The latest guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) tells the fully vaccinated they no longer need to wear a mask or physically distance in most settings, but that will likely conflict with many workplace policies and federal and state regulations.
However, the new CDC guidance does specify that masks and physical distancing should be followed “where required by federal, state, local, tribal or territorial laws, rules and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance.”
And keep in mind that federal OSHA’s emergency temporary standard for COVID-19 is still under review at the White House, so you may not want to give up your mask and distancing policies just yet.
Also, this guidance only applies to non-healthcare settings.
The guidance states that fully vaccinated people can:
- resume activities without wearing masks or physically distancing, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal or territorial laws, rules and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance
- resume domestic travel and refrain from testing before or after travel or self-quarantine after travel
- refrain from testing before leaving the U.S. for international travel (unless required by the destination) and refrain from self-quarantine after arriving back in the U.S.
- refrain from testing following a known exposure, if asymptomatic, unless they are residents or employees of a correctional or detention facility or a homeless shelter
- refrain from quarantine following a known exposure if asymptomatic, and
- refrain from routine screening testing if feasible.
For the time being, fully vaccinated people should continue to:
- get tested if experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, and
- follow CDC and health department travel requirements and recommendations.
NSC weighs in
On May 14, the National Safety Council (NSC) issued a statement saying it “cautiously supports the recent CDC recommendation for fully vaccinated individuals to relax safety protocols, like mask wearing and social distancing.”
However, the new guidance “does not take away any of the complexity out of managing the safety of a partially vaccinated workforce,” according to the NSC news release.
The NSC recommends employers still take a risk-based approach based on their unique environment to ensure the safety of all workers, and should be prepared to verify vaccination status of employees while continuing to comply with appropriate laws and protocols.