As late fall arrives in the United States, so does the third wave of COVID-19 – which public health experts warned of weeks ago. As of today, within the past week, the U.S. has seen an average of nearly 70,000 new cases per day – up 32% from two weeks prior. Mirroring the recent spike of the third wave, concern about being in public spaces right now has increased for the second week in a row. Concern has increased by 11% compared to two weeks ago. 

However, the bifurcation across party lines when it comes to concern about going out in public has become increasingly stark. While general concern increased month over month among self-identified Democrats and Independents, the same can’t be said for Republicans. As it stands, most Democrats (94%) and 80% of Independents are ‘very’ or ‘somewhat’ concerned while a little more than half (53%) of Republicans are. 

Comfort Returning to Normal Activities 

As a result of the overall increase in concern, CivicScience observed a decrease in comfort returning to most normal activities — which includes shopping in stores, attending major public events, and traveling. 

The only exception to this trend was seen in comfort going out to eat at restaurants, which increased slightly this week to 49% – the second highest point CivicScience has observed since mid-April. 

Not only did comfort increase week over week, but plans also have too. CivicScience observed a significant (28%) increase in the number of people who say they plan to dine at a restaurant within the next week. As the weather gets colder in some parts of the U.S., comfort going out to eat may decrease as outdoor seating options become less ideal. 

But What About Thanksgiving? 

While, yes, comfort traveling decreased slightly week over week, an increasing percentage of U.S. adults still say they have plans to travel (on a plane or another way) within the next month – likely because the Thanksgiving holiday is quickly approaching. 

Compared to last year though, as of right now, more Americans – who typically celebrate Thanksgiving – say they’ll be staying local (not traveling) for Thanksgiving. While plans may still change in the coming weeks, the trend of staying where you are may become a more popular choice. 

Thirty percent of U.S. adults who typically celebrate Thanksgiving are still planning to meet in person as normal. Roughly one in five say they plan to meet with friends and family, but are planning to take COVID-19 precautions while doing so. 

Employment Concern Remains Higher Among Certain Groups 

Reported job status among U.S. adults has remained fairly consistent for the past few weeks but there has been a slight increase in those who are not working and not being paid since the beginning of the month (11% to 13%). 

High levels of concern are disproportionately impacting lower-income groups and Hispanic and Latino communities – one of many examples of social determinants of health issues that the CDC highlights. While everyone – regardless of income level – showed concern about employment situations in the first few months of the pandemic, those levels are still high among the lowest income brackets – 50% of those making under $25K and 37% of those making between $25K and $50K have some level of concern about employment.  

Hispanics and Latinos remain the most concerned about their employment situation. Nearly half say that they’re ‘very’ or ‘somewhat’ concerned, compared to just over a third of white adults. Among Hispanics and Latinos, job concern decreased by 11 percentage points since the beginning of the pandemic – but it’s decreased by 13 percentage points among white people in the same time frame.

Economic Impacts 

All economic sentiment data that CivicScience tracks has remained relatively consistent week over week despite the upcoming general election. The most notable change? The percentage of people who say now is a bad time to make a major purchase – like a new car or home improvements – increased by four percentage points week over week.

As the election draws closer and the third wave of the pandemic ripples across communities, CivicScience will continue to track key behavior changes. Want to stay up to date on the latest insights? Sign up to receive twice-weekly updates here.