Center study finds few Americans are willing to return to public activities during the pandemic; many will do nothing outside the home until a vaccine is found

August 19, 2020 — In spite of efforts to re-open the nation’s economy during the COVID-19 pandemic, most Americans are not comfortable resuming daily life outside the home, and one-quarter say they will do nothing in public until a vaccine is available, reports a study by the USC Center for the Digital Future.

Low percentages of Americans are ready for return to public activities

The study found that other than grocery shopping, most people are uncomfortable doing anything outside their homes right now. For example, only 41% are willing to see a doctor for a non-urgent appointment, and 39% would shop in retail store.

Even fewer said they would dine in a restaurant (25%), stay in a hotel (19%), use public transportation (14%), go to a movie or play (11%), travel by plane or train (11%), or go to a live sports event or concert (8%).

One-quarter will wait for a vaccine to do anything in public

The study also found many people will continue to be very cautious about public activities until a vaccine for COVID-19 is found: when asked what they will not do until they receive a vaccine, 46% said they will wait to go to a live event, 45% will wait to travel by train or plane, and 42% will wait to go to a movie or play.

Twenty-six percent of Americans said they will do nothing in public until a vaccine is found.

The findings on Americans’ willingness to participate in public activities were produced in the Center’s comprehensive project on the social impact of the coronavirus.

The Coronavirus Disruption Project

The first round of the Center’s Coronavirus Disruption Study, released April 29, revealed many changes – both positive and negative – in relationships, emotional stability, and personal behavior since the COVID-19 pandemic and safer-at-home restrictions began.

The second round of the study, conducted June 19-26, added new questions about political behavior and compared views about changes in working from home, online education, media and entertainment, shopping behavior, and political outlooks.

The findings are based on the results of surveys of 1,000 respondents conducted in English from an online panel, with a margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points.

The Center for the Digital Future: revealing disruption for two decades

For more than 20 years, the Center for the Digital Future at USC Annenberg ( has explored the impact of digital technologies on the behavior and views of users and non-users. The center also studies disruption in the lives of Americans and the corporate world.

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