On May 13, 2021, the CDC updated its Interim Public Health Recommendations for Fully Vaccinated People. Now, individuals who are fully vaccinated no longer need to wear a mask or physically distance in most indoor and outdoor settings, with a handful of exceptions (doctor’s offices, hospitals, planes, trains, airports, and transportation hubs), or unless expressly required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations. The CDC guidance also defers to local business and employer workplace practices and rules.
Though they may be tempted, employers shouldn’t be too quick to relax onsite health and safety measures. Masks and social distancing are still required in many states and localities. For example, the current San Francisco Health Order (see here) still requires masks and social distancing outside of the home, subject to limited exceptions. In addition, Cal/OSHA still requires employers subject to its COVID-19 Prevention Emergency Temporary Standards to ensure employees physically distance and wear face coverings in most instances (see here).
For jurisdictions with liability shield laws that bar COVID-19 claims against employers, the shield laws generally require employers to follow applicable state and local guidance in order for the liability shield to apply. Rushing to follow the CDC guidance and relax mask and social distancing requirements in the workplace, when such restrictions are still recommended or required by state and local authorities, could make the shield law unavailable as a defense for employers.
And despite the new guidance, the CDC’s message regarding what fully vaccinated employees should do in the workplace remains unchanged: even if individuals have been fully vaccinated, they still need to follow guidance at their workplace.
For now, employers should continue to require workers to follow state and local social distancing and masking guidance and requirements in the workplace – even if only for a little while longer. For help with this development and your other employment related needs, contact your Baker McKenzie employment attorney.