Attorney: Business owners asking for proof of vaccination is not a HIPAA violation

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LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) — There could be any of a number of reasons someone doesn’t want to wear a mask.

Many belive they’re uncomfortable. Others call it a political statement. Some even say they believe it is a violation of their HIPAA rights — but is that true?

According to attorney Rolf Lowe, it is not.

“HIPAA is a law…it protects against what people who work in the health industry can do with your protected information and how they can share it,” Lowe said. “(Once) it’s in the patients hands…when they’re asked to give that up, HIPAA doesn’t apply to that .

“HIPPA really only applies to what is a covered entity, which is a doctors office, a therapist or your insurance company.”

Another hesititation is the conflicting guidance — not just from day-to-day, but from state-to-state.

“We have messaging coming out from different places that’s not well orchestrated,” Lowe added.

Michigan rules say you don’t need to wear a mask in most places if you’ve been fully vaccinated — that means you’re more than two weeks out from your second shot.

But do business owners have the leagl right to deny you entry to their establishment if you don’t have a mask?

“In most cases,” Lowe said. “A store could have a policy in place that they (require) people to wear the masks.”

And many are — like Pablo’s Old Town Mexican Restaurant in Old Town. The owner has been there more than 15 years and says he’s not worried about scaring off customers who don’t want to wear a mask.

His priority is making sure everybody feels comfortable.

“Probably until the customers feel safe,” owner Pablo Maldonado said of how long he will require masks. “It’s not right if the customers want me to wear a mask and I don’t wear one.”

However Crunchy’s in East Lansing is doing the opposite. Those in charge say they encourage anybody who wants to wear a mask to do so, but their focus is finding a way to move forward.

“Those who aren’t comfortable are still going to wear them and we want to encourage that as well,” said owner and general manager Michael Krueger. “We’re not going to shame anybody into taking their masks off.

“But at this point we have to start taking some sort of step forward and we feel this is the best way to go about it.”

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