By Brent I. ClarkJames L. CurtisAdam R. YoungA. Scott HeckerPatrick D. Joyce, and Craig B. Simonsen

Seyfarth Synopsis: Now, after more than 80 million vaccine doses have been given out in the US, and having weathered a year of Zoom-only visits with fellow employees, clients, and customers, those who have been vaccinated are looking for direction. Obligingly, the CDC just issued its “Interim Public Health Recommendations for Fully Vaccinated People”.

Until the release of this guidance for fully vaccinated individuals, CDC had only indicated that “it’s important for everyone to continue using all the tools available to help stop this pandemic as we learn more about how COVID-19 vaccines work in real-world conditions. ” We previously blogged that CDC had released an update to its recommended guidance on Vaccines & Immunizations. The guidance provided updated quarantine recommendations that for fully vaccinated persons who “meet criteria will no longer be required to quarantine following an exposure to someone with COVID-19.”

CDC’s guidance for fully vaccinated individuals contains the following updates:

  • Individuals may gather in small groups in private residences without masks or distancing when:
    • all individuals are fully vaccinated; or
    • only one household is not fully vaccinated (all others are fully vaccinated), but the unvaccinated individuals are at low risk for developing severe disease if they contract the coronavirus.
    • fully vaccinated individuals (and all others) should continue to avoid larger gatherings.
  • Fully vaccinated individuals do not need to quarantine or get tested if they have a known close contact exposure with a COVID-19 positive individual, as long as they do not develop symptoms of infection. If fully vaccinated individuals who have known exposure develop symptoms, they must isolate themselves, get tested, and speak with their doctor.
  • However, fully vaccinated employees should be tested following an exposure if they work in “high-density workplaces (e.g., meat and poultry processing and manufacturing plants).”
  • In public, fully vaccinated individuals must continue to wear masks, maintain physical distance, and take other recommended precautions, such as avoiding poorly ventilated spaces, covering coughs and sneezes, washing hands often, and following any other protocols that are in place.

Image from CDC.

For now, CDC has not updated its guidance to allow fully vaccinated employees to go maskless while at work. As a result, employers will still need to make informed decisions about risk when developing workplace requirements, and employees will still need to follow requirements set forth by their employers, even if the employee is fully vaccinated.

While the CDC’s updated guidelines do not give the fully vaccinated permission to start living like it’s 1999 , the updates offer some hope that the end of total social isolation is near. But at the same time, Dr. Anthony Fauci warned last week that the US may soon be hit with a spike in COVID-19 cases — even though the country has administered more vaccine shots than any other nation. The recent plateau in cases from record-high post-holiday rates is actually a sign that Americans should mask up and brace for another potential boom in infections, Fauci said, while citing past coronavirus data trends at a White House press briefing.

For more information on this or any related topic, please contact the authors, your Seyfarth attorney, or any member of the Workplace Safety and Health (OSHA/MSHA) Team