May 29, 2021, 1:30 p.m. EDT

Do Americans trust others to be honest about their COVID-19 vaccine? It all depends on where you are

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By Meera Jagannathan

While the recent federal guidance on mask wearing depends on people being transparent about their COVID-19 vaccination status, a new survey suggests most Americans don’t trust strangers to be honest.

Some 88% of Americans trust their close family or friends to be honest about whether they’ve been vaccinated against the coronavirus, and 71% trust their coworkers, according to the latest Axios-Ipsos Coronavirus Index survey.

But those levels of trust drop to just 25% when it comes to people indoors at a bar, restaurant or nightclub, 25% for people at an outdoor sporting event or concert, and 24% for people at an airport.

Democrats surveyed were less likely than their Republican counterparts — and respondents overall — to have trust in others regarding vaccination status, particularly in people who were opposed to getting vaccinated.

The survey of 1,102 people was conducted May 21 to May 24, more than a week after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that fully vaccinated individuals no longer needed to wear masks “in any setting” except when required by federal, state, local, tribal or territorial rules and laws, as well as under guidance from businesses and workplaces.

Fully vaccinated people can also drop the physical distancing, outside of those exceptions.

“If you are fully vaccinated, you can start doing the things that you had stopped doing because of the pandemic,” CDC director Rochelle Walensky said. People who start feeling sick should still wear a mask and get tested immediately, she added.

People are considered fully vaccinated against COVID-19 two weeks after their second shot of the two-dose Pfizer /zigman2/quotes/202877789/composite PFE +1.75% or Moderna /zigman2/quotes/205619834/composite MRNA -1.16% vaccines, or their only shot of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson /zigman2/quotes/201724570/composite JNJ +2.36% vaccine.

But because it is impossible to determine someone’s vaccination status by looking at them — and with the Biden administration opposing the idea of mandatory “vaccine passports” at the federal level — the new CDC guidelines largely rest on adherence to an honor system

“You’re going to be depending on people being honest enough to say whether they were vaccinated or not,” Anthony Fauci, President Biden’s chief medical adviser, told CNN earlier this month .

While some Americans are cheerfully shedding their masks, others have been less enthused by the new federal guidance. 

For example, Marc Perrone, the president of the United Food and Commercial Workers union, called the CDC guidance confusing and said it “fails to consider how it will impact essential workers who face frequent exposure to individuals who are not vaccinated and refuse to wear masks.” 

“Millions of Americans are doing the right thing and getting vaccinated, but essential workers are still forced to play mask police for shoppers who are unvaccinated and refuse to follow local COVID safety measures,” Perrone said. “Are they now supposed to become the vaccination police?”

And though the guidelines say that people with weakened immune systems should consult their health-care provider and may need to keep taking all precautions even after vaccination, some immunocompromised people have also expressed concern over the prospect of others — particularly unvaccinated people — not masking up around them. 

The vaccines may be less effective in some people with compromised immune systems, early research suggests

Just 44% of respondents to the Axios-Ipsos survey said they were staying home and avoiding other people as much as possible, a 12-percentage point drop from two weeks earlier, with the biggest decreases in people older than 50 and vaccinated individuals. 

Meanwhile, 45% said they were wearing masks at all times when they left home, a 13-point drop from the previous survey mostly fueled by deceases among vaccinated people.

As of Tuesday, nearly 40% of the total U.S. population had been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus and almost 50% had received at least one dose, according to the CDC . Among U.S. adults, half were fully vaccinated and almost 62% had received at least one dose.

Also read: No, you’re not crazy. Yes, CDC mask guidelines are confusing — so should you stop wearing a mask in public or not?

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