Is America ready for a full reopening?

 In Business

With new CDC guidelines indicating masks are not necessary for fully vaccinated people, there has been an acceleration in re-openings and increased capacity levels, along with several prominent retailers indicating masks are no longer required when shopping.

This begs the question – are people ready to return to pre-pandemic indoor activities at full capacity?  The answer appears to be yes to some activities, no to others.

Key takeaways from our most recent pandemic research include:

  • The most common everyday indoor occurrences, such as shopping and eating, are those where people are most comfortable returning to at the present time.
  • Entertainment-based activities such as going to the movies and concerts will not reach full capacity for some time, with Americans divided in their level of comfort.
  • Most adults are not presently comfortable with air travel.
  • A clear difference in mindset exists between vaccinated and unvaccinated adults, with those who are unvaccinated more likely to feel comfortable in a range of indoor situations (this is partially driven by age).
  • Those who feel comfortable participating in a range of indoor activities without a mask are in the clear minority.

Russell Research conducted field work for this study from May 14 – 17, 2021 among 1,034 U.S. adults ages 18 and older. Russell Research has tabulated data available.  Please email [email protected] for more information.

Detailed Findings

Surveys collected by Russell Research immediately following release of the new CDC guidance indicate that a large majority of adults are comfortable dining and shopping indoors. There is also widespread comfort in staying at hotels.

  • 67% of adults are comfortable shopping at an indoor mall
  • 66% of adults are comfortable staying at a hotel
  • 66% of adults are comfortable eating indoors at a casual or fine dining restaurant
  • 62% of adults are comfortable eating indoors at a fast food restaurant

However, adults are divided about many of the activities which have more recently opened or expanded capacity.

  • 51% of adults are comfortable going to the movies
  • 50% of adults are comfortable going to a casino
  • 50% of adults are comfortable attending an indoor concert or play
  • 47% of adults are comfortable exercising at a gym

And it appears it will be some time before nightlife and air travel will return to pre-pandemic traffic levels.

  • 43% of adults are comfortable going to a bar or nightclub
  • 42% of adults are comfortable flying on an airplane

Many of the settings that Americans are less comfortable with display large generational differences in comfort.  Younger adults, who often represent sizeable revenue drivers for these distressed industries, are more comfortable returning.

  • 77% of adults ages 18-34 are comfortable shopping at an indoor mall (vs. 66% of adults ages 35-54 and 57% of those ages 55+)
  • 75% of adults ages 18-34 are comfortable staying at a hotel (vs. 68% 35-54 and 55% 55+)
  • 64% of adults ages 18-34 are comfortable going to the movies (vs. 52% 35-54 and 36% 55+)
  • 60% of adults ages 18-34 are comfortable attending an indoor concert or play (vs. 45% 35-54 and 35% 55+)
  • 59% of adults ages 18-34 are comfortable exercising at a gym (vs. 48% 35-54 and 31% 55+)

Being vaccinated doesn’t equate to comfort.  One of the bigger surprises in this research is that unvaccinated Americans are more comfortable than those who received their COVID-19 vaccine across a range of indoor situations. There is a major difference in mindset of the unvaccinated, which appears to be partially driven by age, as older Americans are significantly more likely to be vaccinated at this time.

  • 70% of unvaccinated adults are comfortable staying at a hotel (vs. 63% of vaccinated adults)
  • 67% of unvaccinated adults are comfortable eating indoors at a fast food restaurant (vs. 59% of vaccinated adults)
  • 56% of unvaccinated adults are comfortable going to the movies (vs. 47% of vaccinated adults)
  • 58% of unvaccinated adults are comfortable going to a casino (vs. 44% of vaccinated adults)
  • 53% of unvaccinated adults are comfortable attending an indoor concert or play (vs. 42% of vaccinated adults)
  • 51% of unvaccinated adults are comfortable exercising at a gym (vs. 43% of vaccinated adults)
  • 58% of unvaccinated adults are comfortable going to a bar or nightclub (vs. 38% of vaccinated adults)

Despite these varying levels of comfort, it’s clear most adults are not ready for indoor activities without a mask.

  • 42% of adults are comfortable shopping at an indoor mall without a mask
  • 37% of adults are comfortable going to the movies without a mask
  • 34% of adults are comfortable attending an indoor concert or play without a mask
  • 34% of adults are comfortable exercising at a gym without a mask
  • 33% of adults are comfortable going to a casino without a mask
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