Is It Time To Relax Social Distancing?

Posted May 6, 2020 by Mark Perna

Four generations weigh in on relaxing social distancing and stay-at-home orders—and they don’t all agree. Mark’s article, “Is It Time To Relax Social Distancing?,” published at on May 6, 2020.

Georgia and Alaska are among the first states to start easing stay-at-home and social distancing requirements. While the rest of the country watches, these states’ non-essential businesses are cautiously reopening. The big question—when to follow suit—is on everyone’s mind. How are different generations answering it?

ENGINE Insights’ ninth survey, released May 3, reports that 62% of Gen-X respondents are now in favor of relaxing their state’s stay-at-home and social distancing orders. This represents a 13% surge in just one week.

Hard on their heels, 61% of Gen-Z believes that social distancing should be relaxed to help the economy, a 3% increase since last week. And 49% of Baby Boomers agree, up 7%.

Millennials, on the other hand, are growing more cautious, with 55% saying that stay-at-home orders and social distancing should not be relaxed yet—up 6% since last week.

Why the divide

Across generations, quarantine fatigue has everyone down. Seeing family members, interacting outside the home, shopping for non-essentials, celebrating special occasions, and eating out are just a few of things Americans are missing. Combine this with concern about the economy—expressed by 91% of the survey’s respondents—and it’s little wonder that many are starting to favor a more relaxed approach to the lockdowns.

Millennials who buck this trend may do so not for their own sake, but for their parents. Millennials are new to the role of caregiver to their aging or ailing parents, but it’s a responsibility they take seriously. It’s likely they’re worried that once stay-at-home orders are lifted, their older family members may venture out more freely and thus increase their risk of contracting the virus.

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Overall, 48% of Americans consider themselves “very concerned” about a family member catching the virus, while only 36% express that same level of concern about their own chances of becoming ill.

In general, anxiety about the pandemic across all generations is slowly trending down. As the initial shock has worn off, it seems that many are growing accustomed to this uncharted and disrupted life. While coronavirus has created unprecedented challenges for almost everyone, slowly but surely it’s becoming the new norm, and people are coping as best they can.

Returning to some semblance of normal has become, practically overnight, the dream of four generations. It’s just the when and the how we can’t agree on.

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About The Author
Mark Perna
Mark C. Perna is an international speaker and bestselling author. He also serves as CEO of TFS Results, a strategic consulting firm at the forefront of the national paradigm shift in education and workforce development.
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