Fewer Americans Support Mask, Vaccine Mandates Ahead of Holiday Gatherings, Poll Finds

American support for face masks and vaccine mandates has declined in the weeks leading up to the holidays, when many plan to travel home and gather indoor with loved ones despite the ongoing pandemic.

A new poll released by Monmouth University on Wednesday found that support for statewide mask orders and social distancing guidelines has decreased to 55 percent this month, compared with September's 63 percent during the spread of the Delta variant.

The poll also saw a decline in support for vaccine mandates in offices and other public spaces where people congregate, falling from 53 percent in September to a minority of Americans now. Only 46 percent of those polled between December 2 and December 6 said they still back the requiring of proof of vaccination status.

As fears over the Delta variant have fallen and growing concern over the Omicron variant takes over, the survey also found that Americans on both sides of the aisle are quickly becoming fatigued by new variants and fluctuating health guidelines.

Six in ten Americans say they feel worn out by pandemic-related changes they've had to make to their daily lives, with 64 percent of Republicans and 63 percent of Democrats saying they feel at least a little worn out by the coronavirus.

"The fact that Americans say they have had enough should be no surprise. Every time we try to adjust to a new normal, another variant pops up to put us on guard again," Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling institute, said in the release. "This perpetual unease is having an impact on how we view those charged with handling the pandemic."

Asked about virus spread over the holidays, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky urged Americans to be vigilant about wearing masks in public and indoor settings, especially with the rise of the Omicron variant.

"Don't rethink your holiday plans," Walensky told McClatchy on Tuesday. "Just rethink how you're going to do it."

Face Mask Mandate Vaccine Holiday Christmas Poll
Public support for mask mandates and social distancing guidelines has decreased since the Delta surge brought on int he fall. Above, people wear masks at an indoor mall in the Oculus in lower Manhattan on the day that a mask mandate went into effect in New York City on December 13. Spencer Platt/Getty

People are also becoming less concerned about whether their family members could become severely ill from an infection, with only 30 percent saying they are very concerned, compared to 45 percent in September.

Concern about testing positive is also higher among those who have received their booster shots already. More than 65 percent of those with an extra dose say they are worried about getting sick with a new variant while just over half of those with the initial series of the vaccines say the same.

But concern among both vaccinated groups is still higher than those who have not been vaccinated at all. Only 12 percent of unvaccinated people say they were worried that they might catch the virus.

Murray said based on these figures, it seems unlikely that the nation may ever reach the herd immunity that scientists and public health officials have been striving toward for nearly two years.

"Public health officials say we need to reach a certain level of herd immunity before this virus shifts from a pandemic to an endemic problem," he said. "Based on months of survey results, this transition is likely to take longer than necessary because a small but significant portion of the public simply won't acknowledge the risk."

Walensky said the best thing Americans can do to protect themselves over Christmas gatherings and New Years celebrations is to get vaccinated or, if they've already received the initial doses, get their booster shots.

"My best-case scenario is that people rush to go and get vaccinated, they rush to go and get boosted, and we have a huge amount of community protection against this variant. In the meantime, people are taking care of themselves and one another by masking, and that we're able to avert a massive surge of Omicron," she said. "I think all of that is very possible."

However, Walensky warned that if vaccination rates continue to stagger, the nation's hospitals could face another grim surge that leaves hospitals scrambling for ICU beds and ventilators for COVID patients.

"Should all of those things not happen, and Omicron demonstrates that it has the capacity to lead to the severity of illness seen in prior waves—we've seen what happened before," she said.