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Axios-Ipsos poll: Surviving COVID makes people take it more seriously

Data: Axios/Ipsos survey; Chart: Axios Visuals

People who have survived a coronavirus infection say the experience made them take the pandemic more seriously, according to an Axios/Ipsos survey— the first to focus exclusively on people who have contracted the virus.

The big picture: A vocal group of White House officials, state officials and conservative pundits have argued for months that the virus simply is not that big a deal for the people who don’t die or become seriously ill. But that’s not how those patients themselves see it.

By the numbers: 54% of the coronavirus survivors in our survey said contracting the virus made them take it more seriously, compared to just 15% who now take it less seriously.

  • 63% said they’re likely to take a vaccine once it’s publicly available — 15 percentage points higher than the general population.

Key caveat: This survey covered 319 people who said they had tested positive for a coronavirus infection. That’s a relatively small sample, and it has a relatively large margin of error, at +/- 7.5 percentage points.

  • But it's still the first survey of its kind, and it provides valuable statistical insight, in big-picture terms, into the thoughts and feelings of the large and growing share of Americans who have been infected during this pandemic.

What they’re saying: “Even for a lot of people for whom it's supposed to be no big deal, it’s a pretty big deal,” said Ashish Jha, the dean of public health at Brown University. “That strikes me as saying something really meaningful about how serious the virus is for people who end up getting infected.”

Only 10% of respondents in this survey said they were hospitalized, an objective indication that most of them did not suffer the most severe illness.

  • Roughy 80% described their own symptoms as mild or moderate.

Those patients — the ones who don’t die or become gravely ill — are central to the “herd immunity” strategy advanced by some conservatives, including former Trump administration advisers Scott Atlas and Paul Alexander.

  • They argue that because COVID-19 kills a relatively small percentage of the people it infects, the U.S. should attempt to cordon off the most vulnerable people without worrying so much about the virus' continued spread throughout the rest of the population, or even encourage that spread, so that more people will develop natural immunity.
  • You hear some similar themes — even if I get it, I’ll be fine; it’s not that bad — from some people who reject masks, social distancing or other public-health guidelines.

But even though people who have had the virus may develop some level of immunity, the recovered patients in our survey were bullish on getting vaccinated — another indication that, to the people who know best what a mild infection really feels like, it doesn't feel so minor.

“There has been this mindset — really based on very little evidence — that if you're not 75 and over with lots of chronic diseases, it's just not a big deal,” Jha said. “And that mindset is wrong and destructive.”

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