Yes, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) relaxed its masking recommendations Feb. 25. for healthy people living in low- or medium-risk areas.
And yes, masks are only recommended in public if an individual’s community is categorized as high risk by the CDC.
However, while OSHA is expected to adopt the CDC’s recommendations, it hasn’t happened yet. The agency hasn’t made any comment regarding the change at the time this story was published.
Many employers may be thinking about relaxing or removing masking policies altogether, but Faith Whittaker and Hayley Geiler of law firm Dinsmore & Shohl say companies shouldn’t be so quick to act.
Whittaker and Geiler say that before removing mask mandates, employers should perform individualized assessments of the threat in their workplace, especially for those in high-risk industries like health care and meat-packing.
And don’t forget to review, and comply with, local and state masking requirements.
Ultimately, employers can maintain stricter policies if they so desire, and they should accommodate any employees who want to continue to mask, especially those who are at an increased risk for serious illness.
What the CDC recommends
Mask wearing is now dependent on a community’s risk level, the CDC’s new guidance states.
People in low-risk communities should stay up to date with their COVID-19 vaccines and get tested if they have any symptoms. They don’t have to wear masks at any time (again, unless state or local mandates say otherwise).
Medium-risk communities have the same guidelines as low-risk areas, with the caveat that people at high risk for severe illness should talk to their healthcare providers about whether or not to mask or take other precautions.
Individuals in high-risk communities should wear a mask indoors while in public, stay up to date with vaccinations and possibly take extra precautions if they’re at a higher risk for severe illness.
The guidance mentions that “people may choose to mask at any time. People with symptoms, a positive test or exposure to someone with COVID-19 should wear a mask.”
For more details and the CDC’s COVID-19 County Check tool for community risk levels, click here.