Experts said the lifting of requirements makes sense given low...

Experts said the lifting of requirements makes sense given low case numbers on Long Island. Credit: Debbie Egan-Chin

A new survey found Americans are split on how and when they can return to "normal life," even as many COVID-19 restrictions end on Long Island.

A majority of U.S. adults worry about the negative consequences of both lifting coronavirus-related restrictions and keeping them in place, even as most believe the worst of the pandemic is behind us, according to the survey by the nonprofit health organization Kaiser Family Foundation.

About 61% of 1,502 adults sampled worry that people who are immunocompromised will be left behind in a return to normal. Nearly half are concerned that lifting restrictions could lead to rising deaths in their communities and difficulties accessing medical care, according to the study released on March 1.

But larger majorities — 65% and 63% — worry that if masking and testing requirements stay in place, kids' and teens’ mental health will suffer and local businesses will lose out.

        WHAT TO KNOW

  • A new study found that 62% of American adults believe the worst of the pandemic is behind us, but overall are split on how the return to normal life should look and when it should happen.
  • About 61% of adults are concerned that lifting restrictions will cause immunocompromised people to be left behind, and nearly half of those surveyed said they worry that lifting restrictions will lead to more deaths and difficulties accessing medical care.
  • But 65% worry that continuing mandates would harm kids’ and teens’ mental health. And another 63% worry that businesses will suffer from the loss of revenue.

"The conventional wisdom seems to be that Americans are ready to throw off all COVID restrictions and be done with it, but the survey shows that reality is much more complicated," KFF President and CEO Drew Altman said in a statement.

"Much of the public is sensibly both anxious and eager about returning to normal," he added.

As for when returning to normal will be safe, 35% said "now" at the time of the survey, which took place from Feb. 9 to 21. Another 32% said they expected that moment to come by the fall or earlier, while 26% said they believed it would be another year or more.

Still, about half of adults reported they're already living almost or largely normally, although 78% acknowledged "normal" looks different from before.


Nassau: 1.4%

Suffolk: 1.6%

Statewide: 1.36%


Nassau: 1.7%

Suffolk: 1.5%

Statewide: 1.56%   

Source: New York State Department of Health

Dr. Aaron Glatt, chair of the department of medicine at Mount Sinai South Nassau Hospital in Oceanside, said the survey results are "not surprising," especially as COVID-19 case numbers and hospitalizations have dropped to some of the lowest levels seen so far.

"A lot of people are very hopeful, and therefore they act as if [the pandemic] is over. I'm also hopeful that they're right. But I don't know if that's true," Glatt said. " … It's critically important that people understand that they not throw away everything. We've reached a good, safe point. And let's hope we can continue with that," he said.

The study was released as New York Gov. Kathy Hochul dropped indoor and school mask mandates, and just before New York City Mayor Eric Adams announced most city restrictions will end Monday.

Some New Yorkers celebrated. Others remained wary, citing that children under age 5 are still not able to get vaccinated and people who are immunocompromised remain more vulnerable to severe illness and death.

But experts said lifting requirements makes sense when case numbers are so low — a sign the region might be entering the herd immunity or endemic stage of the virus.

The seven-day rate of positive test results continued to drop on Saturday, to 1.62% for Long Island, with 79 new cases in Nassau and 93 in Suffolk, according to state health data released Sunday.

People who are fully vaccinated and boosted and don’t have severe medical conditions "can go back to a somewhat normal life," Glatt said.

Those who are immunocompromised — an estimated 5 to 7 million Americans — "naturally would continue to have some concern because there is still ongoing spread and those individuals may not have had the same degree of response to the vaccines," said Dr. David Hirschwerk, medical director at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset.

Whether people with compromised immune systems want to return to normal might depend on the severity of their medical condition and "their own personal choices," he said.

At South Nassau, the "sickest" patients in recent times have either been unvaccinated or have had severe underlying medical conditions, Glatt said.

Glatt recommended that those who are immunocompromised continue wearing masks in indoor places with crowds where vaccination statuses are unknown. In small and vaccinated groups, "they can decide for themselves how much risk they're willing to take," he said.

They can also consider taking monoclonal antibody therapies, which reduce the risk of infection, if approved by a doctor, Glatt said. If they become infected, they should see a physician right away because of new treatments that can reduce the severity of the disease.

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