Applying proof of vaccination for entry into businesses can be tricky

Because relaxing these rules would largely depend on the honor system, however, some businesses and organizations have announced that they will require proof of vaccination to enter – either because they want to ensure a safer environment or because their state or local government mandates them. he.

It is an interim solution that allows those vaccinated to regain a sense of normalcy, as facilities speed up operations after an economically devastating year. But requiring proof of vaccination also raises logistical and enforcement issues, as well as concerns about tampering and confidentiality.

Here’s where some experts and business owners stand.

For larger events, details are still unclear

Music festivals are returning, performance venues open and sports stadiums fill up – and a number of them will be checking immunization status.

Among the returning events this summer is Lollapalooza, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, announcing earlier this week that festival-goers should provide proof of vaccination or a negative Covid-19 test taken within 24 hours of attending. every day.

New York’s Radio City Music Hall also plans to reopen at full capacity next month for the final night of the Tribeca Film Festival – but only for those vaccinated, Governor Andrew Cuomo said this week.

The two reopening announcements, made by officials, appeared to work in part as incentives for residents to get vaccinated.
“The purpose of our change is to tell people, ‘There are benefits to getting vaccinated,'” Cuomo said at a press conference Monday.

However, it is still unclear exactly how the two events plan to implement these protocols.

Lollapalooza, which regularly attracts hundreds of thousands of participants, notes on its website that details on the registration process will be available in early July, and organizers did not respond to a request for comment.

A spokesperson for Madison Square Garden Entertainment, which operates Radio City Music Hall, referred questions about enforcing the vaccination requirement to the Tribeca Film Festival. The festival did not respond to a request for comment.

Businesses and facilities in New York City, at least, may have an easier time verifying vaccination status than other parts of the country – the state’s voluntary Excelsior Pass app presents digital proof of Covid-19 vaccination or negative test results and has already been used at Madison Square Garden, Barclays Center and Yankee Stadium.
Still, only people who have been vaccinated or tested in New York City can get a pass through the app – although status notes that individuals may present other forms of vaccination or testing, including paper forms.

Some companies do it for security

For some companies, only allowing vaccinated customers indoors is a way to ensure they keep their communities as safe as possible.

The Bayou, an independent bar in Salt Lake City, Utah, has been closed for food service throughout the pandemic. Considering the number of cases of Covid-19 in Utah, owners just didn’t believe they could operate responsibly without a customer or employee potentially falling ill.

“A lot of us intuitively know that masks in restaurants are pretty comedic and mostly theatrical,” co-owner Mark Alston told CNN last week. “Because as soon as you sit down at the table, you have to take off your mask to eat and drink.”

Now that all of its staff have been fully vaccinated and vaccines are more widely available, the Bayou is finally opening up to room service – but only to those vaccinated.

Nancy Kass, professor of bioethics and public health at Johns Hopkins University, explains that she understands why companies would want to require customers to prove they have been vaccinated. Managers need to be able to reassure both their employees and their customers that they are providing a safe and low-risk environment.

But businesses may also need to make accommodations in some cases, she added.

“What I think is difficult and important is whether these sites will allow an alternative mitigation strategy if someone is unwilling to be vaccinated or is unable to provide proof of vaccination,” Kass said.

The Bayou are trying to make the process as easy as possible for customers – a photo of an immunization record on a phone, an email from a health department and other similar documents are all sufficient, Alston said.

Those who are not vaccinated are welcome to order take out food on the sidewalk and at the bar notes on its website that it plans to have a designated day and time when people who are not vaccinated due to a disability or religious objection can dine.

Still, it’s a move that has sparked backlash for the establishment, Alston said. But the bar remains firm, even if it risks losing business.

“I cannot help make someone sick,” he said. “We have a responsibility to our customers, even if they don’t take responsibility for themselves.”

Others see law enforcement as a burden

Despite ongoing safety concerns, other businesses and organizations are not having a proof of vaccination requirement – in large part because they lack the resources.

Xiomara Peña, vice president of engagement for the national organization Small Business Majority, said such policies would be difficult for many companies in their network that do not already have a similar infrastructure. So, at the moment, many choose to keep the previous protocols in place.

Store mask policies are a mess and nearly impossible to enforce

“We are also hearing some concerns from companies saying they will continue to demand masks and social distancing because it is not easy or practical for them to determine who has been vaccinated or not,” Peña said. .

Other members of the Small Business Majority have expressed concerns that a vaccine requirement could unfairly burden those in communities where access to vaccines has been more limited, she added.

Audrey Fix Schaefer, director of communications for the National Independent Venues Association, said many in the music industry breathed a sigh of relief when they heard the federal government would not force the vaccine to be verified. Covid-19.

“We were grateful to see this because we know it will be incredibly difficult to administer,” Schaefer said. “Different companies and different companies are going to choose to do it. Others are not.”

Is it legal?

Those who oppose the requirement of proof of vaccination sometimes argue that this constitutes a violation of the Health Insurance Portability and Liability Act – known as HIPAA – which protects sensitive health information from disclosure without the consent or knowledge of a patient.

Legal expert Mark Hall, professor of social sciences and health policy at the Wake Forest School of Medicine, says that’s not the case.

Customers are not required to share their immunization status with a company that requests it. Likewise, companies have the right to refuse service to customers who do not follow their protocols.

An added wrinkle to all of this is that some states – including Arizona, Florida, and Texas – have issued executive orders that would ban “vaccine passports,” confusing companies as to whether they are allowed to ask customers for vaccine verification.

Hall says it’s not clear that governors have the power to restrict what companies can demand from their customers, and that such decrees could be the subject of legal challenges. But it might take a while for that to happen.

“Until the matter is debated, the law is the law,” Hall said.

Experts are divided on whether it is possible to require proof of vaccine

Businesses and organizations are in the midst of a messy interim period, says Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association. And figuring out how to implement policies that apply to both vaccinated and unvaccinated people can be difficult.

But from a public health perspective, Benjamin says he doesn’t view proof of vaccination as the most effective solution.

“I think it’s hard to do,” he said. “I think it’s a waste of time, effort and money.”

Fragile paper cards that typically mean a person has been vaccinated against Covid-19 are easy to forge, Benjamin noted. And those who check immunization status at the gate often have no way of verifying that the evidence presented is real.

Other experts, like Hall, see it differently.

Hall acknowledges the difficulties of verifying a person’s immunization status, but said that in the absence of a database or a formal system, businesses and organizations will simply have to do their best.

“If the alternative to presenting evidence is just to take people at their word, then I think it’s better to ask for evidence that might be tampered with than not to ask for any evidence,” he said.

Meanwhile, Benjamin says a cheaper and easier method of keeping customers safe is to continue to demand masks for everyone. But if it’s a bar or restaurant where the mask will eventually have to come off anyway, this system doesn’t make the most sense either.

Benjamin encourages companies to think critically about who their security protocols are designed to protect, whether they will be able to enforce them, and whether the rules are working.

He says he’s not that concerned about people who might unmask even though they weren’t vaccinated – those people probably already did, and fully vaccinated people are protected from the risk of being infected by someone. not vaccinated.

“People are getting really nervous about a situation that existed before we took off the mask from the vaccinated, and I would like us to focus on vaccinating people,” Benjamin said.

About Geraldine Higgins

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