Coronavirus: When do Americans think public gatherings will be safe again?

If you’re jonesing to head out and get together with some friends for a fun time in the near future, you might want to curb your enthusiasm.

Roughly two-thirds of Americans (66%) say they don’t think it will be safe for groups of 10 or more people to gather until July or later, according to a new Washington Post-University of Maryland poll released Wednesday.

The new numbers mark a significant shift in public thinking from a few weeks ago.

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A similar poll conducted in April found that 51% of Americans thought gatherings would be safe by the end of June. That number has tumbled to 32%.

There is a political divide among those polled.

According to the survey, 80% of Democrats say gatherings could resume at the end of July or later, compared to 54% of Republicans.

Among both Republicans and Democrats, those who view the July-or-later timeline as likely has risen 26 points. Among independents, it’s up 14 points.

About 60% of Republicans believe gatherings of 10 or more people will be safe by the end of June.

Overall, a majority of Americans (58%) remain either very or somewhat worried about becoming infected and getting seriously ill. That’s down from 63% from last week.

Americans are also wary of the country reopening too soon. A majority (58%) think current restrictions on restaurants and nonessential businesses are appropriate.

The number of people who believe the measures are either too restrictive or not restrictive enough are similar: 21% think they’re too restrictive; 20% think the orders aren’t restrictive enough.

Those numbers are all down from April. Last month, 66% said the measures were appropriate; 17% said they were too restrictive; 16% said they weren’t restrictive enough.

Americans are also cautious in their communities, with 80% believing that a mask should be worn when near people outside their home. And 78% think people should stay home as much as possible.

The vast majority of Americans also believe it’s necessary for people to stay six feet apart in public (86%) and avoid gathering with friends they don’t live with (75%).

The survey questioned a random national sampling of 1,007 adults from May 5 to May 10. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 3.5%.

Will Vitka

William Vitka is a Digital Editor and reporter 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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