On May 13, 2021 the CDC overhauled its guidance, stating that fully vaccinated people can resume most of their pre-pandemic activities without wearing a mask or social distancing. This includes indoor and outdoor gatherings, regardless of size. The CDC does still recommend that fully vaccinated people wear a mask while using public transportation and in health care settings, correctional facilities, and homeless shelters. People are generally considered fully vaccinated two weeks after their second dose of a Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or two weeks after the single dose of a Johnson & Johnson vaccine. People who are not fully vaccinated should continue to wear a mask and practice social distancing.
The new guidance allows life to return to normal in most situations for fully vaccinated individuals, subject to state and local orders and the requirements of businesses and workplaces. Most likely, however, the new guidance will trigger state and local authorities to follow suit in their mitigation orders. Indeed, shortly after the CDC guidance was announced, Pennsylvania amended the state masking order to align with the CDC’s guidance. A number of other states have changed their policies as well. Philadelphia and New Jersey, on the other hand, along with a number of other states, are still reviewing the CDC’s new guidance and have not yet lifted masking and social distancing requirements. Businesses should continue to monitor state and local orders and guidance where they are located. Businesses should also keep an eye on legislation limiting or prohibiting the use of “vaccine passports” when considering how to bring employees and visitors back to the office. Finally, businesses should be aware that OSHA has not yet changed its guidance on the use of masking and social distancing in the workplace and a mandatory OSHA COVID protection standard is still pending review by the White House, so employers should continue to assess their ability to provide a safe workplace or risk citation by OSHA for failing to do so.