Nearly three-quarters of Americans still plan to wear masks in public after COVID-19 is no longer a threat: Survey

·3 min read
People wearing face masks walk along the beach as California reported its largest number of new coronavirus infections in a single day, during the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Del Mar, California, U.S., July 15, 2020. REUTERS/Mike Blake
People wearing face masks walk along the beach in California. (Mike Blake/Reuters)

Someday, at some point in time, the COVID-19 pandemic will be behind us. While it’s hard to imagine what life will be like then, a team of researchers conducted a survey to try to figure it out. And their findings might surprise you.

Researchers at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center polled more than 2,000 people across the country and found that most of those surveyed are OK with continuing many pandemic protocols for public health, even when COVID-19 is no longer a major threat.

While outside this poll, plenty of people have claimed that they’ll burn their masks and hug everyone in sight when the pandemic is over, the survey’s findings suggest the majority of people feel otherwise. The survey specifically found the following:

  • 72 percent of people still plan to wear masks in public.

  • 80 percent will avoid crowds.

  • 90 percent will frequently wash their hands and use hand sanitizer.

Dr. Iahn Gonsenhauser, chief quality and patient safety officer at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, tells Yahoo Life that his team decided to conduct the survey because they were “interested in understanding where people were in their journey through COVID and getting a sense for how strongly they felt about potentially continuing precautions as we start to approach what hopefully is the closing part of the pandemic.”

Gonsenhauser says the survey didn’t specify whether people plan to wear masks all the time in public, for how long they plan to wear them post-pandemic and if mask wearing will be seasonal in the future.

But not everyone thinks the general public will actually commit to this. “People say that now,” Dr. Richard Watkins, an infectious disease physician and a professor of internal medicine at the Northeast Ohio Medical University, tells Yahoo Life. “I will be interested in seeing how well they follow through.” He’s especially doubtful that people will continue to wear masks in public in the warmer months, when it’s more uncomfortable to wear face coverings.

There may be a hybrid of pandemic behaviors that sticks around, infectious disease expert Dr. Amesh Adalja, senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, tells Yahoo Life. “I think some people will be more meticulous with hand washing and even mask wearing in certain contexts,” he says. Adalja also anticipates that it will become more common after the pandemic to see people wearing masks during cold and flu season “as they became accustomed to them and realize the role they could play in decreasing respiratory viral transmission.”

Gonsenhauser says he’s “hopeful” that people will consider wearing masks during cold and flu season in the future. “I’m hopeful that our experience with the flu this year is enough of a learning and teaching moment that more people understand the impact we can make if we approach flu season differently in the future,” he says.

Adalja isn’t confident that people will continue to wear masks forever, though. “Over time, this practice may fade,” he says.

Regardless of what you plan to do after the pandemic, Watkins says, for now you should keep on wearing a mask when around people who aren’t in your household, social distancing and practicing good hand hygiene. It could help stop the spread of COVID-19 — and even save lives.

For the latest coronavirus news and updates, follow along at According to experts, people over 60 and those who are immunocompromised continue to be the most at risk. If you have questions, please reference the CDC’s and WHO’s resource guides.

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