Roughly 40 percent of Americans, and 61 percent of Republicans, believe the worst of the Covid-19 outbreak is behind us, according to new research, as the World Health Organization (WHO) warns that the worst is yet to come.
A survey conducted by the Pew Research Centre between June 16-22 carried out on a nationally representative sample of over 4,000 Amercians has shown that many think the US is past the worst of the outbreak, and are now less concerned about contracting it or unknowingly spreading the virus around than they were when previously surveyed in April.
Fifty-nine percent of people in the June survey said they thought the worst is still to come, with 40 percent saying it's behind us, compared to 73 and 26 percent respectively in April. Just over half are very or somewhat worried they will get Covid-19 and require hospitalization, down only slightly from 55 percent in April. Meanwhile, 62 percent of people are very or somewhat concerned about spreading the virus to others, down from 66 percent two months ago.
The research has shown an increasing divide along political lines, and a worrying increasing lack of concern for health protocols, despite the evidence the virus is far from done. Sixty-one percent of Republican and Republican-leaning citizens now believe the worst is behind us, compared to 23 percent of Democrat and Democrat-leaning citizens. Democrats are also more concerned they may unknowingly spread the virus to others at 77 percent, versus 45 percent of Republicans. This could present a problem for the US as it tries to prevent the spread, particularly when it comes to convincing reluctant Americans to wear masks.
While many Americans may think that the worst has been and gone, the WHO has warned that the pandemic, far from past its peak, is actually accelerating. "Globally, the pandemic is actually speeding up," announced WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in a press conference on Monday.
"Unless we address the problems we have already identified at the WHO – the lack of national unity, and the lack of global solidarity, and the divided world, which is actually helping the virus to spread – as I said in my speech, the worst is yet to come," Dr Tedros said.
"I'm sorry to say that. But with this kind of environment and conditions, we fear the worst."
On Friday the US hit a new record of daily Covid-19 cases, with over 40,000. While part of the increase in reported cases can be put down to increased testing, the rate of infections in some areas of the country is on the rise – particularly in the south where the percentage of tests returning positive results has nearly doubled during June.
At the time of writing, the US has had over 2.6 million cases and 128,103 deaths. As it opens up, it risks further cases, even as the curve has refused to bend in the way we've seen in other countries with similar outbreaks. Whether the dreaded second wave arrives or not, the outbreak in the US is far from over.