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: Americans are increasingly going out to eat, visiting friends and warming to ‘normal’ life amid the pandemic

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Americans are increasingly poking their heads out of the house and easing up on COVID-19 mitigation measures 14 months into the pandemic, a new study suggests.

A majority of Americans (54%) report having gone out to eat over the past week, according to the latest installment of the Axios-Ipsos Coronavirus Index, marking the first time in more than a year that more than half of respondents have reported doing so. 

Nearly six in 10 say they’ve visited relatives or friends over the past week, another record high for the survey. Majorities of both vaccinated and unvaccinated Americans are engaging in these activities, according to the poll, which surveyed 1,078 U.S. adults between May 7 and May 10.

A decreasing share of respondents (43%) believe returning to “normal pre-coronavirus life” poses a large or moderate risk to their health and well-being. Respondents are also more likely than in previous surveys to perceive certain activities such as indoor dining, in-person gatherings, shopping, vacationing and going to salons or barbershops as carrying only a small risk to their health.

The share of respondents who say they’re staying home and avoiding other people as much as possible, meanwhile, has fallen eight percentage points from early April to 56% in the most recent survey. Fifty-eight percent report wearing a mask at all times when they leave home — the lowest share since last June — with the drop largely fueled by vaccinated individuals changing their behavior.

With that said, vaccinated folks remain more likely than their unvaccinated counterparts to say they mask up diligently. And nearly six in 10 respondents say they still wear a mask at all times in public indoor spaces, where the virus is much more likely to spread than outdoors. 

The poll also showed a modest bump in mental health, with a record-high 18% of respondents reporting an improvement in their emotional well-being since the previous week — and, for the first time, a larger share reporting an improvement in their mental health (16%) than worsening mental health (12%).

The U.S. mass-vaccination campaign appears to be slowing, with most willing recipients having received at least one dose. About 35% of the total U.S. population has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and 46% has received at least one vaccine dose, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Monday expanded its emergency-use authorization granted to Pfizer
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and BioNTech’s
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coronavirus vaccine for use in 12- to 15-year-olds. Just under half of respondents to the Axios-Ipsos survey with a child under 18 said they were likely to get their child vaccinated as soon as the vaccine was available for their age group.

Majorities of respondents overall supported showing proof of coronavirus vaccination for some activities, including international and domestic flights, hotel and cruise-ship vacations, sporting events and returns to physical workplaces.

As of late February, plenty of Americans were still wary about the future, regardless of their vaccination status, according to a poll conducted then by Harris Poll on behalf of the American Psychological Association: Almost half reported feeling uneasy about transitioning to in-person interactions after the public-health crisis ends, and 46% said they weren’t comfortable returning to their pre-pandemic lives.

Meanwhile, households’ spending growth expectations for the year ahead “remain elevated,” according to the latest Survey of Consumer Expectations conducted by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s Center for Microeconomic Data. 

“Perceptions about households’ current financial situations compared to a year ago improved in April, with fewer respondents reporting to be worse off now,” the survey also found. “Expectations about households’ financial situations in the year ahead were largely stable.”

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