COVID-19

Virus fatigue is changing people’s risk tolerance

Mitchell Hartman Oct 26, 2020
Heard on: Marketplace
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Kena Betancur/Getty Images
COVID-19

Virus fatigue is changing people’s risk tolerance

Mitchell Hartman Oct 26, 2020
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

Are states ready to roll out COVID-19 vaccines?

Claire Hannan, executive director of the nonprofit Association of Immunization Managers, which represents state health officials, said states have been making good progress in their preparations. And we could have several vaccines pretty soon. But states still need more funding, she said. Hannan doesn’t think a lack of additional funding would hold up distribution initially, but it could cause problems down the road. “It’s really worrisome that Congress may not pass funding or that there’s information circulating saying that states don’t need additional funding,” she said.

How is the service industry dealing with the return of coronavirus restrictions?

Without another round of something like the Paycheck Protection Program, which kept a lot of businesses afloat during the pandemic’s early stages, the outlook is bleak for places like restaurants. Some in the San Francisco Bay Area, for example, only got one week of indoor dining back before cases rose and restrictions went back into effect. Restaurant owners are revamping their business models in an effort to survive while waiting to see if they’ll be able to get more aid.

How are hospitals handling the nationwide surge in COVID-19 cases?

As the pandemic surges and more medical professionals themselves are coming down with COVID, nearly 1 in 5 hospitals in the country report having a critical shortage of staff, according to data from the Department of Health and Human Services. One of the knock-on effects of staff shortages is that people who have other medical needs are being asked to wait.

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