Fed up with stringent coronavirus restrictions, some residents of a small county in Michigan's Upper Peninsula are reportedly saying they "identify as fully vaccinated" amid new guidance that allows inoculated people to ditch masks in public.
The updated guidance issued last week by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — which allows for fully vaccinated individuals to "resume activities without wearing a mask or physically distancing" — has inevitably led to some confusion over how to enforce mask and social distancing mandates in public.
And in a region of the country eager to be finished with the pandemic, some are taking advantage of that uncertainty, reported Kerry Ott, public information officer for the Luce, Mackinac, Alger, and Schoolcraft (LMAS) health department, to Michigan Radio.
"A lot of people are using the phrase, 'I identify as fully vaccinated' and taking their masks off," Ott said of Luce County residents. "I'm not kidding ...They're not vaccinated, but they're going to take their masks off."
In a county of 6,600 people where only three have died from the virus, the opportunistic behavior is meeting little resistance from public health authorities.
Ott has reportedly been telling local businesses there's not much they can do beyond making a "good faith" effort.
"We're just repeating what is in the governor's orders. We're not asking for people's [vaccination] cards. We're just asking for them to self attest their vaccination status. And if they say yes, we're telling the businesses, 'Then take them at their word and move forward,'" she said.
In the report, writer Kate Wells paraphrased a famous quote by former President Donald Trump to note that in the Upper Peninsula, and especially in Luce County, it can feel at times like "the cure is worse than the disease."
That sentiment was echoed by Raymond Mahaffey, or "Chef Ray," as locals refer to him, who is one of only 35% in the county who have been vaccinated.
"Ultimately, it'll all work itself out," he said, expressing he's not really worried about the virus anymore. "It's time to let nature take its course."
He added that he thinks the lockdown policies affecting schools and businesses have been too high a price to pay for an illness that is not markedly worse than the flu.
"Can you imagine if they said, 'OK, we're going to close the school for three months, and the kids are going to suffer, because guess what? Somebody got the flu,'" he said. "We got little kids in school that are passing [the virus] around, and they're as healthy as can be, but they've tested positive."
"There is no reason [for this] a year later, with the numbers being so small [here]," he continued. "[The restrictions have] been nothing but political. It's been crazy. And we can't wait to get it over with."