Lane County businesses respond to possibility of vaccine passports

"We would never force someone to do something they are uncomfortable with," Novara said.

Posted: May 16, 2021 8:08 PM
Updated: May 16, 2021 10:21 PM

LANE COUNTY, Ore. --- After Oregon health officials considered the implementation of vaccine passports as a way to verify if people got their shot, many businesses in Lane County are reacting to this possibility.


"We're not here to be the police of who's vaccinated and who's not," Chris Novara, the co-owner of Buddy's Diner in Eugene said.

Novara said he trusts that community members are frustrated enough by the pandemic, that they'll be truthful about their vaccination status.

As far as doing a check on people's vaccination status, Novara said that would cause more harm than good. 

"We would never force someone to do something they are uncomfortable with," Novara said.

Liisa John owns Mosaic Trade Collection, and she said the mask mandate for her business will likely remain in place. But she said she was against any sort of vaccine passport.

"I don't feel like it's going to be appropriate for me to ask customer's if they're vaccinated," John said.

Matt Turnquist is the general manager at Pursue Fitness in Springfield.

He said for his business, there are too many customers to do constant checks. He said, even if there weren't he would not abide by a vaccine passport rule. 

"I really don't love the idea of putting my staff in the position to ask an individual about their personal health," Turnquist said. 

Many Facebook users on KEZI's page were concerned that asking people about their vaccination status would violate HIPAA laws.

The CDC says HIPAA is a federal law “that required the creation of national standards to protect sensitive patient health information from being disclosed without the patient’s consent or knowledge.”

While HIPAA rules apply to covered entities and specific business associates, the rules don’t extend to most businesses, according to Glenn Cohen, a professor at Harvard Law School.

“Because the average business is not a covered entity or a business associate of a covered entity within the meaning of HIPAA, the statute does not prohibit them asking them about vaccination status,” Cohen said.

Kayte Spector-Bagdady, a lawyer and bioethicist who is also the associate director at the University of Michigan’s Center for Bioethics and Social Sciences in Medicine, said there is sometimes a misunderstanding of what HIPAA does.

“People often feel like HIPAA protects them from being asked about their medical information, or prohibits other people from asking about their medical information,” Spector-Bagdady said. “Neither is true. HIPAA prohibits health professionals, such as your doctor, from sharing your identified health information without your permission in most circumstances. People can always ask about your health information, and you can almost always decline to answer. But not answering health questions might come at a cost – such as not being able to enter your workplace or board a plane.”

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