Few Americans familiar with CDC plan to change COVID isolation guidelines

Axios/Ipsos American Health Index also explores attitudes toward AI in healthcare, support for ACA exchange subsidies, and mental health as a top public health concern

The author(s)
  • Chris Jackson Senior Vice President, US, Public Affairs
  • Mallory Newall Vice President, US, Public Affairs
  • Sarah Feldman Editorial Director, US, Public Affairs
  • James Diamond Senior Research Manager, Public Affairs
  • Charlie Rollason Senior Research Manager, US, Public Affairs
Get in touch

Washington DC, February 23, 2024—In the wake of the announcement that the CDC may drop its five-day isolation period guidelines the latest Axios/Ipsos American Health Index finds fewer than a third of Americans are familiar with this announcement, with more saying they care “a little” than care “a lot” about the announcement. Though slightly more consider contracting COVID to be a large risk, when compared to our last poll in August 2023, fewer than half say the recent uptick in cases concerns them. Separately, nearly one in five Americans sees mental health issues as the top public health threat facing the nation, in its first inclusion in our survey. Opioids and fentanyl continue to be the #1 threat, followed by obesity, mental health issues, and access to guns. At the same time, one in eight Americans report receiving mental health assistance in the last three months. Finally, new this wave is an exploration of AI’s role in healthcare. The majority of Americans would be comfortable with their healthcare provider using AI to schedule appointments, but views are more mixed on using AI to deliver test results, ask triage or basic health status questions, or assist a physician in a diagnosis.  

Opioids and fentanyl are seen as the #1 threat to American public health

Detailed findings:

  1. Despite an uptick in COVID cases over the winter, concerns over the virus remain mixed at best. Half of Americans continue to believe the pandemic is over.
    • Currently, 11% of Americans see contracting COVID as a large risk to their health – up slightly from 6% last summer. Yet, this does not translate into significant behavioral or attitudinal change.
    • Seventeen percent report wearing a mask in public either at all times or sometimes, on par with last summer and down from 30% one year ago. COVID also falls to the bottom of potential public health threats, with just 2% citing it as America’s #1 public health concern.
    • In the days immediately following the CDC’s announcement that it could drop its five-day isolation period in the coming months, 30% report being very or somewhat familiar with the announcement. Regardless of familiarity, a majority say they care – yet more care “a little” rather than “a lot.” Fewer than half, 44%, say the recent uptick in cases concerns them.
    • As we’ve seen in our previous polling around COVID, Democrats and older people (particularly 65+) tend to both be more concerned and more informed about COVID. These two groups are both more familiar with the CDC announcement, and those age 65 and over are more likely to say they care a lot.
  2. Mental health issues – new to the survey this wave – are a top-tier public health threat. At the same time, the vast majority of Americans support parity in coverage between mental and physical health, and continuing subsidies to help people access care through the ACA exchanges.
    • Opioids and fentanyl continue to top the list, with 24% citing them as the #1 threat to public health. However, this is closely followed by obesity (19%), mental health issues (17%), and access to guns or firearms (15%).
    • For younger Americans, mental health rises further to the top. For example, among those ages 18-29, mental health is seen as the top threat (22%) alongside opioids (19%) and obesity (20%). Similarly, one in five 30-49 year olds say mental health is the top threat, on par with obesity (19%) and behind only opioids (26%). Comparatively, 10% of those age 65+ cite mental health issues as the #1 public health threat.
    • Nine in ten support health insurance providers covering mental health care just as much as physical health care, and nearly two in three (64%) strongly support this. Support for this is particularly strong among women, Black Americans, and Democrats.
    • Three quarters (74%) also support continuing the subsidies that allow some individuals to get health insurance through the Affordable Care Act exchanges. Similar to support for insurers covering mental health, support is strongest among women, Black Americans, Democrats, and those over age 65.
  3. Most Americans are comfortable with AI having an administrative role in healthcare. Anything beyond that – particularly making diagnoses on its own – causes hesitation.
    • Overall, 72% say they would be at least somewhat comfortable with their healthcare provider using AI to schedule appointments. A bare majority, 53%, are also comfortable with their provider using AI to deliver test results.
    • Beyond these more administrative tasks, fewer than half are comfortable with AI doing triage or asking basic health status questions (47%) or assisting a physician in a diagnosis (45%).
    • However, Americans are significantly more definitive on wanting a person to stay involved in their healthcare; just 16% are comfortable with AI making a diagnosis on its own.
    • Across the board, men are more comfortable with AI involvement in healthcare than women, and college graduates (Bachelor’s or higher) are more comfortable than those with a high school diploma or less.

Washington DC, August 17, 2023 —  As a new Covid variant emerges, the public is split on the level of concern they have over the recent uptick in cases, according to the latest Axios/Ipsos American Health Index. This growing concern (for some), however, is not translating into behavior change, as the number of Americans who report wearing a face mask in public continues to decline from earlier this year. Covid is also at the bottom of the list of what Americans view as the #1 threat to public health at the moment. The top current threats are opioids and fentanyl, and obesity. Though concern over access to guns has receded a bit from a May spike, it remains toward the top of the list. Finally, when asked about a series of recent public health-related events or statistics, few are familiar, yet, when asked, care deeply about the same events – particularly as it relates to drug overdose deaths and supply chain issues around chemotherapy drugs.

 

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Detailed findings:

1. Compared to three months ago, fewer believe the Covid pandemic is over. The public is split both on the status of the pandemic and their level of concern over the recent uptick in cases.

  • As the new Eris Covid variant spreads, half of Americans agree the pandemic is over – down from 62% in mid-May, but on par with attitudes in the inaugural Axios/Ipsos American Health Index in February (47% agree). At the same time, 46% agree the recent uptick in Covid cases concerns them (53% disagree).
  • While Covid may not be as much in the rear view as we once thought, people are not changing their behaviors at this time. Eight in ten (82%) have not taken an at-home Covid test in the past week, consistent with findings in February and May, and the number of adults who report wearing a face mask in public either at all times or sometimes continues to decline.
  • Currently, 15% report masking at least sometimes in public (with most falling into the “sometimes, but not all the time” camp), compared to 23% in May and 30% in February.

2. Opioids and obesity are consistently seen as the #1 threat to American public health. Concerns over access to guns and firearms have receded slightly, with this issue being a bit more reactive and perhaps tied to recent events. Though obesity is a concern, few see taking weight loss drugs (e.g., Ozempic, Mounjaro) as a legitimate weight loss solution for those who are not obese or diabetic.

  • At this moment, 26% say opioids and fentanyl are the #1 public health threat, unchanged from the last two waves. Another 23% say obesity, also consistent with previous surveys.
  • One in five cite access to guns as the top threat. This particular item has moved around more: from 17% in February, to 26% in May, to 20% now. Notably, the May poll was fielded in the days after a high-profile mass shooting (the Texas mall shooting in Allen, Texas).
  • At 2%, Covid remains at the bottom of the list of public health threats.
  • Just one in three support people who are not obese or diabetic using weight loss drugs to lose weight. Though levels of support are similar to May (29% support), the number who strongly oppose has declined, as more move into the middle.

3. Familiarity with recent public health-related events or milestones is low. When prompted, however, many care about these statistics; particularly those relating to drug overdose deaths and medical supply chain issues.

  • Across eight different items – from the discovery of mosquito-borne malaria in the U.S., to drug shortages, to FDA approval of over-the-counter birth control – fewer than half are very or somewhat familiar with recent public health developments.
  • Roughly four in ten are familiar with the fact that U.S. drug overdose deaths reached a record high last year (44%) or people who are not obese or diabetic using weight loss drugs to lose weight (42%).
  • Those who live in rural areas, however, are more acutely familiar with the record-high drug overdose deaths (51%).
  • Though people are not necessarily aware of these health-related events, when prompted, they show a great deal of care. In particular, more than eight in ten care about supply chain issues causing cancer drug shortages (83% care a lot or care a little), with half saying they care a lot. A similar dynamic emerges on record-high overdose deaths (82% care; within that, 51% care a lot).
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4. It’s tick and mosquito season, but few feel these bits present significant risks to their health.

  • Just over a quarter of Americans say mosquito bites or tick bites present a large or moderate risk to them (28% and 27% risk, respectively).
  • Half (52%) report getting a mosquito bite in the past three months; just 5% say the same about a tick bite.
  • One in four are familiar with people contracting mosquito-borne malaria within the U.S. Awareness is not significantly higher in the South region, where these incidents have been reported. Most care about this happening, but it is more muted than some other issues (32% care a lot, 46% care a little).

Washington, DC, May 18, 2023—Three in five Americans now believe the COVID-19 pandemic is over, according to the latest Axios/Ipsos American Health Index. The survey, which was fielded in the days immediately after the public health emergency ended on May 11, shows that fewer Americans are masking in public compared to earlier this year and very few report taking at-home tests or contracting COVID recently. As COVID recedes from Americans’ collective consciousness, more Americans now believe access to guns is the #1 threat to American public health at the moment and many are wrestling with their attitudes toward gender identity and whether it is okay for adults and teens to decide how they identify. Separately, Americans are broadly opposed to reductions in Medicare or Social Security spending to lower the federal deficit, with significant opposition from both sides of the aisle.

Most (62%) now feel that the COVID-19 pandemic is over, up from February when 47% felt the same.  At the same time, more Americans now view access to guns or firearms as the #1 threat to public health, up from earlier this year

Detailed findings:

 1. Americans are personally dealing with COVID-19 less and are ready to move on from the pandemic as a public health emergency.

  • Compared with the first American Health Index wave in February, how Americans view their overall health and well-being is unchanged. Americans’ attitudes and experiences related to COVID-19, however, have changed significantly.
  • Fewer than a quarter (24%) now believe that contracting COVID-19 poses a large or moderate risk to their health, down nine percentage points from February. Only 5% say they have actually contracted COVID in the past three months.
  • Fewer also report masking in public settings: 23% say they mask at all times or sometimes, down from 30% from February. At the same time, a majority (56%) now say they are never masking in public.
  • Even though Americans have personally moved on, they still want the government and health insurance companies to pick up the costs for treatment and testing, something that has changed with the end of the public health emergency. Currently, 86% wants insurance companies to cover the cost of COVID testing, while 76% supports the government providing COVID vaccines and treatments for free, regardless of health insurance status.

 2. Access to guns and firearms is now considered one of the top threats to public health, alongside opioids and fentanyl. Since February, the number of Americans citing guns as their top concern has increased significantly.

  • Following several recent mass shootings, more than one in four (26%) believe access to guns is the #1 threat to public health at this moment, roughly tied with opioids and fentanyl (25%).
  • This represents a nearly 10 percentage point increase from earlier this year (26% now, 17% in February).
  • At the same time, the number of Americans citing COVID-19 as a top concern has halved from 6% to 3%.
  • Access to guns tops the list among Black Americans (49% cite this as their #1 concern), Democrats (50%), and those living in urban areas (31%).

3. A vast majority of Americans do not want Medicare and Social Security spending compromised to lower the federal deficit.

  • Most Americans (77%) oppose reducing Medicare and Social Security spending to reduce the federal deficit. Majorities of Democrats (82%), independents (77%), and Republicans (75%) oppose this.
  • Though, Americans are open to requiring proof of work in order to receive Medicaid or SNAP benefits. Most support (63%) requiring Medicaid or SNAP benefit recipients to show proof of work to receive benefits. 
  • There are significant partisan differences on work requirements, with supermajority support from Republicans (80%), majority support from independents (66%), and split support from Democrats (49%).

 4. Americans are wrestling with their attitudes on gender identity, sexuality, and their comfort with LGBTQ-related issues. A plurality agree that people should decide their gender identity, but when asked the same about teenagers, more disagree.

  • Though 63% of Americans indicate they are personally comfortable around LGBTQ people, other questions in the survey show that when it comes to policies and decisions around gender identity, attitudes are more mixed.
  • A plurality, but not a majority (44%), agrees that people should be able to decide their gender identity for themselves, while 31% of Americans disagree.
  • When asked about teenagers, fewer support gender self-identification: 33% agree teens should be able to decide their own gender identity and 44% disagree.
  • Moreover, the public is evenly split on whether parents supporting their transgender children with transitioning genders are committing something like child abuse (36% agree, 38% disagree, 24% neither agree or disagree).
  • The most significant differences in opinion on this topic are by party affiliation. Democrats and Republicans are worlds apart, with 35-40 percentage point gaps (or more) on their answers to this question.

Washington, DC, February 23, 2023—Americans have a pessimistic view of American public health, even as most report their own health and well-being as mostly good. Our new Axios-Ipsos American Health Index also shows that only three in ten Americans believe the country is ready for another pandemic, and a quarter or less believe that either American businesses or the government put people’s health first. Additionally, this survey updates a number of health-related behaviors ranging from diet, to vaccination uptake, to driving habits.

This is the first wave of our new quarterly Axios-Ipsos American Health Index, building on the work done during the COVID-19 pandemic with the Axios-Ipsos Coronavirus Index. Each quarter we plan to survey a representative sample of Americans looking at priorities, concerns, and behaviors that impact public health.

Graphs with the headline, "Half of Americans say government should prioritize lowering health care and prescription drug prices." The sub-headline says, "While Americans clearly prioritize lowering healthcare costs, they have mixed views on the top threat to public health."

 

Detailed Findings:

1. Americans view opioids, obesity, and guns as the main threats to public health at the moment. Yet, some leading causes of death like cancer or auto fatalities are further down the list.

  • Partisanship drives some of the attitudes about leading risks, with Republicans focused on opioids and obesity, while Democrats are more worried about gun deaths.
  • Education also has a strong connection to concerns about opioids and obesity. People with a high school education or less are, by a three-to-one margin, more concerned with opioids over obesity compared to those with a college degree, who see obesity as the bigger issue.

 2. When it comes to public health priorities, Americans look to their pocketbooks.

  • When asked what the government should prioritize for public health, half of Americans say reducing the cost of healthcare and prescription drugs.
  • The next closest priorities are research into breakthrough cures to major diseases and reducing gun deaths, both distantly behind reducing healthcare costs, at 14%.

 3. The large majority of Americans report their health as “good” right now. But, reading between the lines, only a few are totally happy with their diet, physical health, or personal finances.

  • Three-quarters or more Americans report they are in good health, ranging from emotional to financial. However, only about three in ten or less say that their diet (21%), physical health (27%), or personal finances (29%) are “very good,” suggesting these areas still have much room for improvement for most people.

 4. Americans’ behavior suggests a somewhat casual acceptance of risk is normal for many.

  • Driving is a center of risk, with half (52%) of Americans reporting that they speed sometimes or all the time, and about three in ten (29%) reporting that they text and drive at least occasionally.
  • Avoiding germs is also conditional; only a third (32%) report social distancing or wearing masks at least sometimes. Just 35% report washing their hands all the time when they arrive home or at their place of work.
  • Half (49%) of Americans report alcohol consumption in the past week, with a quarter (27%) having drinks on multiple days. Three-quarters (77%) report drinking caffeinated beverages multiple days per week.
  • Only three in ten Americans report walking 30 minutes or more every day, though about three in five (62%) report exercising several times a week or more.

 5. The American public is pessimistic about the institutions of America looking out for their health and well-being.

  • Three-quarters of Americans disagree that either American businesses or the government make the health and well-being of consumers or citizens a priority.
  • Only three in ten (28%) Americans think that the country is adequately prepared to deal with another pandemic.
  • Just 41% say they trust the information on health topics they get from their state’s governor either a great deal or a fair amount.

About the Study

The fourth wave of the Axios-Ipsos American Health Index survey was conducted February 16 to February 20, 2024 by Ipsos using our KnowledgePanel®. This poll is based on a nationally representative probability sample of 1,247 adults ages 18+. One respondent was removed from the final data for refusing all of the survey items. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 2.9 percentage points at the 95% confidence level, for results based on the entire sample of adults. The margin of sampling error takes into account the design effect, which was 1.07.

The third wave of the Axios-Ipsos American Health Index survey was conducted August 11 to August 14, 2023 by Ipsos using our KnowledgePanel®. This poll is based on a nationally representative probability sample of 1,162 adults ages 18+.The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 3.0 percentage points at the 95% confidence level, for results based on the entire sample of adults. The margin of sampling error takes into account the design effect, which was 1.08.

The second wave of the Axios-Ipsos American Health Index survey was conducted May 12 to May 15, 2023 by Ipsos using our KnowledgePanel®. This poll is based on a nationally representative probability sample of 1,095 adults ages 18+.The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points at the 95% confidence level, for results based on the entire sample of adults. The margin of sampling error takes into account the design effect, which was 1.12.

The first wave of the Axios-Ipsos American Health Index survey was conducted February 17 to February 21, 2023 by Ipsos using our KnowledgePanel®. This poll is based on a nationally representative probability sample of 1,213 adults ages 18+. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 3.0 percentage points at the 95% confidence level, for results based on the entire sample of adults. The margin of sampling error takes into account the design effect, which was 1.14.

The survey was conducted using KnowledgePanel, the most well-established online probability-based panel that is representative of the adult US population. Our recruitment process employs a scientifically developed addressed-based sampling methodology using the latest Delivery Sequence File of the USPS – a database with full coverage of all delivery points in the US. Households are randomly sampled from all available households in the US. All persons in selected households are invited to join and participate in KnowledgePanel. Ipsos provides selected households that do not already have internet access a tablet and internet connection at no cost to them. Those who join the panel and who are selected to participate in a survey are sent a unique password-protected log-in used to complete surveys online. As a result of our recruitment and sampling methods, samples from KnowledgePanel cover all households regardless of their phone or internet status and findings can be reported with a margin of sampling error and projected to the general population.

The study was conducted in both English and Spanish. The data were weighted to adjust for gender by age, race/ethnicity, education, Census region, metropolitan status and  household income. The demographic benchmarks came from 2023 Current Population Survey (CPS) from the US Census Bureau. The weighting categories were as follows:

  • Gender (Male, Female) by Age (18–29, 30–44, 45–59, and 60+)
  • Race/Hispanic Ethnicity (White Non-Hispanic, Black Non-Hispanic, Other or 2+ Races Non-Hispanic, Hispanic)
  • Education (High School graduate or less, Some College, Bachelor, Masters and beyond)
  • Census Region (Northeast, Midwest, South, West)
  • Metropolitan status (Metro, non-Metro)
  • Household Income (Under $25,000, $25,000-$49,999, $50,000-$74,999, $75,000-$99,999, $100,000-$149,999, $150,000+)

The margin of sampling error is higher and varies for results based on sub-samples. In our reporting of the findings, percentage points are rounded off to the nearest whole number. As a result, percentages in a given table column may total slightly higher or lower than 100%. In questions that permit multiple responses, columns may total substantially more than 100%, depending on the number of different responses offered by each respondent.

This topline includes trended data, where applicable. The field dates and sample sizes for previous Axios/Ipsos American Health Index surveys are as follows:

Wave:Interview dates:Interviews:
Wave 4February 16-20, 20241,247
Wave 3August 11-14, 20231,162

Wave 2

Wave 1

May 12-15, 2023

February 17-21, 2023

1,095

1,213

For more information on this news release, please contact:

Chris Jackson
Senior Vice President, US
Public Affairs
+1 202 420-2025
[email protected]

Mallory Newall
Vice President, US
Public Affairs
+1 202 374-2613
[email protected]

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The author(s)
  • Chris Jackson Senior Vice President, US, Public Affairs
  • Mallory Newall Vice President, US, Public Affairs
  • Sarah Feldman Editorial Director, US, Public Affairs
  • James Diamond Senior Research Manager, Public Affairs
  • Charlie Rollason Senior Research Manager, US, Public Affairs

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