Can a business request proof of COVID-19 vaccination?

In bars, you may be asked to show your ID. If you are visiting Costco, you cannot enter or purchase anything without your membership card. Will more Americans soon have to keep their COVID-19 vaccination cards handy to get back to normal?

The question arises: is it legal for a company to even ask for proof that you are vaccinated?

Currently, you don’t have to flash your COVID vaccine card at most stores to shop or get a table. However, companies are generally free to require that customers show proof of COVID-19 vaccination, sometimes referred to as a “vaccine passport”.

Legal experts likened the requirement to a “no shirt, no shoes, no service” policy.

“A business can absolutely ask this question” about whether a customer has been vaccinated, said Lindsay Wiley, director of the program for health law and policy at American University Washington College of Law, in an interview with USA TODAY.

Retailers Who Ditched Mask Rules for those vaccinated stated that they did not plan to interview people or ask for their vaccination cards at the door. The growing list includes Walmart, Sam’s club, Costco, Starbucks, Target and CVS.

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Who should monitor immunization status?

For the most part, leaving consumers without a mask has been the honor system.

But there are exceptions. In Oregon, the state health authority released new guidelines last month requiring companies to check the immunization status of people who went without a mask.

In Chicago, companies can apply for a vaccine exemption increase the capacity of their facilities provided they require clients to prove that they have been fully immunized.

And published reports have surfaced showing examples some small businesses that set their own policies and sometimes add fees for unvaccinated customers. For example, a concert organizer in Florida put on a show with $ 18 tickets for vaccinated attendees and $ 1,000 tickets for unvaccinated spectators, NBC News reported last month.

Meanwhile, lawmakers in more than 40 states have introduced legislation – often backed by vaccine skeptics and advanced by Republicans – banning COVID-19 vaccine warrants. Certain measures prevent companies from asking customers for proof of vaccination. The most bills are aimed at preventing employers from requiring COVID-19 vaccines, USA TODAY previously reported.

Throughout the pandemic, managing and tracking customer behavior has proven difficult.Brian Dodge, president of the Retail Industry Leaders Association, said store workers were at risk when trying to enforce mask policies and that a “patchwork of national and local rules” on masks created confusion. Switching retail workers from follow-up masks to vaccination status would be no less complicated.

“It’s obviously impractical and impossible to do,” Dodge said in a recent interview with USA TODAY about identifying who is vaccinated and who is not. “They should never have been the mask police, and they cannot be the vaccine police. It is therefore impossible to confirm the vaccination status of the guests.

A letter sent to the heads of the CDC, the US Department of Health and Human Services, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration groups representing US companies have warned that enforcing policies requiring verification of immunization status could put workers in dangerous situations.

“Retail and other workers are not equipped to enforce health restrictions and, if they are forced to do so, it will not protect them but subject them to confrontations that put their health and well-being on the line. in much greater danger “, we read in an excerpt. of the letter.

Dr Paul Offit, director of the Vaccine Education Center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, believes the CDC’s update to hide the guidelines came too soon. He believes the CDC should have reassured consumers that they would feel safer knowing that people wearing masks have been vaccinated.

In a recent interview with USA TODAY, Offit said that one option is for retailers to ask anyone who walks into stores without a mask to show proof, “which is cumbersome and difficult to do. In addition, they will undoubtedly cheat because you can buy vaccine certification directly from the internet. “

A sign at a spa and beauty salon in Lake Oswego, Ore. On Friday, May 21, 2021, says only customers who can prove they are fully vaccinated can enter without a mask.

What constitutes proof of vaccination

Support among Americans for some form of vaccine testing depends on the type of activity. According to a survey carried out by Gallup in April, 57% of American adults support checking for air travel while 55% support checking vaccination status to attend a big event like a concert. However, only 40% support showing proof if you want to dine inside a restaurant.

While there are laws requiring companies to make accommodations for people with disabilities and for those who refuse to be vaccinated for religious reasons, establishments can still require customers to prove their status.

“It’s a newer legal basis, but most likely as long as companies have a rationale and exempt people on the basis of those reasons, they would most likely be legally permitted,” said Alison Hoffman, professor at the Carey Law School at the University of Pennsylvania and expert. on health law and policy.

The problems facing businesses might be more practical than legal. Hoffman said the companies were on “difficult and somewhat tenuous ground” in trying to determine what constitutes proof of vaccination. The closest available documentation Americans have is the CDC immunization card provided and updated by vaccinators after doses.

Then there’s the challenge of what to do if someone can’t offer proof or don’t want to share that information.

“They then have to decide what to do next if the person says, ‘No, I’m not vaccinated’ or says ‘I’m not going to answer that question,'” Wiley said. “They have to think in a practical way, are they then going to come up with alternatives like curbside delivery in some cases or, yes, you can go in but you have to wear a mask. That is also allowed.”

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Contributor: Daniel Funke, USA TODAY

Follow USA TODAY reporters Brett Molina and Kelly tyko on Twitter.

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