The Debate Continues as More Businesses Require Proof of Vaccination

On July 25, France’s parliament approved a controversial law requiring a “health pass” to enter all restaurants, bars, planes, trains, and other public venues. You must show proof of vaccination, a recent negative test, or proof of recently recovering from the disease to get the pass. Italy passed similar restrictions. About 160,000 people took to the streets in protest.

On July 26, 2021, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the need for employees to return to the workplace and suggested that all employees, diners, shoppers, and others entering into a business require proof of vaccination.

On July 26, the San Francisco Bar Owner Alliance, a coalition of more than 500 bars, announced that most of their members will require customers to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test.

On July 28, the St. Louis Bengelina Hospitality Group announced that they will not accept indoor reservations for unvaccinated people, though they are not yet asking guests to show proof. The group operates six restaurants, including Nixta, Elaia, and La Patisserie Chouquette.

On July 29, Danny Meyer, CEO of the Union Square Hospitality Group, announced that the staff and the customers they serve will require vaccinations as of September 7. Indoor diners will be required to show their COVID-19 vaccine card, the New York State Excelsior Pass, or their state’s vaccine pass. The Group operates about 18 of the most popular restaurants and bars in New York and Washington, D.C., including Blue Smoke, Manhatta, Gramercy Tavern, and the Union Square Cafe. Other New York City hotspots requiring customer vaccinations include Estela, Frenchette, and Dame.

On August 3, Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York City announced New York City will be mandating proof of COVID-19 vaccination to enter certain indoor businesses — including all indoor restaurants, entertainment venues, and gyms. The initiative will launch on Aug. 16, with enforcement beginning Sept, 13.

CNN reported on the latest and most prominent companies in the U.S. now mandating vaccinations for some or all of their employees.

Opposition to Mandated Proof of Vaccine

According to Gartner’s July report, only 24% of U.S. consumers felt that proof of vaccination should be required for indoor restaurant dining, while 28% believed it should be required at bars and nightclubs.

In agreement are states like Florida and lawsuits that state mandatory vaccinations challenge constitutional rights.

In May, Florida’s Gov. Ron DeSantis issued executive orders suspending local government pandemic-related restrictions, including mask mandates, and prohibited businesses, government agencies, and schools from requiring people to show proof of vaccination. He also signed another bill giving him the ability to override local emergency orders. Many businesses and restaurants celebrated the announcement, believing that local governments had abused their emergency powers.

As of August 2021, Florida accounts for approximately a fifth of all new U.S. COVID-19 cases. The rising cases have created friction between Florida’s mayors and the governor. Two mayors recently announced they are reinstating mask and vaccine mandates. In Miami-Dade, masks are once again required in indoor county facilities. In Orange County, required vaccinations were instituted for all non-union county employees.

At least 20 other states have adopted laws limiting health agencies’ emergency powers to invoke COVID-19 related restrictions, such as vaccine mandates and mask-wearing. This map shows the latest bills submitted by state lawmakers to ban COVID-19 vaccine mandates and passports.

Attorney Michael Robinson spoke with 13WHAM, illustrating the challenges businesses and those that oppose the mandates will both face. On one side, the Federal Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination based on religious beliefs. So, if someone is not vaccinated due to their religion, a business may be required to provide reasonable accommodations. On the other side, he said, “The U.S. Supreme Court upheld a Massachusetts law that required citizens to be vaccinated against smallpox or be fined. The Court ruled that a person’s individual liberties under the Constitution are not absolute and that in this case, the mandatory vaccination law was necessary to promote public health and safety.”

While there is definitely some confusion as to the rights and limitations surrounding COVID-19, it is clear that we’ll be seeing more required vaccine documentation and public outcry as the Delta variant becomes the dominant strain. On July 30, more than 850,000 people received a COVID-19 vaccination.

The Washington Post’s COVID-19 trends report shows that the U.S. has experienced a 54% increase in new cases, over 31% increase in deaths, and a 42% increase in COVID-19 related hospitalizations for the week of July 26.

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