Professor: 'Unlikely' businesses will demand proof of vaccine

COVID-19 vaccination card
Posted at 11:06 PM, May 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-18 10:12:31-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- The recent shift in mask policy from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has left some people confused. Melike Monahan said that she was baffled when she walked into a Chesterfield post office on Monday and saw a sign to wear a mask.

"Some of the patrons coming in alongside me, they were confused," Monahan said.

Monahan said that she was aware of new federal guidance issued last week that lifted all mask mandates in federal parks and buildings, including in post offices. However, when she asked a postal worker about it, she received an answer she wasn't expecting.

“He said 'well we haven’t got the news here' or something to the extent, but he also said 'I don’t know if you’ve been vaccinated. I have no proof of that, how would I know if you’re vaccinated,' so, I was kind of thrown back by that," Monahan said.

On Friday, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam also lifted Virginia's mask mandate, allowing fully vaccinated people the option to not wear a mask in public.

"It has to be on an honor system at this point," University of Virginia law professor Margaret Riley said.

Riley teaches public health sciences and public policy.

She said it was unlikely that businesses would require proof of vaccination, especially while COVID-19 vaccines only have emergency use authorization.

However, she said that businesses were within their rights to ask customers and employees to wear masks if exemptions were offered.

“To some degree, businesses are going to have to assess the risk of their populations, their employees, and the communities that they serve and make their own decisions," Riley said. "In those contexts, they really do have to make a decision as to how they want to carve out the rules for themselves and I think they are in their right to do so as long as they don’t discriminate.”

Riley said that while the law was clearer on what businesses could ask of their employees and customers, there was still a gray area as to what could be enforced with a vaccine that still hasn't received full FDA approval.

“This is really the first time that you’re seeing the Food and Drug Administration issuing hundreds of EUA’s. We tend to focus on the vaccines, but there are therapies, there are diagnostics, all sorts of EUA’s have been issued and we just don’t have that much experience of exactly how they will play out legally," Riley said.

While some big stores like Target, Costco, and Walmart have lifted mask mandates, Dr. Anthony Fauci said it could take a few weeks for businesses and municipalities to clarify new rules.

Monahan, who is fully vaccinated, said that she understood still requiring masks in certain circumstances, but said that she felt most businesses should eventually lift their mandates.

“Certain areas where you’re working with other people and taking care of ill patients, maybe nursing homes, but not your local grocery store, places that you just happen to frequent at the same time as other customers," Monahan said.