Californians less optimistic about pandemic than last spring

The way we think about the pandemic has fundamentally shifted since last spring

By Soumya Karlamangla

The New York Times

As you’re probably aware by now, COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations are plummeting in California — the first pandemic-related good news in months.

And while there’s no way to know what the coronavirus will do next, many hope the omicron surge was the last big one, since the variant’s extreme infectiousness means millions of Americans now have an added layer of immunity.

Californians, however, aren’t feeling all that hopeful.

A poll from the Public Policy Institute of California released this week uncovered the lowest levels of optimism about the pandemic since spring.

The survey found 67% of Californians believe the worst of the pandemic is behind the United States, compared with 86% who felt that way in May.

And 42% of Golden State residents say they are somewhat or very concerned about catching the coronavirus, a jump from 28% in May, the poll found.

There are a few things to keep in mind here. The survey data was collected in late January, when omicron was peaking, so it may reflect an artificially high level of anxiety among Californians that already has begun to dip.

But, probably more meaningfully, the way we think about the pandemic also has fundamentally shifted since spring.

The initial rollout of the vaccines in late 2020 brought the promise of a tidy ending to COVID-19: Once we all got our shots, the virus would be a thing of the past.

In the spring and early summer last year, as cases plummeted in California after a giant winter surge, life felt especially rosy.

But then the delta variant emerged, and omicron months later.

Those outbreaks made it increasingly clear the coronavirus was most likely going to become endemic, and that we have to learn how to live alongside it.

So while it’s true omicron may mark the beginning of a return to our prepandemic lives, we’re now uncomfortably aware there are no guarantees.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

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