COVID on the mind: Americans fixated on virus talk

    Worried eyes peered from behind scores of masked shoppers standing outside the Anchorage Costco on Debarr Road this past week. Standing six feet apart and speaking through diverse face coverings many discussed the latest COVID news. As patrons shuffled towards the store entrance, one man chastised another for breaking the six-foot separation rule.

    It turns out that a large swath of Americans is fixated on virus talk these days. According to a new Pew Research Poll, 44% of U.S. adults say they discuss coronavirus with other people “most or almost all of the time” whether online, in person or over the phone.

    In Alaska and around the nation, COVID-19 has dramatically impacted daily life. According to Pew’s April survey, 43% of respondents said they or someone in their household had lost their job or taken a pay cut due to the outbreak. Another 24% said they were “very concerned” about contracting the virus and having to be hospitalized.

    Older Americans, who are at higher risk from the virus, are the least likely to fixate on COVID-19.

    While the virus has not been the health-crisis tsunami that many forecasted, it has wrecked widespread and lasting devastation on society at large. From hunker-down orders to restrictions on religious and social gatherings, nearly every facet of life has been altered.

    According to Pew, Republican-minded Americans are less likely to talk about COVID than their Democratic counterparts (39% to 50%). Propensity to talk about the virus also correlates with one’s level of media consumption.

    “Around six-in-ten adults who follow COVID-19 news very closely (58%) say they talk about the outbreak with other people most or almost all of the time,” Pew reports. “That compares with around a third of those who follow COVID-19 news fairly closely (36%) and around a fifth who follow coronavirus news not much or not at all (19%). Among those who follow coronavirus news not much or not at all, 30% say they hardly ever or never talk about the virus with other people.”

    Of note is the fact that older Americans, who are at higher risk from the virus, are the least fixated on it. Among those 65 and older, just 38% say they talk about the virus most or almost all the time.

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