cities are lifting mask and vaccine requirements to enter restaurants, bars and concert venues. And more U.S. workers are returning to offices after two years of doing their jobs at home.
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Judy Morgan, a retired teacher from Poulsbo, Washington, said she and her husband, a Navy veteran, have gradually become more relaxed about wearing masks and other precautions since getting their vaccine booster shots in late October. Roughly six weeks ago, she went back to shopping without a mask when the Navy base where she buys groceries stopped requiring face coverings.
"I figured when the military starts easing up, because they're pretty strict, that's a very good sign," said Morgan, 80.