As business owners once again mull their mask messaging, a personal injury attorney answers if it’s illegal to ask people if they are fully vaccinated

Many people say they are excited, but their happiness comes with some hesitation. Timbrel Chyatee, owner of Lush Bazaar, wants everyone to feel comfortable.

LANCASTER, PA. – It’s Friday afternoon in downtown Lancaster: one day after the CDC guidelines on masks were changed.

FOX43 saw crowds walking the streets, shopping and having a bite to eat. Some had their masks on; others held theirs.

“Last night I hear everyone is very happy. Everyone is very excited and can’t wait,” said George Katsaros, owner of Yorgos.

Some people like Jen Crothers have their masks completely removed

“I’m very happy, I think I’m still skeptical, I’ll probably still wear it. However, I’m completely upset. It’s a step to get back to normal,” said Crothers of Lancaster.

For them, wearing masks was never a big deal.

“It was a pain, ‘let me find it before I run into a store.’ My perspective is, if I can keep people safe, I’ll do whatever I have to to do it. The biggest? Maybe a sweat pool was the biggest business that summer, ”she joked.

“I know some people are excited to take their masks off; others are nervous,” said Timbrel Chyatee, owner of Lush Bazaar.

Chyatee is thinking about the mask news now.

“I don’t force people to wear their masks, but I encourage them,” Chyatee said.

She took off her mandatory signage.

“Now I’ll probably rephrase it so everyone will be comfortable when they walk in. I don’t want to choose one or the other,” explained Chyatee. “I want to respect all of my customers by doing this.”

Chyatee has no plans to ask customers if they have been vaccinated upon entering.

“I’d rather say, ‘Oh, I’m vaccinated. Are you feeling well?’ In my opinion [asking] takes away their privacy, “she said.

When it comes to privacy, Scott Cooper, a personal injury attorney, says he has a lot of questions.

“The only thing a lot of customers have asked me is, ‘If someone asks me if I’ve been vaccinated, is it a HIPAA violation?’ and the answer is no, “said Cooper.

He says that for it to be a violation of HIPAA, it would have to be someone he describes as an insured facility – such as a health care provider or an insurer – and that person must also share the information.

“Someone can ask you, but they can’t ask you to give an answer,” he said. “When an employee says ‘no’, they are not really allowed to ask why because you may be accessing private information such as disabilities.”

The guidelines may have changed, but Cooper says companies have the right to request one of them.

“The company may also require you to wear the mask even if you have been vaccinated,” Cooper said.

What about vaccination records? Can these be needed?

“These may be required, and it might be because they don’t ask for personal health information and get service for it. They don’t have to choose the airline or the Penn State game,” Cooper replied.

Chyatee is cautiously optimistic about the recent change. It’s different for the fashion designer, as she spent 8 months in India. There she saw the worst of the pandemic.

“It was really bad to travel. People got COVID everywhere. Even my staff became very scary. This is how I feel now. I’m excited about the future, but I’m also scared,” Chyatee replied.

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