21:30 GMT12 June 2021
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    WASHINGTON (Sputnik) - She is a quintessential Washingtonian yuppie, successful in career and able in sports, young and, just for the record, white and heterosexual.

    Yet for the first time in her life she admits feeling herself an oppressed and stigmatized minority now that the US government is moving to ditch masks - the single most conspicuous attribute of the coronavirus pandemic.

    The milestone initiative benefits only fully vaccinated people and is perceived by the woman, still expected to social distance and wear face coverings both in- and outdoors, as a coercion into getting a shot she doesn’t want in return for normalcy she craves for like everyone else.

    "They cannot pass a straightforward law to get all vaxxed and are instead inventing hurdles - for traveling, dining out, walking, breathing freely. ‘Yes, yes, yes, it is your choice, but we are going to make your life unbearable,’" she speaks to Sputnik on a condition of anonymity.
    People with no masks walk outside a bar in Los Angeles, California, U.S., May 14, 2021
    © REUTERS / MARIO ANZUONI
    People with no masks walk outside a bar in Los Angeles, California, U.S., May 14, 2021

    "It feels like an arm-twisting, a violation of my rights, to be honest. After all, it is my body, and I should be free to make my own decisions about it. And, mind you, I am not alone, there are lots of us who don’t want vaccines for a variety of reasons," the woman says.

    She distrusts inoculations in general, downplays COVID-19 as merely "a severe type of flu," has confidence in her physical fitness and makes no secret of an intention to try and shed a mask like vaccinated people. "How can they check? Will they be stopping random people and ask for their vaccination cards? I will say that I left it home," she theorizes.

    The woman opened up to her colleagues during an online session - her office is still on a teleworking mode - and received a fair share of muted disapproval. "With all these awkward looks and whispers I did realize how tough it is to be a minority, like sexual, racial, or transgender ones. Those of us who are opposed to vaccines and masks are a new social minority now, and I am a part of it," she said.

    Her boss asked what she will do if vaccination becomes a prerequisite for working at their company. Look for a new job, she replied.

    Vaxxed or Masked

    COVID dissidents and potential cheaters are the main reason why most Sputnik respondents have mixed reactions to relaxed guidelines issued by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Thursday. People are concerned about what they is an insufficient number of vaccinations and a lack of legal ways to verify an individual’s immunity status.

    "Due to my age and health issues, I am still concerned since only a third of Americans are currently vaccinated and I will continue to wear a mask. How does one know whether someone is not wearing a mask because they are vaccinated or because they chose not to wear one?" Daniel from the state of Virginia says.

    He praises the new mask guidance as "a positive steps towards normalcy" and "another great reason to get vaccinated."

    Signs advising about masks and social distancing are pictured by concessions at the Landmark Westwood theatre in Los Angeles, California, U.S., May 14, 2021
    © REUTERS / MARIO ANZUONI
    Signs advising about masks and social distancing are pictured by concessions at the Landmark Westwood theatre in Los Angeles, California, U.S., May 14, 2021

    Bron, also from Virginia, suggests mandatory vaccination passports, an idea popular overseas, but still rejected by the US government. "I have no concerns being around other vaccinated people, but I am concerned that people dumb enough not to get vaccinated would lie about their vaccination status. I don’t believe this would work under an honor system," he explains.

    Over the past year, Benjamin, a restaurant worker from the state of Delaware, saw too many customers unwilling to comply with restrictions his business had to enforce on pain of hefty fines and is bracing for more trouble-makers.

    "The same people who were giving us trouble about mask wearing and social distance restrictions are going to be empowered by this announcement. Some are going to lie and say they are vaccinated, some are going to make fake vaccination cards, and some are going to just not wear a mask and expect to get away with it," he says.

    Back to Normal?

    CDC now allows fully vaccinated people not to wear a mask or physically distance during most outdoor or indoor activities. To transform a pandemic reality the new guidance still needs to be translated into the language of state and local regulations, rule of businesses where mask mandates are still ubiquitous.

    "I went to a coffee shop today and nothing has changed. There is huge sign on a door, ‘No mask, no service!’ And these signs are all over the city. You cannot buy groceries without a mask, you cannot go into the building without one," Alex from New York tells Sputnik.

    Maria, who teaches dancing in Virginia, says that her studio plans to require students and personnel to present vaccination cards before allowing them to shed masks. "We will be asking for proofs that both vaccine doses were administered and at least two weeks has passed since the last shot. It’s no big deal. Nowadays everyone has a picture of a vaccination card in his phone," she added.

    A colleague reporter told Sputnik that next week his media outlet reopens an office in Washington, DC, after a year-long hiatus. Vaccinated people will be allowed to work maskless while the rest still have to cover their faces and observe a six-feet social distance.

    Leading by example is the White House. "Beautiful faces and no masks," one of journalists exclaimed on Friday after seeing his colleagues’ faces for the first time in more than a year. The Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers Cecilia Rouse joked that the country faces an oversupply of masks and a shortage of lipsticks.

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    COVID-19, mask, US
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