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Data: Axios/Ipsos Poll; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Growing dread and acceptance of the winter ahead is weighing on Americans' physical and mental health and raising fears about debt and job security, according to the latest installment of the Axios/Ipsos Coronavirus Index.

The big picture: We're tracking a return to anxiety levels and routines not seen in months, as experts warn that the pandemic will get worse before vaccines are widely available.

  • People's views are being shaped by their own brushes with the virus, too. Three-fourths of respondents in our weekly national poll know someone who's tested positive for COVID-19 — and three in 10 know someone who's died.

By the numbers: More than seven out of 10 say returning to their normal pre-coronavirus life would pose a large or moderate risk to their health or well being, while 22% say their household debt has increased in the last month — the highest shares for both questions since April.

  • Just 9% say their physical health has improved in the last week, the lowest measure since April. And 9% say their mental health improved in the last week, the lowest since early August.
  • People are more stressed about their finances than they've been since the summer. 46% are now worried about job security, and 47% are worried about paying the bills.
  • And 15% say it's getting harder to pay the rent or mortgage, the highest since August.
  • Only about three out of 10 say they've gone out to eat in the last week, the lowest since late June.

But, but, but: Behaviors aren't moving in lockstep with fears. While 91% of Americans say they wear masks when they leave home, that's emboldened many to continue engaging outside the home largely as they have been for months.

  • Four in 10 Americans say they're still seeing friends and relatives.
  • And there haven't been significant decreases among the minorities of respondents who are spending time indoors outside of their own homes.

Between the lines: Pollster Chris Jackson, senior vice president for Ipsos Public Affairs, took at closer look at who's spending time indoors in five categories — at restaurants or bars, stadiums or arenas, the gym, homes of family and friends, or houses of worship.

  • He found that 18% combined spent a lot of time in such indoor settings — defined as significant (11+ hours in a week, three or more places) or very significant (five or more places, 50+ hours).
  • Those most likely to spend time in the higher risk settings were disproportionately Republican and either didn't have a main news source or mainly watch local news. Only 44% say they wear a mask at all times, and only 36% are concerned about COVID-19.
  • By contrast, 42% of respondents spent no time in the last week in those five non-work, out-of-home environments.

What we're watching: While former Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton are talking about getting vaccinated on camera to encourage more people that it's safe and the right thing to do, our survey found that's unlikely to sway four in 10 Americans.

Methodology: This Axios/Ipsos Poll was conducted Dec. 4-7 by Ipsos' KnowledgePanel®. This poll is based on a nationally representative probability sample of 1,101 general population adults age 18 or older.

  • The margin of sampling error is ±3.1 percentage points at the 95% confidence level, for results based on the entire sample of adults.

Go deeper

Jan 30, 2021 - World

Science helps New Zealand avoid another coronavirus lockdown

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern (L) visits a lab at Auckland University in December. Photo: Phil Walter/Getty Images

New Zealand has avoided locking down for a second time over COVID-19 community cases because of a swift, science-led response.

Why it matters: The Health Ministry said in an email to Axios Friday there's "no evidence of community transmission" despite three people testing positive after leaving managed hotel isolation. That means Kiwis can continue to visit bars, restaurants and events as much of the world remains on lockdown.

Jan 29, 2021 - Health

WHO says most pregnant women can now receive coronavirus vaccine

A doctor administering Moderna's coronavirus vaccine at a university hospital in Essen, Germany, on Jan. 18. Photo: Lukas Schulze/Getty Images

The World Health Organization has altered its guidance for pregnant women who wish to receive the coronavirus vaccine, saying now that those at high risk of exposure to the COVID-19 or who have comorbidities that increase their risk of severe disease, may be vaccinated.

Why it matters: The WHO drew backlash for its previous guidance that did not recommend pregnant women be inoculated with vaccines made by Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna, even though data indicated that pregnancy increased the risk of developing severe illness from the virus.

Jan 29, 2021 - Health

Ex-CDC director Tom Frieden on the next COVID-19 vaccines

Americans fortunate enough to receive COVID vaccines now, outside of clinical trials, are getting shots made by either Pfizer or Moderna. But newly released data from Novavax and Johnson & Johnson suggests that more vaccines could be on the way, with J&J's requiring a single dose.

Axios Re:Cap digs into the news and why it matters with Tom Frieden, former head of the CDC, as COVID-19 variants spread globally.