Fully Vaccinated Does Not Mean Fully Normal: The CDC issues guidance for fully vaccinated people

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Patricia Tsipras

May 4, 2021

Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued interim public health recommendations for fully vaccinated people in non-healthcare settings.

When does the CDC consider a person to be fully vaccinated?

For purposes of its guidance, the CDC considers a person to be fully vaccinated for COVID-19 two weeks after receiving the second dose of a two-dose series (e.g., the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine or the Moderna vaccine), or two weeks after receiving a single dose vaccine (e.g., Johnson and Johnson/Janssen vaccine).

What can fully vaccinated people do?

  • Visit indoors with other fully vaccinated people without wearing masks or physical distancing
  • Visit indoors with unvaccinated people (including children) from a single household who are at low risk for severe COVID-19 disease 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, refrain from testing before or after travel, and refrain from 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 returning to the United States
  • Refrain from testing following a known exposure, if asymptomatic, with some exceptions for specific settings
  • Refrain from quarantine following a known exposure, if asymptomatic
  • Refrain from routine screening testing, if asymptomatic and feasible

What should fully vaccinated people continue to do?

  • Take precautions in indoor public settings, like wearing a well-fitted mask
  • Wear well-fitted masks when visiting indoors 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 well-fitted masks when visiting indoors with unvaccinated people from multiple households
  • Avoid indoor large-sized in-person gatherings
  • Get tested if experiencing COVID-19 symptoms
  • Follow guidance issued by individual employers
  • Follow CDC and health department travel requirements and recommendations

Should employers relax mask requirements for fully vaccinated employees?

They should not.  As stated above, the CDC recommends that, in indoor public spaces, fully vaccinated people should continue to wear a well-fitted mask and follow workplace guidance.

Though the CDC’s guidance states that fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear a mask outdoors, employers with employees working outdoors should continue to require masks in light of OSHA guidance.  Specifically, in January 2021, OSHA issued guidance stating that employers should not distinguish between vaccinated and unvaccinated employees, and vaccinated employees must continue to follow protective safety measures, such as wearing face coverings and remaining physically distant.  Privacy and other legal concerns also dictate that employers continue to implement the same safety requirements for vaccinated and unvaccinated employees.  For example, allowing fully vaccinated employees to go mask-less will identify who has been vaccinated and who has not, and, if the reasons that an employee is unvaccinated is due to disability or religious reasons, an employer runs the risk of disparate treatment claims.

Should employers subject only unvaccinated employees to COVID-19 screenings?

They may.  The CDC’s guidance states that fully vaccinated people with no COVID-19-like symptoms and no known exposure should be exempted from routine screening testing programs, if feasible.  However, as stated above, treating employees differently may lead to privacy and discrimination risks.

This article relates to CDC guidance.  Remember that such guidance is only one of the resources available to employers.  Employers also must consider state, local, and OSHA guidelines before modifying policies.  Rubin Fortunato is available to answer your questions.

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