(CNN) – After a year of wearing physical distancing masks and only small outdoor gatherings, a world of possibilities for those vaccinated finally begins to open up.
More states are easing coronavirus restrictions under the latest guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, meaning that vaccinated people can now go maskless in many settings.
However, because relaxing those rules would be highly dependent on the ‘honor system’ (based on people’s word of mouth), some companies and organizations have announced that they will require proof of vaccination to enter, either because they want to guarantee a safer environment or because your state or local government requires it.
It is an interim solution that allows vaccinated people to regain normalcy, while establishments increase their operations after an economically devastating year.
But requiring proof of vaccination also raises challenges around logistics and enforcement, as well as concerns about counterfeiting and privacy.
This is what some experts and business owners are saying.
At larger events, the details are unclear
Music festivals are making a comeback, performance halls are opening, and sports arenas are filling up, with several of them checking vaccination status.
Among this summer’s events is Lollapalooza, and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced earlier this week that festival goers would have to provide proof of vaccination or negative covid-19 test taken within 24 hours. hours after attendance each day.
New York’s Radio City Music Hall also plans to reopen at full capacity next month for the last night of the Tribeca Film Festival, but only for vaccinated people, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. the last week in a conference.
Both reopening announcements, made by public officials, seemed to function in part as incentives for residents to receive their vaccinations.
“The point of our change is to tell people, ‘There are benefits to getting vaccinated,'” Cuomo said at a news conference last Monday.
However, it is not yet clear exactly how both events plan to implement those protocols.
Lollapalooza, which regularly attracts hundreds of thousands of attendees, notes on your 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 meeting the vaccination requirement to the Tribeca Film Festival. The festival did not respond to a request for comment.
Businesses and facilities in New York, at least, may have an easier time checking vaccine status than in other parts of the country – the state’s voluntary Excelsior Pass application presents a digital proof of the covid-19 vaccine or negative results. of the test and you have already done it.
The application has been used at Madison Square Garden, Barclays Center and Yankee Stadium.
Still, only people who have been vaccinated or screened in New York can get a pass through the appAlthough the state notes that individuals can submit alternative forms of vaccination or testing, including paper forms.
For security reasons
For some businesses, allowing only vaccinated customers to enter is a means of ensuring they keep their communities as safe as possible.
The Bayou, an independently owned bar in Salt Lake City, Utah, has been closed for dinner service during the pandemic. Given the numbers of covid-19 cases in Utah, the owners just didn’t feel like they could operate responsibly without a customer or employee getting sick.
“Many of us intuitively know that restaurant masks are quite comical and mostly theater,” co-owner Mark Alston told CNN last week. “Because as soon as you sit down at the table, you have to remove your mask to eat and drink.”
Now that all of its staff have been fully vaccinated and vaccines are more readily available, The Bayou is finally opening up for indoor service, but only for the vaccinated.
Nancy Kass, a professor of bioethics and public health at Johns Hopkins University, says she understands why companies would want to require clients to prove they have been vaccinated. Managers must be able to assure both their employees and their customers that they are providing a safe, low-risk environment.
But companies may also need to allow adaptations in certain cases, he added.
“What I think is challenging and important is whether these locations will allow for an alternative mitigation strategy if someone does not want to be vaccinated or cannot provide proof of vaccination,” Kass said.
They look for facilities
The Bayou is trying to make the process as easy as possible for clients: A photo of a vaccination card on a phone, an email from a health department and other similar documentation are enough, Alston said.
Those who are not vaccinated can order takeout on the sidewalk, and the bar points at your website that he plans to have a designated day and time for people who are not vaccinated due to a disability or religious objection to dine.
Still, it’s a decision that has sparked a backlash from the establishment, Alston said. But the bar holds firm, even though it may lose business.
“I can’t be a part of making anyone sick,” he said. “We have a responsibility to our clients, even if they don’t take responsibility for themselves.”
Others see this strategy as a burden
Despite constant concerns about safety, other companies and organizations don’t see themselves implementing a proof of vaccination requirement, largely because they don’t have the resources.
Xiomara Peña, vice president of participation for the national organization Small Business Majority, said such policies would be a challenge for many companies in their network that do not yet have a similar infrastructure. So for the moment, many are choosing to keep the old protocols in place.
“We also heard some concerns from companies that say they will continue to require masks and physical distancing because it is not easy or practical for them to determine who has been vaccinated or not,” said Peña.
Other members of most small businesses have raised concerns about how a vaccine requirement could unfairly burden people in communities where access to the vaccine has been more limited, he added.
Audrey Fix Schaefer, director of communications for the National Association of Independent Places, said that many in the music industry breathed a sigh of relief when they heard that the federal government would not require verification of the covid-19 vaccine.
“We are grateful to see that because we know it will be incredibly difficult to manage,” Schaefer said. “Different companies and different businesses are going to choose to do that. Others don’t.
Those who object to requiring proof of vaccination sometimes argue that it constitutes a violation of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, known as HIPAA, which protects confidential medical information from being released without the consent or knowledge of the patient.
Legal expert Mark Hall, professor of health policy and social sciences at Wake Forest School of Medicine, says that’s not the case.
Clients are not required to share their vaccination status with a company that requests it. Similarly, companies have the right to refuse service to customers who do not abide by their protocols.
An additional problem to all this is that some states, including Arizona, Florida and Texas, have issued decrees that would ban “vaccine passports”, creating confusion for companies about whether they can ask clients to verify vaccination.
Hall says it is not clear that governors have the authority to restrict what companies can demand of their clients, and that such executive orders could be subject to legal challenges. But it could take time for that to happen.
“Until the matter is litigated, the law is the law,” Hall said.
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 vaccinated and unvaccinated people can be challenging.
But from a public health standpoint, Benjamin says he doesn’t see proof of vaccination as the most efficient solution.
“I think it’s difficult to do,” he said. “I think it is a waste of time, effort and money.”
Flimsy paper cards that typically signify that a person has been vaccinated against COVID-19 are easy to counterfeit, Benjamin noted. And those who check vaccination status at the door often have no way of verifying that the evidence presented is real.
Other experts, like Hall, see things differently.
Hall acknowledges the difficulties of checking a person’s vaccination status, but said that in the absence of a formal database or system, businesses and organizations will simply have to do the best they can.
“If the alternative to showing evidence is simply taking people’s word for it, then I think asking for evidence that may be false is better than not asking for any evidence,” he said.
Meanwhile, Benjamin says that a cheaper and easier method of keeping clients safe is to continue requiring masks for everyone. But if it’s a bar or restaurant where the mask will eventually have to be removed anyway, that system isn’t the most logical either.
Benjamin encourages companies to think critically about who they are designed to protect their security protocols for, whether they will be able to enforce them, and whether the rules are achieving their goal.
He says he is not so concerned about people who might be stopping wearing the mask despite not being vaccinated; those people probably were already doing so, and people who are fully vaccinated are protected from the risk of being infected by an unvaccinated person.
“People are getting really nervous about a situation that existed before we took off the mask on vaccinated people, and I would like us to focus on vaccinating people,” Benjamin said.