Marylanders’ attitudes toward the COVID-19 virus and response are changing as the pandemic enters a third calendar year.
A poll released Tuesday by the Sarah T. Hughes Center for Politics at Goucher College comes as the state and nation emerge from the omicron variant of the virus. Mileah Kromer, a politics science professor at the college and director of the poll, said the results signal a desire to return to a time that more closely resembles the time before the virus.
“As we enter into the third year of the pandemic, our results suggest that Marylanders are ready for a return to ‘normalcy’ and support their local jurisdictions ending the remaining mandates and restrictions,” said Kromer. “Getting COVID-19 remains a concern for many Marylanders, but the level of concern has waned.”
The poll surveyed 635 adult Marylanders between March 1-6. The margin of error is 3.9%.
Of those surveyed, a plurality — 44% — said the pace at which their local jurisdiction is ending mandates including masks is “about right.” Nearly equal numbers of people said the mandates are coming off too fast or too slowly — 28% of respondents said they believed the mandates were coming off “too quickly,” 25% said those same mandates were removed too slowly.
The state has weathered the omicron variant that surged late last year into January, pushing daily new cases hospitalizations and deaths to record highs.
As those numbers receded, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention instituted new measurements that focus on hospitalizations week over week and hospital capacity.
Masking and other mandates have been lifted in most jurisdictions, including public schools, but some mandates remain.
The House of Delegates continue to require masks. Its committees continue to meet virtually. The Senate has made mask use optional and returned to in-person committee hearings.
In the Goucher College Poll, respondents were more closely split on concerns about getting the virus.
Of those surveyed, 53% said they were somewhat or very concerned about getting sick. Another 47% are either not concerned or a little concerned about getting sick.
The same poll a year ago found 71% of those who responded were very or somewhat concerned.
By and large, local health departments, Gov. Larry Hogan, the Maryland Department of Health and local elected leaders received high marks for how they’ve handled the public health crisis.
The General Assembly received slightly lower marks.
Those surveyed were more closely divided in their opinion of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Of those, 55% said they approved of how the federal agency has performed and 42% said they disapproved.
On another issue, the polls found that Marylanders overwhelmingly believe that climate change has had an effect on sea levels, wildlife and ecosystems, extreme weather, fishing and agriculture, air quality and overall human health.
The General Assembly is again working on legislation that would require dramatic reductions in greenhouse gases and ultimately require a net-zero impact in the state. The Senate was scheduled Monday night to take a final vote on its version of the bill.