COVID infections and hospitalizations continue to trend higher, but a new report finds concerns about the virus seem to be dropping.

Patrick Murray, the director of the Monmouth University poll, said a just-released survey finds people’s feelings about the threat posed by the virus are changing.

No big deal

“Right now 23% say they’re very concerned about a family member becoming seriously ill, that matches the all-time low on this question since the pandemic began,” he said.

Murray noted in previous polls 50% or more of the public has indicated they were very concerned about a member of their family getting COVID.

He said it's interesting that “this lack of concern or lessening of concern comes at the same time that more and more people are reporting that they have been infected or believe they’ve been infected, nearly half the public.”

He said a large majority of people (77%) endorse the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention relaxing its coronavirus recommendations.

“When it comes to face mask and social distancing guidelines, support for keeping them in place has gone down to a third, that’s 34% down from 52% just couple of months ago," he said. “When we ask them about mandates for vaccines in the workplace, that number is steady at 44%.”

Accepting COVID

He said the poll finds 73% of respondents believe COVID is here to stay and we’ve just got to learn to live with it.

“What we’re finding is about half the public (50%) is saying that living with COVID means just being ready to adapt and change your guidelines as needed if new variants come up. That’s the new reality,” he said

On the flip side, there are a significant number of people (34%) “who say that living with COVID means forget mask and vaccine guidelines, just go back to the way we were living before and just accept the consequences.”

Partisan differences are sharp

There are significant differences in how Democrats and Republicans feel about pandemic precautions.

“A majority of Democrats support mandates, they support guidelines, they support social distancing and they support getting the vaccine,” he said.

He pointed out while 82% of Democrats are in favor of maintaining pandemic safety flexibility, “among Republicans, a majority say get rid of all the guidelines and a significant proportion of them continue to say they will never get the vaccine themselves, no matter what.”

He said the poll finds 87% of Republicans oppose social distance and mask guidelines, 83% are against vaccine guidelines and 54% of Republicans indicate they are not likely to get a COVID booster vaccine.

He said ratings for how the pandemic has been handled have ticked higher over the past two months, including for President Joe Biden (49% good job, up from 43% in January), and federal health agencies (53%, up from 46%).

The Monmouth University Poll was conducted between March 10 to 14 with a probability-based national random sample of 809 adults age 18 and older. This included 278 contacted by a live interviewer on a landline telephone and 531 contacted by a live interviewer on a cell phone, in English.

David Matthau is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at david.matthau@townsquaremedia.com

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