CDC Issues New Guidance for Vaccinated Individuals and Its Impact on the Workplace
The rollout of the COVID-19 vaccination is well underway and more people, including employees, are receiving it. As a result, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on March 8 issued new guidelines for fully vaccinated people not in health care settings. This guidance is raising a few questions about what protocols need to be followed by the fully vaccinated employees when they go to work.
“Fully vaccinated” means waiting two weeks after receiving either the second shot from a two-dose series or the single shot for that type of vaccine. The CDC ‘s guidance states that fully vaccinated people may get together with other vaccinated people in small groups indoors, but should still follow precautions (e.g., masks, distancing, washing hands, etc.) when “in public.” They also do not need to quarantine or get tested if they have a known close contact exposure with an infected person if asymptomatic.
The CDC has not updated its guidance to allow fully vaccinated employees to go maskless while at work because the duration of vaccine protection and the level of protection against emerging COVID-19 variants are still unknown. Accordingly, the CDC was clear that some prevention measures are necessary regardless of vaccination status.
The primary agency that focuses on workplace safety is the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and while OSHA does consider CDC guidance with its own, there have not been any revisions to its guidance addressing fully vaccinated employees. OSHA’s revised guidance on January 29 continues to state that employers should not distinguish between workers based on their vaccination status and that both types of employees need to continue to follow the precautionary measures including wearing face coverings. The complete OSHA guidance can be found here: Protecting Workers: Guidance on Mitigating and Preventing the Spread of COVID-19 in the Workplace.
In addition, some states have issued regulations designed to reduce the transmission of COVID-19, and businesses must comply with those workplace standards. As of mid-March, these states are California, Michigan, Oregon and Virginia. To date, none of the states have made any revisions to their regulations addressing fully vaccinated workers, which means all the requirements contained in the respective regulations must be followed until revised.
While vaccines are becoming increasingly more available, the guidance for how to address vaccinated employees in the workplace remains unchanged. Employers need to treat a vaccinated employee as if they were unvaccinated. Therefore, employers need to continue all preventive measures such as masking, shielding, social distancing, meeting and gathering restrictions, and cleaning protocols until new guidance instructs that such measures can be lifted.
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Gary A. Jones is the director of environmental, health and safety (EHS) affairs at PRINTING United Alliance in Fairfax, VA. His primary responsibility is to monitor and analyze EHS regulatory activities at all domestic and some international government levels. He provides representation on behalf of the printing and specialty graphic imaging industry. In doing so, Mr. Jones works closely with the federal and state-level Environmental Protection Agencies (EPA), Occupational Safety and Health Agency (OSHA), Department of Transportation (DOT), and other agencies. He also provides membership assistance on EHS compliance and sustainability programs through a variety of approaches including responding to inquiries, presentations, writing, and consulting services.
Mr. Jones is also supporting PRINTING United Alliance’s efforts for the Sustainable Green Printing Partnership (SGP). SGP is dedicated to assisting printing operations respond to the customer demand for sustainable printing.
He holds a BS in biology from LaRoche College and an MS in chemistry from the University of Pittsburgh.