The pandemic’s third wave is continuing its upward climb. Within the past week, the U.S. has seen an alarmingly high average of nearly 83,000 new cases per day – up 45% from two weeks prior. Record case levels have been reported in more than 20 states. Extreme concern about being in public spaces increased again this week – for the second week in a row. Those who are ‘very concerned’ surpassed those only ‘somewhat concerned.’ 

Roughly half of Americans (49%) are expecting to practice social distancing and self-isolation for more than six months – the highest percentage CivicScience has observed to date. 

Day-to-Day Comfort 

With these numbers increasing week over week, it’s not surprising that comfort with traveling, shopping in stores, and eating at restaurants has declined.

That being said, of course, not everyone is reporting higher discomfort levels. Looking along party lines reveals that Republicans are much more likely to have travel plans in the coming month.

And Democrats are the most likely to have plans to get food from a restaurant in the coming week, but over three quarters of them will get takeout or delivery (aka will not dine in).

The Unemployment Pandemic

Americans’ comfort with returning to work is looking a bit more bleak – for the second week in a row, comfort declined after reaching a high point in mid-October. The number of people who won’t feel comfortable returning for six months or more reached nearly 30% this week – the highest point seen since the beginning of August.

Compared to two weeks ago, slightly fewer previously working adults are still getting paid by their employer, which remains consistent with last week. Excluding those who were previously unemployed, 14% of U.S. adults report not working and not getting paid and 12% are working but with reduced hours or pay.

Concern about job status at large is changing too – the data is shifting from more people being just ‘somewhat concerned’ to now ‘very concerned’ about their current employment situation.

COVID Economic Implications

Comfort levels for returning to activities coincides with the CivicScience Economic Sentiment Index – a living index that measures U.S. adults’ expectations for the economy going forward, as well as their feelings about current conditions for major purchases. Most economic indicators have ebbed and flowed with the ESI since April. 

Other indicators tracked by the ESI have shifted since last week. Now, More Americans are saying they’d anticipate it being more difficult to find a job within the next six months (44%).

As mentioned in this report last week, the pandemic is clearly affecting more vulnerable populations. Lower-income households still harbor much more concern for finding a new job while that sentiment has recovered among higher-income households. 

Compared to last week, fewer people expect their personal financial situations to get better over the next six months.

But again, that’s not the same for lower-income households seven months later. Only 27% of households earning under $25K and 31% earning between $25 and $50K say their situations will improve in the next six months.

Looking along party lines shows an even more stark difference than income brackets. Republicans are much more optimistic when it comes to their personal financial situations than they were at the beginning of the pandemic, and when compared to Democrats / Independents in general.

Next week’s report will be released post-election day in the U.S. In the meantime, stay up to date with the latest insights here