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Will courts require COVID vaccine passports?

August 25, 2021

With a plentiful supply of COVID-19 vaccine available, the United States still is behind its vaccination rate goal to reach herd immunity against the pandemic. As of August 25 according to the CDC 171,773,370 Americans or 51.7% of the total population are fully vaccinated. What is the government doing to move forward and bring people to get their vaccine?  The federal government is considering that all civilian federal employees be vaccinated against the coronavirus. Although the federal government so far has not forced their employees to get the COVID-19 vaccine outside of the Veterans Affairs administration and most recently the military, they could require continued and frequent testing.  Some state court systems have already announced similar actions.

Recently, state courts are moving forward ordering employees to get the vaccine or to test frequently in order to work in person. In Delaware, the chief justice has ordered mandatory weekly COVID-19 testing for all unvaccinated court employees.

The head of Maryland's highest court issued an emergency order requiring state judiciary personnel to provide proof of vaccination against COVID-19 by September 27, 2021, or until vaccinated, submit weekly tests proving their negative status in order to report to work. In  New York, new protocols will require all Unified Court System judges and non-judicial employees who have not been vaccinated to be tested regularly for COVID-19. Finally, Washington's Supreme Court issued an order stating that a worker must either be vaccinated or qualify for an exemption to be eligible for employment for the Supreme Court. Finally in Puerto Rico, all court employees must be vaccinated by September.

These orders also raise the larger question of vaccine passports for court users as well. Such documents serve as proof that an individual has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. The courts of New York have established a system in which court users can show proof of vaccination and will receive a pass to allow them to enter the courthouse without submitting to a health screening or using a face covering.

Is your court requiring a vaccination passport for either court users or staff? Follow the National Center for State Courts on FacebookTwitterInstagram, or Pinterest and share your experiences!

For more information, contact Knowledge@ncsc.org or call 800-616-6164.