In my blog last week, I included graphs showing the fluctuation of peoples’ comfort level of returning to different out-of-home (OOH) activities from late April to the present. Comfort levels increased until mid-June, but then the trend turned in the opposite direction and has continued with comfort decreasing through last week.
So, the important question is how soon will people again start visiting various OOH activities? To get insight into the answer to that question as well as see what changes occurred between the peaks in mid-June and now, I dug into poll data on how soon people said they would be comfortable visiting different OOH activities again.
The graphs below show the percentages of adults who say they will be returning to the respective OOH activities within one month, the next 2 months, the next 3 months, within 4-6 months, and greater than 6 months.
Restaurants continue to be the OOH activity people are most comfortable returning to. However, those who say it will be at least 6 months before they visit increased from one-quarter of all adults in mid-June (24%) to more than one-third in late August (36%). All the other OOH activities also showed greater percentages of people now saying it will be longer than 6 months before they feel comfortable returning.
After restaurants, people were most comfortable attending a party, social event, or a museum. However, slightly more than half (52%) say it will be at least 6 months before they are comfortable attending. Consistent with all the other polling data I’ve analyzed, amusement parks and seated live events show the least comfort with at least 6 in 10 adults saying it will be more than 6 months before they return.
The decline that started in mid-June in both comfort and the lengthening of how soon people will return corresponded with the surge in the number of confirmed coronavirus cases. This indicates that there is a correlation between infection rates and comfort. If infection rates start declining, the comfort levels and how soon people will return to OOH activities should improve.
Keep in mind that all the polling data is for the entire U.S. Some areas of the country have high infection rates, while others have low ones. So, comfort levels in different areas will vary. Also, the demographics and political affiliation of people affect their comfort levels. Younger adults and Republicans show much higher levels of current comfort as well as indications they will return to OOH activities much sooner than other segments of the population.
I think the bottom line is that we won’t be getting back close to 2019 levels of visitation and attendance at OOH dining, social, cultural and entertainment activities any time soon, most likely not until there is a medical breakthrough, either an effective cure for Covid-19 or an effective vaccine with a wide vaccination rate. So, we’re probably looking the soonest at late 2021.