Breaking News
More () »

WPMT FOX43 | News in Harrisburg, York, Lancaster, Lebanon News, Weather, Sports

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 to make everyone comfortable.

LANCASTER, Pa. — It's Friday afternoon in downtown Lancaster: one day after the change in CDC guidance surrounding masks. 

FOX43 saw crowds of people walking the streets, shopping, and grabbing a bite to eat. Some had their masks on; others had theirs in hand. 

"Last night, I hear everybody very happy. Everybody very excited, and can't wait," said George Katsaros, owner of Yorgos. 

Some people like Jen Crothers have their masks off altogether 

"I am very happy, I think I am still skeptical, I will still probably wear it. I'm fully vaxed, though. It's one step to getting back to fully normal," said Crothers of Lancaster.

To her, mask wearing was never a big deal.

"It was a pain to, 'let me find it before I run into a store.' My perspective is: If I can keep people safe, I'll do what ever I have to do to do that. The biggest thing? Maybe a sweat stash was the biggest deal in the summertime," she joked.

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

Chyatee is now mulling over the mask messaging.

"I am not forcing people to wear their masks, but I do encourage it," said Chyatee.

She took down her mandated signage.

"Now, I will probably word it differently to make everyone feel comfortable when they come in. I don't want to choose one or another," explained Chyatee. "I want to respect all of my customers through this."

Chyatee does not plan to ask customers if they have been vaccinated when they step inside.

"I would be more like 'oh, I am vaccinated. Are you comfortable?' I think [asking] takes away from their privacy," she said.

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

"The one thing I have been asked by a lot of clients is: 'if someone asks me if I have been vaccinated, is that a violation of HIPAA?' and the answer is no," said Cooper.

He says in order for it to be violation of HIPAA, it would have to be someone who he calls a covered entity -- such as a health care provider or insurer -- and the person also has to be sharing the information.

"Someone can ask you, but they can't require you to give an answer," he said. "If an employee says 'no,' you're not really allowed to ask why because you could be getting into private information such as disabilities."

Guidance may have changed but Cooper says businesses have the right to require one of these.

"The business can also mandate you wear the mask, even if you have been vaccinated," explained Cooper.

What about vaccine passports? Can those be required?

"Those can be required, and the reason they can be is because they're not asking for personal health information, and you're getting a service for it. You don't have to choose to go on the airline or the Penn State game," responded Cooper.

Chyatee is choosing to be cautiously optimistic regarding the recent change. It weighs differently on the fashion designer as she spent 8 months locked in India. There, she says she saw the worst of the pandemic.

"It was really bad to travel. People were getting COVID everywhere. Even my staff so it became very scary. That's how I feel right now. I'm excited for the future, but I'm also scared," responded Chyatee.

Download the FOX43 app here.