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Answering legal questions regarding proof of COVID vaccination

Updated mask guidance is now in effect in New York, noting fully vaccinated individuals do not need to wear masks. However, some businesses may still require them.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — The latest data shows 62.2% of adult New Yorkers have received at least one vaccine dose, and 53.0% have completed their vaccine series.

This comes as the state has adopted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's updated guidance that fully vaccinated individuals do not need to wear masks. 

However, even if you are fully vaccinated, some businesses will still require you to wear a mask. Others may even ask customers to show proof of vaccination.

Attorney Barry Covert says that is absolutely legal. He explained, "Just as they can ask that you wear a shirt and you wear shoes, they can ask for proof of vaccine."

However, for several reasons, including even privacy concerns, Covert said it will more likely have to go by the honor system, which we've already seen several businesses announce will be their policy moving forward.

During a 2 on Your Side Town Hall, Attorney Jim Grasso, who focuses on labor and employment law, was asked what employers' rights are when it comes to vaccines. 

"They absolutely can ask their employees if they're vaccinated, and, in fact, they can even mandate that their employees be vaccinated, with exceptions if someone has a medical condition or a religious exemption. Then they would have to consider making an accommodation for that," Grasso said.

One question we continue to get on this issue is, what about the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, better known as HIPAA?

Legal analyst Whitney Traylor told 9NEWS (KUSA), "An employer asking whether someone's been vaccinated is not a HIPAA violation because HIPAA only applies to what is called covered entities. Those are things like health care providers, doctors, hospitals, pharmaceuticals, those kinds of things."

One way to know who's been vaccinated and who hasn't could be New York's Excelsior Pass, an app that provides digital proof of COVID-19 vaccination or negative test results.

It's voluntary to fill out online. However, it's important to note the vaccination pass is currently valid for 180 days.

A representative with the state told 2 On Your Side that was just the initial timeframe set by the state back in March, which they are constantly reviewing. 

After the pass expires, you can retrieve a new pass from the Excelsior Pass website. 

For more information on the Excelsior Pass, click here.

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