12 Responds: Can businesses ask for proof of vaccination?


PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) ─ Gov. Dan McKee lifted the statewide mask mandate for fully vaccinated Rhode Islanders earlier this week, but many residents remain confused as to when and where they need to wear them.

Dozens of viewers have written into 12 Responds asking for clarification regarding if and when they need to wear a mask.

Dr. Philip Chan, a consultant medical director for the R.I. Department of Health, said they’re primarily relying on Rhode Islanders to tell the truth when it comes to whether they’re fully vaccinated.

To be fully vaccinated a person needs to be at least two weeks removed from receiving their final shot.

Earlier this week, McKee said while businesses and services loosened their restrictions immediately, some may implement the changes gradually and asked that Rhode Islanders respect that.

“Let’s have courtesy and understand that just as it was getting used to wearing the masks over the last year, certainly some people were more comfortable sooner than others, it’s going to be the same thing in reverse,” he said. “It’s going to be a transition, and so, let’s respect people during that transition.”

Though the state is not mandating residents carry “vaccine passports,” Chan said businesses have the authority to ask people to see proof of vaccination.

“It is allowed for an employer or business to ask to see proof of a vaccination,” Chan said. “They are free within their power to turn away a person for not wearing shoes, for not wearing a shirt and also for not being masked.”

Since children under age 12 aren’t eligible to get vaccinated yet, Chan said students, teachers and staff must continue to wear masks. The same rules apply for everyone who participates in youth sports.

Even though vaccinated Rhode Islanders are allowed to go maskless, Dr. Laura Forman, chief of emergency medicine at Kent Hospital, advised keeping them on.

“As a vaccinated person I am still keeping my mask on,” Forman said. “I have to say, I think it will be a very long time before I feel comfortable doing something like going into a store or go into a public place with people I don’t know and take my mask off, I just don’t think its safe yet.”

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