Certain State and Local Governments Are Currently Reevaluating Their Guidance in Light of the CDC’s New COVID-19 Mask Guidance for Fully Vaccinated IndividualsAugust 4, 2021
The City and County of San Francisco also released its August 3, 2021 updated Masks and Face Coverings guidance, which states in part, “You must now wear a mask in indoor public buildings even if you are fully vaccinated.” The new guidance provides certain exclusions to this requirement, such as children younger than 2, people with certain medical conditions or disabilities, and people instructed by their medical provider not to wear a mask.
Los Angeles County also released updated guidance on When You Need to Wear a Mask on July 23, 2021. The guidance states, in part, that “[e]veryone, regardless of vaccination status, must wear a mask . . . [i]n all indoor public settings, venues, gatherings, and public and private businesses in Los Angeles County.” The new guidance provides the same exclusions as the San Francisco guidance and also exempts “certain employees . . . from wearing a mask in specific situations provided alternative safety measures are in place.”
The District of Columbia also released its July 30, 2021 updated Mask Guidance for the General Public, which states in part “Everyone (including fully vaccinated people) must wear masks . . . in indoor public settings.” The new guidance provides certain exclusions to this requirement, including individuals who are “alone in an enclosed office that no one else is permitted to enter.”
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July 30, 2021 Update. On July 29, 2021, District of Columbia Mayor Bowser ordered all people to wear a mask indoors, regardless of vaccination status, beginning July 31, 2021. The Order states that businesses can establish stricter rules than those outlined in the Order, such as requiring masks be worn outdoors or requiring proof of vaccination to enter their facilities. The Order also states that businesses may exclude or refuse service to anyone not in compliance with the Order, and may take “appropriate employment actions” against their employees who endanger themselves or others by being in violation of the Order.
July 29, 2021 Update. On July 29, 2021, District of Columbia Mayor Bowser announced that, beginning July 31, 2021, all people over the age of 2 must wear a mask indoors, regardless of vaccination status. At the press conference announcing the new mask policy, Director of the District of Columbia Department of Health, LaQuandra Nesbitt, said that a general mask guidance will be provided in the coming days.
On July 27, 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) revised its mask guidance, recommending that vaccinated individuals resume wearing masks in public indoor settings in parts of the country with “substantial or high transmission” of COVID-19. This new guidance substantially changes the guidance that had been issued by the CDC on or about May 13, 2021, which largely exempted fully vaccinated individuals from indoor mask requirements, and was subsequently adopted by certain state and local governments, such as New York State and the District of Columbia.
In its Recommendations for Fully Vaccinated People, the CDC explains that the updated guidance is based on new data regarding the highly contagious COVID-19 Delta variant, and defines “substantial or high transmission” areas to include any county where there are 50 or more cases per 100,000 people in a 7-day period, or where the COVID-19 test positivity rate is 8% or higher. The CDC’s data tracker can be used to determine the transmission rate in a geographic region. The new guidance does not apply to areas of moderate or low transmission.
While the new CDC guidance is not mandatory, certain state and local governments may consider adopting the CDC’s masking recommendations, as some have done in the past. For example, as of July 28, 2021, New York State has publicly announced that it is reviewing the new CDC guidance, but has not yet adopted the CDC’s updated recommendation. Additionally, as of July 28, 2021, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has not yet updated its “Protecting Workers: Guidance on Mitigating and Preventing the Spread of COVID-19 in the Workplace” to reflect the changed recommendation from the CDC.
As the COVID-19 situation continues to develop, and federal, state, and local governments issue additional guidance, employers need to be cognizant of new guidance and requirements. For more information, please visit S&C’s page regarding Coronavirus updates.