COLUMN: Relying on the honor system may not be the best method for unmasking


Audrey Champelli

A man puts on his mask before entering Water Tower Place on June 4.

Recently, the CDC updated its Covid-19 safety guidelines and announced  that fully vaccinated people can be indoors and outdoors mask-free, while their unvaccinated counterparts are recommended to continue to mask up. However, with few businesses actually checking the vaccination status of their patrons, it seems as if we are relying on the honor code to distinguish between those who are vaccinated and those who are not.

It is a complicated matter, nonetheless. On one hand, what we have witnessed in the past 15 months has been historical. As a nation, we have seen our communities shut down and struggle to survive; as students we have seen our education switch formats entirely, leaving many to struggle or rethink their education. A single virus single-handedly shut down the world.

Don’t get me wrong — since the Covid-19 vaccine has been available to the masses, it seems as if it is the light at the end of the tunnel. With Illinois planning to reopen on June 11, it seems as if the vaccine has played a large role in returning to normalcy.

Since receiving my second dose of the vaccine, it has been a fantastic feeling to be able to see friends again, go to a restaurant to grab a quick bite to eat and just worry less in general about the virus. I have yet to come to terms with unmasking, as it has become just such a routine in my day-to-day life.

On the other hand, I understand that not everyone is able to get vaccinated. The CDC has compiled a list of underlying medical conditions that pose an increased risk for people planning to receive the vaccine. These include people with weakened immune systems or autoimmune conditions.

The first time eating out after the CDC updated the mask guidelines, I will admit it was strange to see people walking in and out of a restaurant without a mask. It really made me begin to think about how we look at those who are and aren’t vaccinated, and really made me think about how we’re ever going to distinguish the two groups.

In a way, I can understand why using the honor code was the go-to method. For me, it does seem slightly invasive to outright ask someone if they are vaccinated or not. I believe that if we went down a route where we were out right asking people their vaccination status, it would feel a little bit like going to a nightclub, a bouncer at the door either granting or denying you access, even for something as simple as grabbing groceries for the week. Plus, I feel like outright asking people is a bit ableist towards those unable to get the vaccine, as mentioned above.

There is a flip side to this though: People are abusing the honor code, plain and simple. The number of times either while I was working or simply just out and have heard a person mention how glad they were that they didn’t have to wear the mask anymore because they’re “vaccinated” while using air quotes, is frightening. The fact that we all watched the world come to a standstill, watched neighbors and communities struggle, and yet people have the audacity to take advantage of the system that has been put in place to help everyone is mind-boggling to me. I think that it’s selfish, and the fact that people are willing to be so open about abusing the system has made me lose a little bit of faith in humanity to say the least.

There seems to be a variety of different methods to verify people’s vaccination status. The most common seems to be showing your little white vaccination card. My biggest worry with this card is the fact that it is just a piece of thick paper for most of us, which makes it quite vulnerable in rain and has the threat of being crushed in the bottom of my purse.

I will admit, I cannot pick a method that is a clearly superior alternative to the honor system. It doesn’t seem right to exclude those who cannot be vaccinated, but something certainly needs to be done to limit those abusing the system. For right now, I think we will have to settle for the honor system in hopes that one day something better can take its place.