Coronavirus: Americans widely oppose reopening most businesses, poll finds

Fear of becoming infected by coronavirus remains high among Americans, and a vast majority oppose reopening many kinds of businesses, according to a new poll.

Despite moves by some states throughout the U.S. to relax coronavirus-prompted restrictions, in a Washington Post-University of Maryland poll, people say they’re against opening dine-in restaurants, nail salons, barber shops and hair salons, retail shops, gyms and movie theaters.

A whopping 82% oppose opening movie theaters, while 78% say gyms should stay shuttered and 74% think dine-in restaurants and nail salons should remain closed.

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When it comes to gun stores, 70% say they should not be reopened, 69% oppose reopening barbershops and hair salons and 66% think retail shops, such as clothing stores, should stay closed.

A smaller majority, 59%, think people should stay off the green at golf courses.

Just over half of Americans (56%) say they’re comfortable going to the grocery store — an essential business, but far fewer are comfortable going to a retail store (33%) or eating out at a restaurant (22%).

Concerns about contracting coronavirus have not eased. The poll found that 63% of Americans remain either somewhat or very worried about being infected and getting seriously sick as of May 3. That’s up from April 26 (60%) and April 19 (57%).

When it comes to how people feel about the outbreak in their local community, 31% say the worst is behind them, 30% say the worst is happening now and 38% say the worst is still to come.

The poll numbers come in as protests across the U.S. have some clamoring to loosen coronavirus-related restrictions. The nationwide protests were mirrored in D.C. And there were also protests in Maryland.

In the D.C. region, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam said Monday that his state will enter the first phase of reopening as soon as May 15.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan says a gradual reopening will depend on downward virus trends. Last month, Hogan said he was hopeful Maryland could begin the first phase of reopening businesses in early May, but he hasn’t elaborated on a time. In Ocean City, the boardwalk and beaches will open this weekend for nearby residents.

As for the District itself, Mayor Muriel Bowser has repeatedly said the city won’t get anywhere near the first phase of reopening until there is a 14-day downward trend in coronavirus cases, and that hasn’t happened yet.

She commented Tuesday on Northam’s plans to reopen.

“”Well … (Gov. Northam) has to look at what’s on the ground, and his jurisdiction is a large jurisdiction, many regions, and certainly the National Capital Region is an important part of Virginia’s progress, success and economy. So I know that he’s going to make the best decisions for Virginia,” she told WTOP News Partner NBC Washington.

“But we have to emphasize that the crossing for nonessential businesses, or nonessential activity, period, to other jurisdictions, can put us all at risk.”

Despite the protests, governors fared well in the poll: 75% of Americans give their governors positive marks.

Federal health officials, like National institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci, also received high marks: 74% view Fauci’s response to the crisis as excellent or good; overall, 71% have a favorable view of public health scientists in the federal government.

President Donald Trump’s response to the crisis is not viewed nearly as well: 44% of Americans give him positive marks and 56% give him negative marks.

Trump has been pushing for the economy to broadly reopen. He insists that states can gradually lift lockdowns and still protect people from the coronavirus pandemic, even as he also suggests U.S. deaths could reach 100,000.

The president, fielding questions from Americans Sunday night in a virtual town hall from the Lincoln Memorial, acknowledged valid fears on both sides of the issue. Some people are worried about getting sick; others are reeling from lost jobs and livelihoods.

Trump increased his projection for the total U.S. death toll to as many as 100,000 — up from the 60,000 figure he suggested just a few weeks ago.

More than 68,000 Americans are confirmed dead from the virus, according to a Johns Hopkins database.

Many public health experts believe the nation cannot safely reopen fully until a vaccine is developed. Trump declared Sunday that he believed one could be available by year’s end.

The U.S. economy has suffered, shrinking at a 4.8% annual rate from January through March, the government estimated last week. And roughly 30.3 million people have filed for unemployment aid in the six weeks since the outbreak forced employers to shut down and slash their workforces.

The Washington Post-University of Maryland poll was conducted by telephone April 28 to May 3 among a random national sample of 1,005 adults. There is a margin of sampling error of +/- 3.5%.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


Will Vitka

William Vitka is a Digital Writer/Editor for He's been in the news industry for over a decade. Before joining WTOP, he worked for CBS News, Stuff Magazine, The New York Post and wrote a variety of books—about a dozen of them, with more to come.

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