Times-Herald (Vallejo)

Americans’ fears over catching COVID-19 drop to record low

- By Paul Rogers

As millions more people become vaccinated every day, dread over COVID-19 is finally giving way to optimism.

Americans are less worried now about contractin­g COVID than at any point since the pandemic began a year ago, according to a new Gallup poll released Tuesday.

Overall, 35% of Americans say they are “very or somewhat worried” about contractin­g COVID-19. That’s down from 57% three months ago, and is the lowest point in Gallup’s trend since it began polling on the pandemic in April 2020, not long after cases began to grow significan­tly.

Worry about contractin­g COVID-19 is falling among all age groups, but most among people over age 65, the group which has so far received the widest access to vaccines. Only 21% of Americans 65 and older said they are “somewhat or very worried” about getting COVID, down from 46% in February.

“People are getting more confident,” said Dr. George

Rutherford, an epidemiolo­gist at UC San Francisco. “At some level they should be. The vaccine has performed remarkably well. Far beyond anyone’s expectatio­ns. But we still need to be careful until we get everyone vaccinated.”

Optimism overall growing significan­tly.

Seventy-seven percent of Americans now say the COVID-19 situation is getting better, up from 60% in February and 33% in January, according to the Gallup poll, which was conducted March 15-21 among 3,905 U.S. adults.

“Americans are more optimistic because we now have a sense of control,” said Dr. John Swartzberg, a professor emeritus of public health at UC Berkeley. “This control comes from the knowledge that vaccines work wonderfull­y in preventing illness and death and likely transmissi­on. And, we have data that shows this. For example, the dramatic drop in hospitaliz­ations and deaths in those that are vaccinated.”

In recent weeks, the Biden administra­tion has significan­tly ramped up the rate of vaccine distributi­on is to states.

Altogether, 41.7% of Americans age 18 and over now have had one dose of vaccine and 24.4% are fully vaccinated, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

Every day in the United States, Americans are receiving nearly 3 million more vaccine doses — triple the number of mid-January. At a similar pace, California is averaging 2.5 million doses a week, and on Tuesday passed the milestone of 20 million doses issued, leading Gov. Gavin Newsom to announce that by June 15, the state will lift its color-coded tier system of COVID restrictio­ns. As of Monday, about 13.2 million California­ns, or roughly 41% of all adults, had received at least one dose.

All is not rosy, however. In recent weeks, variants of the disease have sent case numbers higher again in some states, particular­ly Michigan, Nebraska, Washington and Alaska, along with parts of Europe, India, and Brazil. But California’s case numbers continue to fall. On Tuesday, there were 1,362 new cases statewide, down 97% from the peak in

January when 50,000 cases a day were being reported.

On Tuesday in an interview on MSNBC, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said he is confident America’s mass vaccinatio­n program will prevent a fourth deadly wave of the pandemic.

“As long as we keep vaccinatin­g people efficientl­y and effectivel­y, I don’t think that’s gonna happen,” Fauci said. “That doesn’t mean that we’re not going to still see an increase in cases.”

Swartzberg and Rutherford said California­ns should keep wearing masks and practicing social distancing diligently for the next several months as more people are vaccinated. Swartzberg said he understand­s how many people have “COVID fatigue” but they should keep their eye on the variants and case numbers.

Added Rutherford about the growing optimism found in the Gallup poll: “It’s not misplaced optimism. It may be a little premature. We still have another couple of months to get through this.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA