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Can a business ask if you've been vaccinated?

Some business owners say they are unsure if they're allowed to ask customers whether they've been vaccinated.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Questions continue about wearing masks after the CDC said those fully vaccinated don't need them in most cases. Small business owners across the Midlands say they have many questions about the new guidance.  

After Governor McMaster's recent ban on vaccine passports, some small business owners say they are unsure whether they are allowed to ask customers if they've been vaccinated.

RELATED: Gov. McMaster orders end to school, city mask mandates in South Carolina

The CDC is acknowledging some confusion after announcing fully vaccinated people don't need to wear masks, in most instances, indoors and outdoors.

According to Dr. Rachel Brown from Prisma Health, who provides guidance to local businesses, the announcement initially had many excited. Now, many small business owners are confused.

RELATED: Some local businesses wary of new CDC mask guidance

"Initially, there was some concern they may not be able to set the tone or the policies and procedures for their own business," Brown said. "There's a lot of confusion. How do we do this? What is this going to look like on the ground and what does this mean for our businesses."

RELATED: VERIFY: Yes, private businesses can ask you if you are vaccinated or not

News 19 reached out to a legal professor to get their take. According to Professor Jacqueline Fox, who teaches Health Care Law and Policy at USC, you can ask people if they've been vaccinated. She says doing so you are not violating privacy laws.

"There is no reason you cannot ask someone if they've been vaccinated," Fox said. "It doesn't apply to anyone outside of healthcare workers or people that work in organizations that work with protected information."

RELATED: No, most businesses won’t violate HIPAA by asking customers if they’ve been vaccinated

Professor Fox says a vaccine passport and asking whether someone's been vaccinated is not the same thing. 

"The distinction is, if you ask someone if they've been vaccinated you're going on trust with what they answer. Whereas if they had some, formal, government run, official document, that would be checked by a different source to verify the truth of whether they've vaccinated or not," said Fox.

RELATED: VERIFY: What are your rights when it comes to 'vaccine passports'

Bobby Williams, owner of Lizard's Thicket, says vaccinated customers at his restaurant have the option to wear a mask and staff will not be verifying vaccination history.

"We're requiring our employees to still wear masks. We're not policing the customers. If they feel more comfortable wearing masks, we want them to. If they don't want to wear a mask, then they don't have to," Williams said.

"I don't believe we have the right to ask them, but we're all adults and we should look out for our neighbors."