Mask Wars 2.0
After being tasked with enforcing coronavirus mitigation rules like wearing masks for much of the pandemic, companies are voluntarily choosing to institute new rules in response to concerns from staff or customers.
Pennsylvania and New Jersey have both said they will leave the demanding vaccines to the private sector. Earlier this year, Gov. Tom Wolf vetoed a GOP-backed bill that would have banned colleges and others from mandates.
At Martha’s, general manager Caceres said they started considering passports when someone at a nearby bar, Monkey Club, tested positive for COVID-19 despite being vaccinated. First, Martha enforced the wearing of masks on staff, then decided to start imposing rules on customers.
To enforce proof of vaccination, a manager or host is stationed at the door and tasked with asking if guests want to sit inside or outside. If they are inside, they will ask for proof of vaccination. Often the person on the front line is Caceres himself. “I’d rather deal with it myself, and my husband is the other manager there. He and I are really trying to be that tampon, ”she said.
The in-person response so far has been positive, she continued, but on Sunday a person unhappy with the decision “called every five minutes” with threats.
Other businesses in the region have reported being abused online for taking a stand on vaccines. This points to a potential passport trap, said Harald Schmidt, assistant professor of medical ethics and health policy at the University of Pennsylvania.
“There is a risk that vaccine passports will turn into antagonism, when what we really need is a partnership approach,” he said. Another pitfall is to create an incentive to falsify a vaccination record.
While the interest in vaccine passports is understandable and even ethical, he said, if it polarizes the discussion more around vaccines rather than encouraging people who may still be suspicious of them to registering is bad for everyone.
“Public health is truly a shared responsibility,” Schmidt said.
On Sunday, the CDC reports that 63% of Pennsylvanians are fully vaccinated. Since the start of the pandemic, Pennsylvania has recorded 27,857 deaths, with 7 new deaths reported over the weekend.