States hesitant to adopt digital COVID vaccine verification


By David A. Lieb - Associated Press



Security personnel asks customers for proof of vaccination as they enter City Winery on June 24 in New York. Customers wanting to wine, dine and unwind to live music at the City Winery’s flagship restaurant in New York must show proof of a COVID-19 vaccination to get in. But that’s not required at most other dining establishments in the city. And it’s not necessary at other City Winery sites around the U.S.

Security personnel asks customers for proof of vaccination as they enter City Winery on June 24 in New York. Customers wanting to wine, dine and unwind to live music at the City Winery’s flagship restaurant in New York must show proof of a COVID-19 vaccination to get in. But that’s not required at most other dining establishments in the city. And it’s not necessary at other City Winery sites around the U.S.


Customers wanting to wine, dine and unwind to live music at the City Winery’s flagship restaurant in New York must show proof of a COVID-19 vaccination to get in. But that’s not required at most other dining establishments in the city. And it’s not necessary at other City Winery sites around the U.S.

If City Winery tried doing such a thing at its places in Atlanta and Nashville, “we would have no business, because so many people are basically against it,” said CEO Michael Dorf.

Across the U.S., many hard-hit businesses eager to return to normal have been reluctant to demand proof of vaccination from customers. And the public and the politicians in many places have made it clear they don’t care for the idea.

In fact, far more states have banned proof-of-vaccination policies than have created smartphone-based programs for people to digitally display their vaccination status.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still recommends masks when dining or gathering indoors for those who aren’t fully vaccinated. But few states require it, and most businesses rely on voluntary compliance — even in places with low vaccination rates where COVID-19 cases are climbing.

Digital vaccine verification programs could make it easier to enforce safeguards and tamp down new outbreaks.

“But that only works when you have mass adoption, and mass adoption requires trust and actual buy-in with what the state health department is doing, which is not necessarily present in all states,” said Alan Butler, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, a Washington-based nonprofit organization.

Hawaii is the only state enforcing some version of a vaccine passport. It requires travelers to upload a photo or PDF of their Hawaii vaccination document or pass a pre-arrival COVID-19 test to avoid having to quarantine for 10 days.

Earlier this month, California became just the third state — behind New York and Louisiana — to offer residents a way to voluntarily display digital proof of their COVID-19 shots. None of those states requires the use of their digital verification systems to access either public or private-sector places.

By contrast, at least 18 states led by Republican governors or legislatures prohibit the creation of so-called vaccine passports or ban public entities from requiring proof of vaccination. Several of those — including Alabama, Florida, Iowa, Montana, North Dakota and Texas — also bar most businesses from denying service to those who aren’t vaccinated.

As a step in reopening, New York in March launched its Excelsior Pass, the first state system to provide digital proof of COVID-19 vaccination or a recent negative test. As of early June, more than 2 million people had gotten the digital pass — about one-fifth of those who have been vaccinated.

At the City Winery, most customers bypass the Excelsior Pass and instead show their paper CDC vaccination cards to gain entry, according to Dorf, who said patrons at the 1,000-person capacity venue “appreciate going into a bubble of safety, knowing that everyone around them is vaccinated.”

Though larger ticketed events, like concerts at Madison Square Garden, require proof of vaccination, most businesses don’t ask.

“Think of a bar,” said Andrew Rigie, executive director of the New York City Hospitality Alliance. “You have four friends that go in — maybe two of them have it, the other two don’t. You’re going to turn the other two away when small businesses are struggling so much?”

Security personnel asks customers for proof of vaccination as they enter City Winery on June 24 in New York. Customers wanting to wine, dine and unwind to live music at the City Winery’s flagship restaurant in New York must show proof of a COVID-19 vaccination to get in. But that’s not required at most other dining establishments in the city. And it’s not necessary at other City Winery sites around the U.S.
https://www.limaohio.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/54/2021/06/web1_AP21176666686942.jpgSecurity personnel asks customers for proof of vaccination as they enter City Winery on June 24 in New York. Customers wanting to wine, dine and unwind to live music at the City Winery’s flagship restaurant in New York must show proof of a COVID-19 vaccination to get in. But that’s not required at most other dining establishments in the city. And it’s not necessary at other City Winery sites around the U.S.

By David A. Lieb

Associated Press

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