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Health Q&A: What employers should know about latest COVID-19 requirements

  • Jacqueline Coll gives the COVID-19 vaccine to Donna Infante as part of the first round of vaccinations for frontline health care workers at Monadnock Community Hospital Friday. Staff photo by Ben Conant

  • Courtesy of the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America —In-person educational conference from the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America

Monitor staff
Published: 9/10/2021 1:11:26 PM

New Hampshire is headed for another worrisome autumn. Like in 2020, new cases of COVID-19 have steadily been on the rise, likely to only be made worse by indoor gatherings in colder temperatures.

This time around, though, we have vaccines. As the Delta variant continues to spread through New England, more employers and businesses may being to leverage COVID-19 vaccines to keep their doors open. Here’s your guide to vaccine requirements:

Can my workplace require the vaccine?

In most cases, yes. In New Hampshire, state legislation prevents certain public institutions, like public universities or state facilities, from requiring the COVID-19 vaccine. This legislation does not apply to private entities, such as private businesses, or most healthcare settings like hospitals or nursing homes.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the U.S. Department of Justice have confirmed COVID-19 vaccine mandates are legally permissible. There are some notable exceptions to these mandates for those who have disabilities or religious beliefs that exclude them from getting the COVID-19 vaccine. Barring those circumstances, refusing the vaccine can threaten your ability to receive unemployment benefits if you are fired for not complying with a vaccine mandate.

Can a business ask to see proof of vaccination?

Yes. Private businesses can often decide who they would like to serve as long as they are not discriminating based on factors like gender, religion or race. Despite some public figures claiming this would violate HIPAA laws, these laws generally only apply to health care providers, not private businesses or employers.

Some cities, like New York City, have already required proof of vaccination to enter indoor businesses and gyms.

Can I ask my healthcare provider if she or he is vaccinated?

You can ask but they are not required to answer you.

However, it is becoming increasingly common for health facilities to require the COVID-19 vaccine of their employees. In August, the Biden administration announced that the nursing home facilities must require their staff to be vaccinated in order to participate in Medicare and Medicaid, which many homes rely on to stay open.

Dartmouth-Hitchcock also recently required vaccines of their staff, including those at its Concord location.

Can I be asked to wear a mask if I’m not vaccinated?

Yes. In fact, according to the CDC’s current recommendations, unvaccinated Americans should wear masks in all indoor and some outdoor situations.

Should I ask my friends whether they are vaccinated?

If you are vaccinated you are well protected against COVID. Even with Delta, it is highly effective at preventing severe disease and death from the virus. Still, you may choose to ask friends you plan on spending time with whether they have been vaccinated. If you discover a friend is unvaccinated you can opt for an outdoor gathering or agree to wear masks.

Offering up whether you are vaccinated first may help you ease into the conversation. Preceding the question with phrases like “I hope you don’t mind me asking” or “Please forgive me if I’m asking too personal a question...” may also help ease tensions, Jacqueline Whitmore, founder of The Protocol School of Palm Beach in Florida, told AARP.

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