On May 13, 2021, the CDC issued its “Interim Public Health Recommendations for Fully Vaccinated People” which advised that fully vaccinated people (meaning two weeks have passed since receiving the second dose in a 2-dose series or 2 weeks after the single-dose vaccine), in non-healthcare settings, no longer need to wear a mask or physically distance in any setting (indoors included), except where required by applicable laws, rules or regulations, including local business and workplace guidance.
OSHA has taken an aggressive position regarding COVID-19 workplace health and safety enforcement. In its January 29, 2021 COVID-19 Guidance on Mitigating and Preventing the Spread of COVID-19 in the Workplace, OSHA explained that workers who are vaccinated must continue to follow protective measures, such as wearing face coverings and remaining physically distant. On May 18, OSHA issued a statement that in light of the new CDC guidance on recommended precautions for fully vaccinated people, which OSHA is in the process of reviewing, and until such time as OSHA issues updated materials on the topic, OSHA is directing the public to refer to the CDC Guidance for information on measures appropriate to protect fully vaccinated workers. Therefore, until we hear otherwise, OSHA is not stopping businesses from letting its fully vaccinated workforce shed their masks and stand within 6-feet of each other, inside.
Of course, many workplaces may continue to require masking, social distancing, and other safety measures, both for its employees and for customers and others who enter the workspace. Further, state and local jurisdictions may have requirements in place that mandate masking and/or social distancing, so it is important to understand the requirements of the jurisdictions in which your business operates. And still, even if masks are no longer required, many businesses may find themselves with employees (and customers) who will continue to wear masks (and it would make good sense to permit and accommodate mask wearing for the foreseeable future).
Employers need to account for how it will track who is and is not vaccinated within the confines of the law, and enforce mask-wearing for those who are not yet fully vaccinated. The CDC’s latest mandate certainly brings optimism, but should not become a reason to disregard thoughtful consideration of keeping the workplace safe and ensuring that proper protective measures and protocols are in place.