They Don’t Want the Shot. They Don’t Want Colleagues to Know.

Nearly 40 percent of Americans over the age of 18 remain unvaccinated, and could return to their offices with policies in place that make that status clear.

By Sydney Ember and Coral Murphy Marcos

Vincent Taranto has felt like less of a pariah at work in the last few days.

For more than two months, Mr. Taranto, 31, was among the only employees required to wear a mask at his job because he was unvaccinated. Though he was wary of the vaccine and skeptical that he was at risk of getting seriously sick, he was concerned that his decision to avoid the shot had left him exposed to judgment from colleagues.

“I don’t want to look like the crazy anti-vaxxer to my co-workers,” he said.

But after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended last week that Americans in high-risk areas should wear masks indoors, Mr. Taranto, who works at a large company in the outdoor industry, no longer worried that he was sticking out like a sore thumb.

“Everyone complained about it,” he said about the new masking guidelines. “And I’m like, ‘It’s not that big of a deal; I’ve been doing it the whole time.’”

Whether or not to receive a coronavirus vaccine has for the most part been a private medical decision. But as some workplaces have begun determining how to safely bring employees back to the office — drawing them from behind dissociated Zoom screens into interactive meeting rooms — that choice is becoming increasingly public.

The vaccines have been shown to be vigorously effective against severe illness and death after infection, including the highly contagious Delta variant, and public health officials, doctors and political leaders are urging inoculation. The Kaiser Family Foundation reported in late July that more than 90 percent of Covid-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths have occurred among people who are unvaccinated or not yet fully vaccinated.

“The more people who are out there without the vaccine, the more Covid will spread,” said Luisa Borrell, distinguished professor at the CUNY Graduate School of Public Health & Health Policy.

A growing number of companies are mandating vaccines as a condition of employment, leaving unvaccinated workers at risk of being fired. CNN, which has required full vaccinations for all employees working in its offices and in the field, said on Thursday that it had fired three people who went into the office unvaccinated. Many others are adopting less sweeping — but perhaps more conspicuous — approaches, including mask mandates for unvaccinated workers or the requirement that they work remotely.

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