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'Anybody can say that they got vaccinated': How the honor system factors into the new CDC mask guidance

“I think my biggest fear would be like other people actually not being vaccinated and not wearing their masks,” said one Portland woman

PORTLAND, Ore. — Assuming vaccinated Oregonians and Washingtonians eventually, perhaps gradually, are given the go-ahead to follow the CDC’s guidance and gather indoors without masks or social distancing, they will have to rely on the honor system.

It’s a point that’s prompted a lot of calls, emails and messages on social media from concerned KGW viewers. People shopping on Northwest 23rd Avenue Friday brought the matter up, too.

“I think my biggest fear would be like other people actually not being vaccinated and not wearing their masks,” said Natalie Lavery.

“Anybody can say that they got vaccinated,” added her friend Tatiana Aseillaga.

Friday, state officials said they were leaning toward putting new rules into place that would require businesses have their customers prove they’re vaccinated before entering. That said, businesses can still require masks if they choose.

Rachel Clark, owner of Goose Hollow Inn in Southwest Portland, has already faced pushback surrounding the new guidance. It happened Thursday evening, a few hours after the CDC announced its pivot in guidance.

“A staff member came to me and said there's somebody who's refusing to wear a mask,” she said.

Clark said, in fact, two maskless men came into her restaurant demanding to be served. She informed them they had to wear masks until getting to their seats, per restaurant policy.

RELATED: These stores plan to keep requiring masks for now

She said in response, they told her “…that I needed to be better informed, that the CDC said the law was that they didn't need to wear masks.”

Ironically, the unmasked were the ones who were misinformed. The CDC’s guidance on masks is just that: guidance. States can then decide whether to make laws based on that guidance. Amid all that, each business has the right to set its own policy.

Clark hopes people remember how hard this pandemic has been on small businesses.

“The men were pretty aggressive and rude, and that hurt my feelings a lot,” she said.

Dr. Aimee Huff at Oregon State University has been studying the societal components of this pandemic, including the clashes over masks, vaccines and other hot-button elements. She’s not surprised people are confused and frustrated over this loosening in guidance.

“I think just generally people are tired,” she said via Zoom Friday. “They're confused. They've got information coming at them from multiple directions, and a lot of it is conflicting.”

RELATED: No, most businesses won’t violate HIPAA by asking customers if they’ve been vaccinated

As far as the “honor system” element of this new normal goes, she predicted it will get less stressful over time, adding people trust each other taking risks every day.

“Every time we get in the car and we get on the road with other drivers, we're trusting that they're not impaired or distracted. We're trusting that they're going to follow the rules of the road,” Dr. Huff said. “The research shows that when people are overwhelmed and when people are confused, they revert back to behaviors that they know, and that feels safe … So. I think we will likely see at least for the short term people continuing to wear masks, even if they don't have to.”

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