Teamwork became a motif of the pandemic’s early days. Holed up inside their homes last spring, crafty Americans sewed masks, neighbors planted yard signs supporting health care workers, and politicians spoke in lofty language about working together to “flatten the curve.”
Then came a partisan division over masks, screaming crowds outside state capitols, death threats against local and state health officials. On the other side of the debate, some people who supported Covid-19 restrictions embraced the job of mask policing.
It quickly became apparent that, even in a crisis, Americans struggled to come together.
So it is no surprise that the latest honor code — the federal government’s guidance encouraging vaccinated Americans to take off their masks — was greeted with skepticism in parts of the country that have not already done so.
“It’s a very complicated symphony right now,” said Dr. Howard Markel, a medical historian at the University of Michigan who is an expert on pandemics. “There’s been such an erosion of trust — distrust for government, distrust for the virus, distrust for this party or that party. So when you tell the public what to do, there are people who say, ‘How can I trust the guy without the mask?’”