8% of respondents believed that social distancing measures would never stop completely, while 10.3% believed they would end in 2023.
53.7% of baby boomers believed some social distancing measures would remain in place permanently.
3 out of 4 respondents were more likely to support local businesses with strict social distancing measures in place instead of lenient measures.
79.1% of respondents thought mask wearing would remain in place the longest; 14.1% believed the practice would end in 2023, while 10.6% felt it would remain in place indefinitely.
After COVID-19 hit the world by storm, restaurants, retail stores, and other public spaces quickly acted upon it by creating and establishing safety measures with the hopes of being able to keep their doors open and stopping the virus from spreading even further.
Naturally, people are wondering what will happen to these safety measures when the pandemic is over. As the world adapts to this "new normal" reality, many people have started to think about when all these measures will stop, if ever. Are the health and safety procedures here to stay?
To find out the answers to these questions and more, we surveyed over 1,000 U.S.-based participants. This survey was designed specifically to find out exactly how these people felt about social distancing measures, now and in the future.
Days, months, years: When will social distancing end?
Since 2020, social distancing has become the ‘new norm,' and a world without masks or constant hand sanitizing is hard to imagine. We started by asking respondents how long they believed social distancing measures may stay in place.
When asked about how long respondents thought social distancing would last, 64.3% of respondents expected their local government to loosen COVID restrictions in the next three months. Additionally, 79.1% of respondents believed mask wearing would remain in place the longest, despite 14.1% thinking this practice would end by 2023. Certain U.S. states, however, have decided to start reopening already, abandoning the mask mandate. On the other end of the spectrum, participants believed the capacity limits on public transports would be lifted much sooner than other social distancing measures.
While some may be considered irksome, other social distancing measures were seen as a welcome change. We wanted to know which measures people desired to keep in place, even after the pandemic ended.
There is a possibility that even if restrictions were lifted, some safety measures like mask wearing, plexiglass barriers, social distancing stickers, and remote work would never really go away.
The most popular measures that respondents wanted to remain in place were staying at home (66.9%) and wearing a mask when feeling sick (62.2%). Communal hand sanitizers were also a welcome element of the new normal for 60.3% of respondents.
Other practices such as virtual schooling and limited capacities indoors, on planes, and at restaurants were social distancing measures less likely to be desired as permanent.
It is important to note that public health experts encourage Americans to continue wearing masks, even after getting vaccinated. While the vaccine prevents severe COVID-19 infections, it is not yet proven to keep people from spreading the virus.
A new normal?
When thinking about the pandemic, a very frequently asked question arises: Will things ever go back to the way they were? We tasked our respondents with that exact question.
In an interview with LA Times Today, President Biden's health adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci said "hopefully, by the time we enter 2022, we will have a degree of normality that will approximate the kind of normality we are used to."
In the survey, 43.1% of respondents believed that the world would go back to normal, just as it used to be. In contrast, 41.3% thought that some social distancing measures would remain permanently, even after the pandemic ends.
Respondents also noted that many public places and businesses had found fun and creative ways to encourage social distancing. A 22-year-old woman said that a nearby restaurant constructed heated igloos made of plastic so that each party had their own area to eat in.
Another solution was recounted by a 67-year-old man, "The zoo near me used pictures of animals, to show how much space is required for social distancing."
It's interesting to note the optimism of the younger generation, a large percentage (48.2%) of which had hope that the world would go back to normal. Whereas, Gen X (44.5%) and especially Baby Boomers (53.7%) were doubtful of this, believing instead that social distancing measures in some form or another would remain part of our lives indefinitely.
Similar stances were taken depending on political views. In this case, the Independents (48.8%) felt as though we can expect social distancing measures for the foreseeable future. On the other hand, Democrats (44.9%) and Republicans (47.2%) had a somewhat brighter outlook about the world returning to normal.
Virtual or in person, where are people the most comfortable?
The current health crisis has changed the way people interact with others. Our respondents told us how comfortable they were going to places in person and also shared which social distancing measures they found the most irritating.
The perception of social isolation and how comfortable people felt with social interactions during the pandemic was a very personal matter, changing from individual to individual. What might feel fine to some can feel very unsafe to others.
According to our data, people felt most comfortable going to places like parks (72.6%), grocery stores (59%), and pharmacies (57.9%) in person. However, gyms (28%), hospitals (40.3%), hair salons (40.2%), and dining indoors (35.5%) were in-person experiences many people were not yet comfortable with.
As an alternative to in-person interactions, virtual meetings have become a safe way to remain in touch with loved ones and avoid loneliness. Additionally, socially distanced meetings, for example, in a park or other large outdoor space, are another way to socialize while remaining safe and cautious.
Most people agree that this "new normal" simply doesn't feel natural and many of the social distancing measures are incredibly annoying. The survey results indicated that there were two safety measures that stood out as the most irritating. Namely, one-way isles in stores which 54.8% of people found annoying and wearing a face mask which bothered about 46.2% of respondents.
Tired of social distancing measures
After a year of social distancing, it is easy to imagine that some people are getting tired of following newly mandated rules. We asked our respondents about their behavior and discipline in supporting these rules.
As time has passed, it seemed a good number of people had started to relax in regards to social distancing practices. This effect is sometimes called pandemic fatigue. As social beings, this fatigue is an understandable experience when faced with long periods of isolation. Social distancing has increased feelings of loneliness for many people and, in turn, has caused them to start decreasing social distancing practices.
In the survey, 22.9% affirmed to be following social distancing rules more strictly now than at the beginning of the pandemic. On the other hand, 27.7% had decreased their efforts in following the previously adopted practices.
On a final note, political views appeared to have an impact on how people felt about social distancing measures. The survey showed that 96.3% of Democrats always wore a mask when out in public, compared to 89.4% of independents and 79.9% of Republicans.
Although we still have a way to go with regards to overcoming the crisis brought on by COVID-19, it is likely that the hygiene, health, and safety measures put into place will remain long after the vaccine has successfully resulted in herd immunity.
As the health and safety of the public is of utmost importance, retailers, restaurants, and other public entities should continue to stick to these safety measures. At Signs.com, we offer face masks, social distancing signs, and floor decals, curbside signs and feather flags to keep customers and employees safe during these challenging times. To view our wide selection of items, visit us at signs.com. Check out all of our custom signs today!
This study uses data from a survey of 1,009 people located in the U.S. Survey respondents were presented with a series of questions, including attention-check and disqualification questions. 50.3% of respondents identified as male, while 49.7% identified as female. Respondents ranged in age from 19 to 81 with an average age of 40. 48.8% of respondents identified as Democrats, 22.1% as independents, and 26% as Republicans. 3.1% of respondents identified as following another political party or having no political affiliation. Participants incorrectly answering any attention-check question had their answers disqualified. This study has a 3% margin of error on a 95% confidence interval.
Please note that survey responses are self-reported and are subject to issues, such as exaggeration, recency bias, and telescoping.
Fair Use Statement
Feel free to share or discuss this article with family and friends to continue the discourse regarding pandemic-era safety measures! All we ask is you do so for noncommercial use and that you provide a link back to the original page so our contributors can earn credit for their work.