Fifty-two weeks ago, at the very beginning of what became the COVID-19 pandemic, concern being in public spaces was at nearly 90% of U.S. adults. While overall concern has waned, CivicScience’s most recent reading indicates a significant increase in concern.  More than 80% of U.S. adults are at least somewhat concerned about being out and about.

This data comes the same week the CDC director warned of a sudden case increase, potentially spurred by emerging new COVID variants.

The most recent CivicScience reading also shows an increase in the percentage of people who expect to have to practice social distancing for six more months or longer.

While concern about being in public is on the upswing this week, concern about the coronavirus at large has declined over the past couple of months, after big peaks in March, July, and November of 2020.

This coincides with further data we’ve seen in recent weeks: there is another subset of people who are feeling more and more comfortable returning to everyday activities like shopping in stores, dining out at restaurants, and traveling or going on vacation – especially non-airplane travel. 

In fact, this week consumers reached the highest level of comfort shopping in non-grocery stores since September (both months at 61% respectively). This is only the second time consumer comfort shopping in person has been this high since the start of the pandemic.

Could this signal a brick and mortar recovery in the works? Possibly. This week there was an increase in the percentage of people who say they’ve been shopping online less than they typically do this time of year.

Restaurant comfort hit an all-time high since the start of the pandemic. Repeat: an all-time high since the pandemic began.

Nearly three-fourths of adults plan to dine in at a restaurant or order takeout or delivery this week, which is significantly higher than last week.

What isn’t yet rebounding is overall consumer happiness, which has not bounced back since last February when lockdowns were beginning. 

Those who are most concerned about being in public spaces are the most unhappy.

Younger adults aged 18 to 29 – and women – report the highest levels of unhappiness in recent weeks.

The main correlation we see with consumer behavior is those who are on board with restaurant dining are more likely to report recent happiness.

It’s only fitting that the more isolated you are, and the more worried about the pandemic at large, the more unhappy one feels. 

CivicScience will be releasing a new study on COVID-19’s sweeping impact on Americans’ mental health this month, so check back soon.