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Most Americans May Keep Wearing Masks, Distancing Even After Pandemic: Survey

MONDAY, Feb. 8, 2021 (HealthDay News) -- Wearing masks, frequent hand-washing and avoiding large crowds may not have been part of the American culture before the coronavirus pandemic began, but those habits are likely to stick around for a while, new research suggests.

A national survey from Ohio State University's Wexner Medical Center of more than 2,000 Americans shows that a majority of people don't plan to return to their old ways anytime soon.

The survey found that 9 of 10 Americans will continue frequent hand-washing and sanitizer use after COVID-19, while 4 of 5 will still avoid crowds. Nearly three-quarters of respondents said they planned to continue wearing masks in public.

"While the progress we're making toward recovery is exciting, it is critical that we don't ease up on the precautions that we know have worked thus far," said survey leader Dr. Iahn Gonsenhauser, chief quality and patient safety officer at Wexner Medical Center.

"Masks and physical distancing are still our very best weapons for limiting spread, and now that we have a vaccine it will make those precautions even more effective and will drive new cases way down if we stay the course," he said in a university news release.

These behaviors may help ease people's anxiety about returning to public spaces and provide a sense of control, researchers said. Some societal changes forced by the pandemic may also continue, including telehealth for medical appointments and working from home.

Gonsenhauser pointed to this year's flu season as proof of the effectiveness of behaviors such as hand-washing, social distancing and mask wearing.

"Flu cases and hospitalizations are way down compared to recent years, and a lot of that is likely because precautions like masking, physical distancing and hand hygiene are absolutely working for flu," Gonsenhauser said. "I think a lot of people are realizing that what we've learned from COVID-19 can be applied more generally to keep our population healthy."

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers tips for social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

SOURCE: Ohio State University, news release, Feb. 8, 2021

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