A front-page story in today’s Star Democrat looks at how restaurants and coffee shops are adjusting to the lifting of state mask orders.
Maryland has lifted its statewide mask order and Delaware’s face covering requirements will be eased on Friday.
Private businesses — including restaurants, coffee shops, retail shops and other workplaces — are free to keep mask and other rules in place on their properties and premises.
Some local businesses are keeping mask rules in place while others have ditched them as soon as Gov. Larry Hogan’s newest order went into place Saturday.
The challenge will be in how some private businesses are going to keep enforcing mask rules with customers as well as their own staff.
Previously, stores and eateries had the backdrop of government-imposed mask orders to help with their enforcement of face covering requirements.
Now, that legal backup is gone.
Businesses are free to keep or jettison their own mask and social distancing rules but they can potentially run into some legal and logistical problems if they start asking customers or employees about their COVID vaccination status.
Those types of questions can run afoul of health privacy laws. They can potentially spark discrimination complaints if vaccination status inquiries and mask enforcements come across as focused on certain classes or types of customers and employees.
The American with Disabilities Act also provides health privacy protections as well as religious and medical accommodations for those who don’t get vaccinations.
All that means businesses and workplace need to tread carefully when trying to enforce mask mandates. They need tread with even more care when talking to customers and workers about COVID vaccin- ations.
There will be plenty of pushes from some for mask mandates to remain for the unvaccinated. There are also more employers who will look at requiring COVID vaccinations among their staff.
Universities are already at the head of the line in requiring vaccines among students, staff and faculty. We expect strong drumbeats on the mask and vaccination fronts.
Businesses will have to gauge the appetite for continued mask mandates as well as privacy concerns among their customers and employees.
They will also have to broach those interactions with great care both logistically and legally.