Though Canada and the United States are geographically and culturally similar, their views and actions regarding COVID-19 differ. The public perception of the virus’ impact in 2021 is distinctive.

When analyzing what COVID-19 may look like in 2021 in Canada versus the U.S., it is crucial to assess citizens’ intentions of receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. According to an IPSOS poll, 76 percent of Canadians plan on getting the COVID-19 vaccine when it is available to them. In contrast, only 64 percent of Americans said they would get vaccinated when granted the opportunity. This acceptance for receiving a vaccine puts Canadians on track for a potentially safer and less restricted way of life in 2021.

This gap is likely caused by former President Donald Trump’s decision to deny that the virus exists and continually downplay its effects, even after getting infected. As indicated by National Public Radio during an interview with Bob Woodward, Trump stated, “I wanted to always play it [COVID-19] down”.

Things are looking different since President Biden took office. An AP-NORC poll suggests that roughly 8 in 10 American’s believe Biden will consider expert advice when it comes to policy-making, unlike former President Trump who had “clashed” with his coronavirus experts. 

That being said, both countries feel similar about the development of a vaccine in 2021; 64 percent of Americans and 63 percent of Canadians believe that there will be a successful vaccine in 2021. Both countries have similar optimism when it comes to the vaccine’s potential, but the availability and willingness to get vaccinated are essential to consider.

Americans, however, have less faith in other people using masks to prevent the spread of the virus. Canadians are 64 percent confident that fellow citizens will continue wearing masks in the new year, while only 55 percent of Americans predict that most people will wear masks in public in 2021. This reveals a lack of confidence in others regarding protection from COVID-19.

This discrepancy is unsurprising considering that former U.S. President Trump has mocked mask-wearing. The decision to wear a mask is politicized in America, as many often claim that it infringes on their First Amendment right to liberty. 

Both economies have certainly suffered due to COVID-19, but 35 percent of Americans are cheerful about the U.S. economy restoring itself back to normal. The same IPSOS poll indicates that Canadians are less optimistic, with only 15 percent of those surveyed believing that the economy will likely restore itself in 2021. 

Canada and the U.S. are about evenly split on whether income inequality will improve or worsen in 2021. This is one of their few similar predictions; the majority of polled countries were certain that income disparity would worsen in 2021. 

Satisfaction in how the government handled COVID-19 in 2020 is where Canadians and Americans disagree most. According to Pew Research Center, 88 percent of Canadians felt that their government did a good job handling the pandemic, yet only 47 percent of Americans expressed satisfaction with how their government addressed the virus.

America’s dissatisfaction with how the government addressed the virus is a combination of a stimulus package that was less supportive than Canada’s, and the former president and his political allies’ refusal to follow CDC guidelines. Meanwhile, Canadian politicians, such as Prime Minister Trudeau not only addressed the seriousness of the issue, but also personally followed guidelines including social distancing and mask-wearing.

Another IPSOS poll reveals an even greater inconsistency between government leadership approval during COVID-19. The U.S. received a failing score, with only 22 percent of Americans believing their government showed strong leadership. Canada scored over three times higher, 72 percent of participants agreed that their country’s response to COVID-19 demonstrated respectable leadership. 

In the U.S., former President Trump left states to provide for themselves; from refusing to provide PPE for personal reasons to allowing states to determine their own COVID-19 regulations, plans and funding. Donald Trump’s inaction caused states to scramble, leaving them with great responsibility. Prime Minister Trudeau took more formal action while openly communicating with provinces. 

American’s pessimism surrounding COVID-19’s role in 2021 is expected to lessen due to President Biden’s proposed $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package. This package would support vaccine distribution and other components that are necessary for reopening the country on a state and national scale.

The two North American countries had separate ways of handling the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. Outlooks on citizen’s behavior and government leadership are areas where Americans and Canadians’ perceptions of COVID-19 respite discern themselves. Americans generally feel that COVID-19 will continue to wreak havoc throughout 2021, while Canadians are faithful that life will progressively move toward “normal.” With a new year and new leadership, only time will tell how the virus will manifest in the U.S and Canada during 2021.

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