September 24, 2021

Volume XI, Number 267

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CDC Changes Masking Guidance for Fully Vaccinated Individuals

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) announced on July 27, 2021 that it will adjust its advice to recommend that vaccinated people in substantial or high transmission areas of COVID-19 (defined below) wear masks in indoor public spaces. This guidance will substantially alter the CDC’s May 13 guidance that largely exempted fully vaccinated individuals from the indoor mask requirement. There has been no change in the outdoor masking recommendations at this time. In changing its masking recommendations, the CDC asserts that current scientific information indicates that the delta variant can be spread despite vaccine status, warranting an adjustment to its prior guidance.

Below is a summary of the updated guidance based on the media telebriefing:

  • In public indoor settings in areas of substantial or high transmission, all are to wear masks - including fully vaccinated individuals.

  • All individuals in K-12 schools must wear a mask, regardless of vaccination status, including teachers, staff, and visitors.

  • There should be a continuing effort to strongly encourage vaccination to reduce the spread of COVID-19, including the delta variant.

  • Community leaders should encourage universal masking and vaccination nationwide, regardless of whether or not in a substantial or high transmission area.

Despite the updated guidance, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky emphasized that wearing a mask is a “personal choice” and no “stigma” should attach to the decision whether or not to wear a mask. Moreover, Dr. Walensky acknowledged that the renewed indoor masking requirement would “weigh heavily” with individuals who are already fully vaccinated. The White House has not provided additional comment on the CDC guidance as of this writing.

The definition of a substantial or high transmission area is based on the CDC’s COVID-19 Data Tracker, which tracks the level of community transmission by county nationwide. Notably, the updated guidance does not apply to areas of moderate or low transmission.

While the CDC guidance is not mandatory, employers are advised to evaluate their workplace policies to determine the extent to which it may be prudent to alter workplace masking requirements. Additionally, states and cities are free to institute their own legally binding masking requirements, regardless of the CDC guidance. Employers are advised to closely monitor state and local developments. We also note that it is unclear what, if any, impact the CDC guidance will have on OSHA’s recent healthcare emergency temporary standard for healthcare employers or its enforcement of its safe workplace standards.

©2021 von Briesen & Roper, s.cNational Law Review, Volume XI, Number 208
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About this Author

John A. Rubin Labor and Employment Attorney von Briesen & Roper Waukesha, WI
Attorney

John Rubin is a member of the Labor and Employment Section, with a focus on labor law. He has nearly a decade of experience serving as a Field and Trial Attorney for the National Labor Relations Board, where he regularly investigated and litigated unfair labor practice and representation cases, acquiring wide-ranging knowledge of traditional labor law and the administration of the National Labor Relations Act. This experience enables John to advise clients on all aspects of labor relations, including collective bargaining negotiations, contract administration, disciplines and discharges,...

(262) 923-8655
Bob Simandl, Von Briesen Law Firm, Waukesha, Labor and Employment Law Attorney

Bob Simandl is a Shareholder with over 30 years of experience advising clients on a wide range of employee benefit, labor and employment law issues. This experience enables Bob to advise clients on human resources (HR) law issues taking into consideration all areas of opportunity and vulnerability, including the litigation of HR law-based claims. He has extensive experience in advising employers in employee benefit plan design, issues associated with ill and injured workers, labor negotiations, and multi-employer health and welfare plan and pension plan vulnerability and compliance.

(262) 923-8651
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