CDC Relaxes Mask, Distancing for Vaccinated People

NACS counsel suggests employers remain patient in easing COVID-19 restrictions.

March 09, 2021

Woman in mask gets COVID-19 Vaccine

ATLANTA—Despite new guidelines from the CDC on fully vaccinated people—the first set of public health recommendations that permit relaxed safety standards—employers should not change their current safety practices as a result, suggests NACS counsel Fisher & Phillips.

New CDC guidance issued this week considers people fully vaccinated for COVID-19 if two weeks have passed since their second dose in a two-dose series of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, or if two weeks have passed since receiving the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine. For those individuals in non-healthcare environments, CDC says they do not have to wear a mask or social distance when gathering indoors with other fully vaccinated people.

However, CDC also advises that fully vaccinated people should continue to:

  • Take precautions in public like wearing a well-fitted mask and physical distancing
  • Wear masks, practice physical distancing and adhere to other prevention measures when visiting with unvaccinated people who are at increased risk for severe COVID-19 disease or who have an unvaccinated household member who is at increased risk for severe COVID-19 disease
  • Wear masks, maintain physical distance and practice other prevention measures when visiting with unvaccinated people from multiple households
  • Avoid medium- and large-sized in-person gatherings
  • Follow guidance issued by individual employers
  • Follow CDC and health department travel requirements and recommendations

Fisher & Phillips notes that while the CDC’s updated guidance slightly relaxes its recommendations for fully vaccinated people, an anticipated Emergency Temporary Standard from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration is expected by mid-March, which may not relax the standards.

“In other words, you may soon be required for the first time under federal law to maintain a workplace safety policy that calls for universal mask-wearing and maintaining physical distancing. While the OSHA standard may take into account today’s CDC’s guidance, we cannot be sure of exactly what to expect. Therefore, the more prudent course would be to wait a few weeks to see what OSHA has to say and adjust your policies accordingly,” suggests Fisher & Phillips.

In California, state law requires employers to maintain precautions that are presently in place, as do a variety of other states. “Employers in these areas have an affirmative obligation to maintain mask policies and physical distancing rules, among other things, regardless of what the CDC now advises,” writes Fisher & Phillips. However, if state rules do not run contrary, employers may ease quarantine rules in certain situations involving fully vaccinated workers.

What convenience retailers need to know about current regulations and legislation related to COVID-19 is taking center stage today at the NACS Human Resources Forum. Travis W. Vance, partner at Fisher & Phillips, will review laws that impact the human-capital aspects of the convenience industry, paying special attention to issues surrounding COVID-19 and the pressures it has placed on employers of essential workers. Stay tuned to NACS Daily this week for coverage of the event, including highlights from industry experts and convenience retail HR professionals on topics such as virtual recruiting, mental health and total rewards.