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COVID-19

Virus fatigue is changing people’s risk tolerance

Mitchell Hartman Oct 26, 2020
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Kena Betancur/Getty Images
COVID-19

Virus fatigue is changing people’s risk tolerance

Mitchell Hartman Oct 26, 2020
Heard on:
Kena Betancur/Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
COPY

Johns Hopkins University reports the seven-day average of new cases hit 68,767 yesterday — a record — eclipsing the previous record hit in late July during the second, summer wave of infection.

And the advancing cold weather in much of the U.S. is only likely to make the situation worse, with people having to stay indoors.

A funny thing is happening with consumers though: Even as COVID-19 cases rise, Americans don’t appear to be shying away from stepping indoors to shop or eat or exercise.

Consumers these days are feeling sort of meh. Confidence has pretty much flatlined since late summer. 

“There’s a fairly bleak picture. We see cases rising, driving down consumer confidence through the end of the year,” said John Leer at research firm Morning Consult.

But something sort of opposite is happening too. 

Morning Consult asked consumers how comfortable they feel going out to eat, to the shopping mall or on a vacation. And their willingness has been rising.

“You know there is this sort of virus fatigue, changing consumers’ risk-tolerance levels,” said Leer.

“Some people are so excited — just walk in and are like ‘yay, you’re open!’ You’re like ‘yeah, man, put your mask on,'” said Karen Harding, who owns a neighborhood cafe in Portland, Oregon. She says when Cup & Saucer reopened a couple months ago with indoor and outdoor seating, some regulars rushed in.

“I’ve also had phone calls from people saying you know, ‘why are you open and risking people’s lives?’” said Harding.

Surveys find consumers’ attitudes vary by age and income, and by political affiliation, said Chris Jackson, who heads up polling at Ipsos.

“Republicans are decidedly in favor of reopening the economy, they don’t really believe the coronavirus pandemic’s that big of a deal. Whereas Democrats are very much opposed to the idea and prioritizing public health over the economy,” Jackson said.

Jackson said this is true even though Republicans and Democrats polled by Ipsos have suffered economic effects of the pandemic, such as job loss, at similar rates.  

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

Can businesses deny you entry if you don’t have a vaccine passport?

As more Americans get vaccinated against COVID-19 and the economy begins reopening, some businesses are requiring proof of vaccination to enter their premises. The concept of a vaccine passport has raised ethical questions about data privacy and potential discrimination against the unvaccinated. However, legal experts say businesses have the right to deny entrance to those who can’t show proof.

Give me a snapshot of the labor market in the U.S.

U.S. job openings in February increased more than expected, according to the Labor Department. Also, the economy added over 900,000 jobs in March. For all of the good jobs news recently, there are still nearly 10 million people who are out of work, and more than 4 million of them have been unemployed for six months or longer. “So we still have a very long way to go until we get a full recovery,” said Elise Gould with the Economic Policy Institute. She said the industries that have the furthest to go are the ones you’d expect: “leisure and hospitality, accommodations, food services, restaurants” and the public sector, especially in education.

What do I need to know about tax season this year?

Glad you asked! We have a whole separate FAQ section on that. Some quick hits: The deadline has been extended from April 15 to May 17 for individuals. Also, millions of people received unemployment benefits in 2020 — up to $10,200 of which will now be tax-free for those with an adjusted gross income of less than $150,000. And, for those who filed before the American Rescue Plan passed, simply put, you do not need to file an amended return at the moment. Find answers to the rest of your questions here.

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