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Will the CDC’s mask gamble work?

Experts talk about whether the CDC’s new mask guidelines will work

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A woman without a mask crosses State Street at 200 South in Salt Lake City.

A woman without a mask crosses State Street at 200 South in Salt Lake City on Friday, May 14, 2021. Federal guidelines say masks are no longer needed in most situations for Americans who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is hoping unvaccinated people will get vaccinated. But its latest plan to make it happen — saying vaccinated people can take off their masks — might not lead to more vaccinations, an expert recently told NPR.

Will the CDC COVID-19 vaccine plan work?

Duke University professor Dan Ariely, who studies both economics and psychology, told NPR he doesn’t think the rewards offered by the CDC — or other incentives offered by states — will work to get the unvaccinated vaccinated.

  • “I think it’s going to help the people who are on the fence, but it’s not going to be enough,” he said.

The incentive process still allows people to say they’re vaccinated even if they’re not. There aren’t many places that ask for proof of vaccinations.

  • “The logic of easing the constraints is predicated on the fact that people will be honest, and if people stop being honest,” he said.

Masks, he said, will be required again if case numbers go up and infections remain high. So instead, Ariely told NPR the U.S. should look to add a proof of vaccination requirement for activities to make sure everyone can stay safe.

  • “It’s not that I don’t understand that it’s a violation of privacy. I would much prefer to have the honor system,” he said. “But at the same time, I don’t think we’re there.”

Will the honor system work?

Dr. Anthony Fauci, one of the country’s top infectious disease experts, told CNN the new CDC guidelines require people to be honest about whether they’re vaccinated.

“You’re gonna be depending on people being honest enough to say whether they are vaccinated or not,” Fauci told CNN.

Quinton Lucas, the mayor of Kansas City, Missouri, told CNN that the honor system isn’t working in his city so far.

  • “I don’t think it’s going to work in a lot of parts in this country,” Lucas added.
  • “It creates these sort of challenges where, how does the store clerk check it? How does our health department actually enforce any rule at all?” Lucas said. “So, while I respect many of the jurisdictions that are trying to, I think, really have adherence to the CDC (guidance), it’s a challenge for us.”