Businesses requiring COVID-19 vaccination

No vaccine, no concert. That’s what an area venue is telling fans.

The Cactus Club in Bay View will require performers and concert-goers prove they’re vaccinated. That starts Monday, Aug. 9.

"Our first priority is to be an accessible, welcoming space that centers the safety and well-being of the many communities we’re a part of and serve. This is an incredibly tricky time for us as a venue that brings people together," the club stated in a Facebook post. "Please be patient and respectful to staff as we navigate these constantly evolving circumstances. If you’ve purchased an advanced ticket and can no longer attend, we are happy issue full refunds."

That's likely just the beginning of a flurry of vaccine requirements for patrons of various Milwaukee businesses.

Vaccine mandates at the show, work, and now even your home?

One Milwaukee landlord is asking for applicants vaccine status right on the rental application. He says he'll be rewarding those who are vaccinated.

S2 Real Estate rents out 600 units in 100 buildings.

And it's a hot rental market.

Sam Stair

"There is very few apartments. There’s not a lot of people moving around as much, right now. So, when people come to apply, we have 20-30 applicants for a 1 bedroom," said Sam Stair of S2 Real Estate.

He's using that demand to encourage vaccination.

"I really love Summerfest. I really love going to State Fair. And I really don’t want another shutdown," said Stair.

He says the vaccinated applicant could move up the list, past the unvaccinated applicant.

"I don’t know if they are a protected class. I know that smokers are not a protected class. So if you are a smoker, some people can deny you," he said.

"It is voluntary for them to give us the information. We are not asking for medical information, like their health or their medical history. We are just asking if they got a vaccination," said Stair. "So, a lot of times when people take their kids to a school district or something, they have to hand in their vaccination sheet, just to protect the other people."

Employment lawyer Mark Goldstein

"Business owners, by and large, can exercise judgement, sometimes it’s referred to as discrimination, but it’s judgement. And the question is when is that judgement illegal? And certainly, we know it becomes illegal when it’s about race or gender or ethnicity or maybe about disability, but in this circumstance, it’s really about none of those things," said employment lawyer Mark Goldstein. 

The discussion comes as the area’s biggest hospitals will mandate employees get the shot: Advocate Aurora, Ascension, Children’s, Froedtert/Medical College, Prohealth and UW Health.

A group of Wisconsin nurses fight the mandates. The group Wisconsin United for Freedom (WUFF) says more than 8,000 healthcare workers are part of a group opposed to the vaccine mandates, including emergency department nurse Angela Amundson. 

"Our main concern at this point is being able to have the freedom of choice in this," Amundson said. "Many of us do, also, have safety concerns with this vaccine, with how quickly they have brought it through trials."

"These mandates do put me and many others in a tight position: having to decide between if something is going to get injected into our body, or we’re going to continue to work and many of us are feeling like we are not going to get it. And we’ll walk away from our jobs," said Amundson.

Angela Amundson, nurse against mandated COVID-19 vaccination

"Vaccines can be required in lots of circumstances. This just happens to be a political hot button at the moment. but when kids sign off for school, they come in and they provide vaccination records, and that’s done routinely," said Goldstein.

Wisconsin law does offer nursery through high school students three exemptions from the currently required vaccinations: for health, religion or personal convictions. COVID-19 vaccines, which are authorized for emergency use for those 12 and older, are not part of the school requirements.

Wisconsin Statute §252.04(3) declares: "The immunization requirement is waived if the student, if an adult, or the student's parent, guardian or legal custodian submits a written statement to the school, day care center or nursery school objecting to the immunization for reasons of health, religion or personal conviction. At the time any school, day care center or nursery school notifies a student, parent, guardian or legal custodian of the immunization requirements, it shall inform the person in writing of the person's right to a waiver under this subsection."

The hospital mandates do offer exemptions for religious or medical reasons, but it is unclear how strict the hospitals will be in granting them.

For example, Advocate Aurora says: "With limited exceptions for specific religious or medical reasons, the requirement applies to all 75,000 team members in both Illinois and Wisconsin, including remote workers and those who don’t work directly with patients, as well as medical staff, students, volunteers and on-site vendors."

These announcements are just the beginning as other businesses try to make sense of what they should do amidst the pandemic.

There are a number of lawsuits on this issue but the highest court to rule on it---the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago ruled that Indiana University could mandate vaccination. The Supreme Court is being asked to weigh an appeal.

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