Information contained in this publication is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or opinion, nor is it a substitute for the professional judgment of an attorney.
On Tuesday, April 27, 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released updated guidance concerning facial coverings and social distancing for fully vaccinated individuals. While masks are still recommended in most settings, those who have been inoculated may begin to experience a slight return to pre-pandemic normalcy.
According to the latest guidance, vaccinated people are able to:
- Visit with other fully vaccinated people indoors without wearing masks or physical distancing;
- Visit with unvaccinated people (including children) from a single household who are at low risk for severe COVID-19 disease indoors without wearing masks or physical distancing;
- Participate in outdoor activities and recreation without a mask, except in certain crowded settings and venues;
- Resume domestic travel and refrain from testing before or after travel or self-quarantine after travel;
- Refrain from testing before leaving the United States for international travel (unless required by the destination) and refrain from self-quarantine after arriving back in the United States;1
- Refrain from testing following a known exposure, if asymptomatic, with some exceptions for specific settings, including (1) residents and employees of non-healthcare congregate settings, such as homeless shelters and correctional and detention facilities; (2) high-density workplaces, such as certain processing plants; and (3) residents of dormitories or other high-density housing settings at educational institutions;
- Refrain from quarantine following a known exposure if asymptomatic; and
- Refrain from routine screening testing if asymptomatic and feasible.
However, fully vaccinated individuals must continue to wear masks in the following situations:
- In indoor public settings;
- Gathering indoors with unvaccinated people (including children) from more than one other household; and
- Visiting indoors with an unvaccinated person who is at increased risk of severe illness or death from COVID-19 or who lives with a person at increased risk.
Fully vaccinated individuals should still avoid indoor large gatherings, take steps to protect themselves when traveling, and are required to wear masks on planes and other forms of public transportation traveling into, within, or out of the United States. Fully vaccinated international travelers arriving in the United States are still required to get tested within three days of their flight (or show documentation of recovery from COVID-19 in the past three months) and should still get tested 3-5 days after their trip.
Vaccinated individuals should also watch for symptoms of COVID-19, especially if they have been around someone who is sick. If they have symptoms of COVID-19, they should get tested and stay home and away from others, even if they are vaccinated.
While the CDC’s newly released guidance highlights activities vaccinated individuals may safely engage in without masks, it spotlights greater risks that befall unvaccinated individuals, even when wearing a mask. Based on this guidance, employers may be inclined to treat differently those individuals who are not vaccinated. However, given the associated risks, employers should consult with employment counsel before doing so.
In addition to staying apprised of CDC guidance, employers should follow state and local requirements and Department of Public Health orders and Occupational Safety and Health regulations, which may vary. In other words, while the latest CDC guidance recommends increased freedom for vaccinated individuals, that guidance does not necessarily translate to the workplace. We recommend that employers be aware of the current safety requirements in their state and local guidance, remain vigilant in order to continue to provide a safe work environment for all employees, and consult with their employment counsel if they have questions regarding implementation of changes to their existing workplace safety policies and procedures.
1 Recently, the European Union also announced that it will welcome U.S. residents who have been fully vaccinated this summer.