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Do Not Force Businesses to Verify Vaccine Status

Oregon rule requires businesses to demand proof of vaccination from maskless shoppers


rom face masks to vaccines status, businesses continue to seek guidance from the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) about what approach to take to keep their employees and customers safe as the virus continues to spread all over the globe.  OHA also announced that businesses and venue operators are free to issue more restrictive mask policies at their own choice.

Oregon Mask Policy

On June 30, 2021, Oregon officials issued new rules for masks. Health officials announced that the people who are fully vaccinated no longer need to wear a mask indoors and outdoors.  But the new guidelines apply in situations where vaccination status is verified.

The stores can ask for a vaccine card, a printed copy, or a photo or screenshot on a smartphone that shows vaccine-related information.  Shoppers and employees who can provide proof of vaccination will be allowed to work and shop without a face mask. The business or employer must also review the vaccination proof.  If shoppers and employees are not wearing masks, businesses are expected to be more aggressive in enforcing vaccination rules.

Many retail stores have lost their shoppers by asking for vaccination proof. Situations have even escalated where employees have faced threats and even physical attacks when they ask shoppers to put on a mask.

“Under the updated guidance, people who are fully vaccinated will no longer be required to wear a mask indoors in most public settings where vaccination status is checked.  In indoor public settings where vaccination status is not checked, masks will still be required,” said state epidemiologist Dr. Dean Sidelinger.

Businesses need not maintain the record of vaccination status, but confirm that shoppers entering a business are vaccinated.

Fully vaccinated people are still required to wear a face mask in specified places such as hospitals and clinics, in schools, on trains, planes, homeless shelters, and public transportation.

Benefits and Problems of this approach

Kate Brown, Governor of Oregon, has promised to reopen the states' economy in June if the state reaches a target of 70% of vaccination.  So, in theory, this strategy would help drive vaccinations – simply by forcing businesses ask their shoppers for vaccination proof and making them wear masks if they don’t have it.

However, there is strong opposition to this approach.  On May 25, the National Business Associations sent a letter to the Biden administration calling this approach alarming for businesses and shoppers.

vaccine card with vaccine container

The Oregon Restaurant and Lodging Association has pushed back against the virus restrictions by Kate Brown.  Jason Brandt, the president and CEO of the Oregon Restaurant and Lodging Association, expressed his concern over the updated guidance in that it creates a dilemma for retailers that have found it difficult to implement the mask policy when customers refuse to obey the rules.

“We are talking about businesses being in a more challenging environment where they have to determine how much they want to act as the vaccination police or not", said Brandt.

Brandt believes that most food chains will ask their shoppers to wear face masks rather than checking the vaccine status.  Brandt stated that businesses have limited resources to adopt a new vaccine screening policy that could irritate their customers.

How will it affect store personnel?

Many retail stores have lost their shoppers by asking for vaccination proof. Situations have even escalated where employees have faced threats and physical attacks when they ask shoppers to put on a mask.  So, concerns have emerged in regards to staff safety.  Kate Brown's idea of showing vaccination proof is becoming problematic.  The revised mask policy of OHA has adversely affected store personnel and contributes to an environment of mistrust by their customers.

As such, most of the food retailers have preferred to stay with the old mask policy – wear it and relieve us of the burden of vaccination enforcement.  No major retailers have started checking vaccine status and instead opt for requiring all shoppers to wear a mask.

How does the public feel about this policy?  

People feel that Gov. Brown does not trust them.  They compare themselves with other states that allow vaccinated people to go mask less without asking for proof of vaccination.  They point out the use of honor systems and identification of both privacy laws and 4th amendment search and seizure to support a mask free advocacy.

August 8, 2021