CDC REVISES GUIDANCE ON MASKS FOR VACCINATED PERSONS
By Paula Jackson
August 4, 2021
Due to the new Delta variant of COVID-19, the CDC has issued revised mask guidance for vaccinated persons. CDC guidance now recommends that those vaccinated wear masks indoors in public places if they are in geographic areas with high or substantial transmission rates. According to the CDC’s data, most counties in Tennessee, including Shelby County, currently have a high level of community transmission.
Under this new guidance, vaccinated people who have been exposed or potentially exposed to COVID-19 should be tested within 3-5 days and wear masks indoors in public places for 14 days (or until they test negative). Vaccinated persons should also get tested if experiencing COVID symptoms, even if there has been no known exposure.
All school personnel, students, and visitors should wear masks indoors per CDC recommendations regardless of whether they have received the vaccine or not.
How does the CDC’s new guidance affect businesses?
OSHA has typically urged employers to follow the CDC’s COVID-related recommendations to provide a safe work environment during the pandemic. Thus, in addition to complying with OSHA’s latest guidance on unvaccinated (or at-risk) employees and healthcare workers, employers should require employees to wear masks if located in high or substantial risk areas, regardless of vaccination status, until further notice from the CDC.
OSHA has also recommended that employers ask customers and visitors to wear masks to keep unvaccinated and at-risk workers safe, which logic could now apply to the vaccinated due to the Delta variant. Therefore, businesses may have to decide whether to institute mandatory mask policies for customers and visitors.
When deciding whether to implement a mask requirement, businesses should consult with counsel and consider all related federal, state, and local laws. For instance, the CDC does not recommend masks if the person has trouble breathing, is age two or under, is unconscious or incapacitated, or cannot remove the mask. Additionally, the ADA may require businesses to provide employees and customers/visitors who cannot wear masks due to medical conditions with certain accommodations and/or notices that such accommodations are available.
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“Interim Public Health Recommendations for Fully Vaccinated People,” Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/fully-vaccinated-guidance.html (updated July 28, 2021).
 “COVID Data Tracker,” Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#county-view (last checked Aug. 4, 2021).  “Protecting Workers: Guidance on Mitigating and Preventing the Spread of COVID-19 in the Workplace,” https://www.osha.gov/coronavirus/safework (updated June 10, 2021); “Emergency Temporary Standard: COVID-19 Healthcare ETS,” https://www.osha.gov/coronavirus/ets (last checked Aug. 4, 2021). Please note that this article does not specifically address employer obligations for healthcare settings, which may include adherence to OSHA’s Emergency Temporary Standard, CDC healthcare-related guidance, and any other laws, regulations, and guidance specific to the healthcare industry regarding COVID-19.
 “Guidance for Direct Service Providers, Caregivers, Parents, and People with Developmental and Behavioral Disorders,” Center for Disease Control & Prevention, https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/need-extra-precautions/developmental-behavioral-disorders.html (updated May 27, 2020).