Stores using legal smoke screen

Dear Editor:

A recent letter to the editor [“Social distancing is biology, not politics,” June 11] quotes this sign posted at the entrances to stores of a Maine-owned chain: “Governor Janet Mills has ordered that all customers must wear a mask when entering this store. If you have a medical condition that prevents you from wearing a mask, you do not need to wear one. If you are not wearing one, we will assume this is the case. Due to HIPAA and the Fourth Amendment, we will not ask you about your condition.”

As a lawyer specializing in health law, I can tell you that HIPAA and the Fourth Amendment have absolutely no application to a situation like this. HIPAA is a federal law that imposes privacy requirements on health information in the possession of health care institutions. It does not require stores that have information about an individual’s health to keep it private. The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibits certain “searches and seizures” by government officials. It has absolutely no application to private individuals or businesses.

Any store relying on these legal protections is just creating a smoke screen to attempt to justify its evasion of a legitimate legal requirement adopted for the benefit of all.

Alan Meisel

Pittsburgh, Pa.