Lifetime Lockdown? 40% Of Americans Will Avoid Public Spaces Long After Coronavirus Pandemic Ends

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  • New survey reveals 16% of Americans aren’t sure they’ll ever be comfortable going out in public again.
  • Nearly six in 10 adults say they’re more concerned about their friends’ and family’s hygiene moving forward.
  • One in four workers will leave their current job if their employer doesn’t invest in stronger cleaning practices.

TROY, N.Y. — Here’s hoping you enjoyed the last movie or concert you attended, because if the results of a new survey are accurate, it may be a long, long time before such events are ever popular again. According to the research, 40% of Americans plan to avoid public spaces unless “absolutely necessary” long after the coronavirus pandemic has subsided.

The survey, commissioned by Vital Vio, asked 1,000 U.S. adults about how they envision every day life in the wake of the coronavirus. All in all, it looks like there are suddenly a whole lot more germaphobes in the land of the free. Over four in five (82%) said they are now more aware of, and concerned about, cleaning protocols in public areas. Additionally, 58% are more suspicious about their friends’ and family’s hygiene habits. Next year’s Thanksgiving could get interesting.

Even among those who said they will return to public spaces eventually, it isn’t going to happen immediately. A third will wait a few weeks, and 26% will wait one or two months. Some respondents (16%) went so far as to say that they’re unsure if they’ll ever feel comfortable out in public again.

“While COVID-19 conversations have started shifting from shutting down to reopening the country, the truth is that we’re far from normal life,” Colleen Costello, CEO and co-founder of Vital Vio, tells StudyFinds. “In fact, our report spotlights how Americans’ heightened germ concerns could push them to avoid social interactions and public spaces unless absolutely necessary, even after it’s deemed safe by the government.”

It’s one thing to avoid the outside world, but we all have to bring stuff inside time to time. Most of the survey’s participants said they worry about bringing in groceries, packages, and mail. In fact, 57% actually clean those items before bringing them inside.

So, with our newfound national obsession with germs comes increased interest in cleaning products. A total of 83% of Americans are inclined to buy more chemical cleaners and disinfectants. Interestingly, younger respondents (ages 18-34) indicated they’re especially curious about new ways of cleaning, such as air filters (43%) and UV light sanitizers (21%).

Across all ages, however, Americans like the idea of technology that automates and simplifies cleaning measures. Just over half (52%) would be open to purchasing such technology, and 64% said they would pay more to live somewhere that offers self-cleaning services.

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Beyond just life at home, though, the post-coronavirus landscape is going to be a brave new world for businesses as well. Most respondents (76%) said they’re going to hold businesses accountable for how they clean their spaces and 51% won’t patronize establishments that aren’t transparent about their cleaning practices.

Many are even willing to pay more in certain industries for enhanced cleaning options and tools. Industries mentioned by respondents included travel (56%), dining (54%), and retail (52%). Over a third of Americans (35%) are most worried about visiting restaurants or retail stores, while 27% are more worried about public transit.

Nearly all respondents (92%) believe virtually all businesses should make hand sanitizer widely available for customers, and 78% think businesses should hire more cleaning staff. Also, 61% would like to see more businesses equipped with automated cleaning technology.

Next, respondents were asked about office spaces. Will we ever see the typical American office layout again? Perhaps, but it’s going to take some time. Many respondents have already become accustomed to working from home, and 17% plan on waiting a few weeks before returning, even after it’s deemed “safe.” Another 11% will wait a couple of months, and an additional 11% are unsure if they’ll ever return.

It’s clear that Americans expect a new standard of cleanliness from their employers; 25% said they’ll leave their job if their employer doesn’t invest in cleanliness (31% of surveyed millennials agreed with this notion).

There’s a whole lot of worry associated with returning to the office; 28% are concerned their office isn’t cleaned often enough, 23% worry about their co-workers’ hygiene, and 22% worry their co-workers won’t stay home when sick.

Regarding traveling for work, 43% now expect their employer to pay more for hygienic travel arrangements.

A significant portion of respondents are also worried about their children’s safety once schools re-open. Over a quarter (27%) will wait a few weeks before sending their kids back to class and 24% will wait two months. Also, 81% expect their local school district to spend more money on cleaning measures. To that end, nearly half would pay more for schools (41%) or childcare centers (40%) with state-of-the-art cleaning technology.

“For the foreseeable future, our ‘new normal’ will likely mean more aware and cautious citizens – and this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’ll push businesses and public environments to become cleaner and individuals to be better about personal hygiene,” says Costello. “However, it’s important that Americans stay informed about the facts – understanding, at a high level, the science behind disease spread, and the simple steps they can take every day as well as technologies available to protect themselves and their families.”

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