Although tracking COVID-19 case counts in the U.S. has become increasingly difficult, all signs point to a surge exceeding what current federal data detects. Numerous states reported a rise in cases and hospitalizations ahead of Labor Day weekend, and Tuesday brought news that First Lady Jill Biden had tested positive for COVID before the president’s planned trip for the G20 in India.

CivicScience has constantly tracked American sentiment and behaviors surrounding COVID since March 2020 and revisited some of our comfort numbers in light of the recent uptick in cases. According to the latest data, concerns about air travel are on the rise alongside new cases. Ten percent of U.S. adults claim they’re currently ‘reluctant’ to travel via airplane due to concerns about getting COVID-19, which is up from 8% in June. This February was the last time air travel concerns due to COVID reached or exceeded 10%. In comparison, more than twice that percentage are reluctant to fly right now due to concerns about flight delays and cancelations.

The current CDC guidance for quarantining after a positive case has changed significantly from the first year of COVID (it now recommends ending isolation as early as 5 days after symptom onset, if symptoms improve and you’re fever-free for at least 24 hours). With that comes differing attitudes toward the severity of the virus itself, especially after the Department of Health and Human Services ended the federal emergency for COVID-19 back in May.

According to a recent CivicScience poll, a near-equal percentage of Americans with an opinion on the matter think COVID-19 is ‘more severe’ (39%) and ‘about as severe’ (41%) as illnesses like the common cold or flu. Nearly 1-in-5 consider it ‘less severe.’ Registered Democrats (57%) and independents (45%) are the most likely to consider it ‘more severe,’ while a majority of registered Republicans think COVID is ‘about as severe’ as the common cold or flu.

As expected, there’s also a fairly strong correlation between masking habits and the perceived severity of COVID-19. Just under one-third of U.S. adults think it’s important to wear a mask right now to prevent the spread of COVID. Among those who think masks are important, 57% think it’s ‘more severe’ than the common cold or flu. But those who don’t find masks important aren’t too far off from the Gen Pop numbers, with one-third finding it ‘more severe’ and 43% claiming it’s ‘about just as severe’ as other common illnesses.

CivicScience will continue tracking consumer sentiment toward COVID in the coming weeks and months. For more information about how your business might be impacted by future COVID surges, book a meeting today to get our deepest insights