With COVID-19 infection rates at a relatively low level and fewer deaths being reported, many employers are encouraging or requiring workers to return to their workplaces, at least part-time.
Many fear contracting COVID-19 at work. In the latest Gallup Poll, about one-quarter of employed adults say they are very (6%) or moderately (20%) concerned about being exposed at work, while a third are "not too concerned" and 41% are "not concerned at all."
The 26% of workers concerned about COVID-19 is down from 33% when Gallup last measured this in July and from 36% a year ago. The rate was highest in July 2020 at 51%.
Women, Democrats, education workers, and healthcare workers are the most concerned groups. But since July, fear of COVID-19 among Democrats is down 13 percentage points to 38%, as well as among people employed in the education field (down 13 points to 40%). There was no change among workers who identify as political independents (steady at 26%) and little change among Republicans (down 5 points to 9%).
Fear of returning to the office is exacerbated by the upcoming winter. The recent poll finds nearly two-thirds of employees (64%) said they expect COVID-19 infections in the U.S. to increase in the fall and winter; 14% of workers expect infections to increase "a great deal"; and 50% "a moderate amount," while just 8% think infections will decrease, and 29% think they will stay the same.
Not just the workplace scares some people about COVID-19. Nearly 1 in 5 employees (19%) report that in the past seven days, they have avoided events with large crowds. Slightly fewer have avoided traveling by airplane or public transportation (15%), going to public places in general (13%), or small social gatherings (10%). Nearly four in 10 (37%) report wearing a face mask when outside their home in the past seven days.
Vaccinated Americans tend to be more cautious about their exposure to COVID-19 and express greater concern about the pandemic than those who are choosing not to be vaccinated, Gallup notes.
As of October, 48% of U.S. employees reported being vaccinated and boosted to some extent (20% with the new booster, 28% with only an older one), and 19% have been vaccinated but not boosted. The remaining third are not vaccinated, although some of them (representing 10% of all employees) say they plan to be.
The latest data are from Gallup's COVID-19 tracking poll, conducted by web Oct. 11-19 using the Gallup Panel. Over 3,700 adults completed the survey, including 1,174 adults employed full- or part-time by an employer.
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