New York mask guidance: What are my rights?

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ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Effective Wednesday, May 19, New York state will adopt the CDC’s current mask guidance that allows fully vaccinated people to go without their mask indoors and outdoors under most circumstances.

However, many are wondering what rights do businesses and individuals have under these new changes?

“This is a free country. So just as you have the right to go out and say I ain’t wearing a mask. The people that own private businesses have the right to say; if you’re coming into my business, you need to wear a mask or show me that you are vaccinated,” Bob Keach, Civil Rights Attorney, said. 

Keach said for people who are eligible to be vaccinated and don’t want to get the shot, the government, businesses, and employers have the right to put public health provisions in place as long as they don’t target specific groups.

“That is equal to your right not to wear a mask, and the difference is, you’re on my property,” Keach said. 

Melissa Fleischut, President and CEO of NYS Restaurant Association, said most restaurants are awaiting more guidance before making announcements on their protocols. 

“I think guests are going to see different models being utilized across the state,” Fleischut said. “It would seem that business owners are in a position to make this decision and the make the choice that they want to operate their business in a certain way.”

However, Keach said business owners who require proof of vaccination for customers or employees are within their rights to do that. He added that it’s a myth that requiring proof of vaccination is a HIPAA violation.

“HIPAA doesn’t cover what you volunteer. HIPAA doesn’t cover things that are self-evident or that your employer may need. It precludes people from accessing your medical records illegally,” Keach said. 

According to Keach, if a business denies access to a person who didn’t get the vaccine because of a disability or a medical reason, that could be considered a civil rights violation. Conversely, in most cases, religious exemptions for required vaccinations for entry or employment won’t be regarded as civil rights violations in places of private business. 

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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