The Margin: Most Americans say the public health benefits of COVID-19 restrictions ‘have been worth the costs’


More than a year and a half into the COVID-19 pandemic, the lockdowns, indoor capacity limits and restricted operating hours might be a distant memory for some. But the economic toll of those COVID-19 restrictions can’t be denied — as many as 200,000 businesses closed permanently due to the pandemic.

Still, Americans think those restrictions were worth it, according to a new Pew Research Center survey. It found that while a majority of Americans believe that coronavirus restrictions have hurt businesses and economic activity, they’ve been worth it in the end.

The survey, which polled more than 10,000 U.S. adults, found that 69% believe that COVID-19 restrictions on activity have hurt businesses and economic activity “a lot,” while 26% believe they’ve hurt businesses “some.” And 89% of Americans believe restrictions have “kept people from living their lives the way they want” either a lot or some.

But 73% of those polled said that the restrictions have helped prevent COVID-19-caused hospitalizations and deaths either a lot or some, and 72% said the restrictions helped to slow the spread of coronavirus.

Related: Gen Z students overwhelmingly support strict COVID-19 policies as they return to school

Overall, 62% of Americans said the public health benefits of COVID restrictions “have been worth the costs.”

“Overall, 62% of Americans said the public health benefits of COVID restrictions “have been worth the costs.””

As COVID-19 cases continue to surge across the country due to the delta variant, some local governments have reinstated different COVID-19 restrictions. Los Angeles County brought back its mask mandate in July, and New York City started requiring all patrons to prove vaccination in order to visit indoor restaurants, bars, gyms, public performances, museums and other venues. The U.S. is currently averaging 152,177 new cases a day, 99,275 hospitalizations and 1,888 deaths, according to a New York Times tracker.

As of Wednesday, 74% of the eligible U.S. population had received at least one shot of one of the three available coronavirus vaccines, according to a CDC tracker.

The survey — which was conducted from Aug. 23-Aug. 29, before President Joe Biden announced his vaccine mandate — also found that Americans often have conflicting views when it comes to vaccines.

Overall, 51% said the phrase “there’s too much pressure on Americans to get a COVID-19 vaccine” describes their views somewhat or very well.

Before Biden announced his vaccine mandate — which will require businesses with 100 or more workers to ensure their employees are vaccinated, or show a negative test result weekly or more frequently — employers were already imposing vaccine mandates.

That includes some large businesses like Disney

 and Google
Delta Air Lines

also said its employees would face a $200 monthly health insurance surcharge if they remained unvaccinated.

Related: Biden meets with execs from Disney, Microsoft, Walgreens on vaccine mandates

At the same time, 73% of those surveyed said the statement “vaccines are the best way to protect Americans from COVID-19” describes their views somewhat or very well.

Still, roughly a quarter of the adult U.S. population has not received the vaccine at all. Experts are now predicting that 85% or 90% of the population will have to be immune to the virus in order to achieve herd immunity. And Dr. Anthony Fauci said the U.S. could see another 100,000 COVID-19 deaths before Dec. 1, mostly among people who continue to refuse vaccination.

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