On March 8, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued long-awaited guidance that relaxes its prior recommendations in three ways for fully vaccinated individuals. However, the update has a limited impact for employers. First, vaccinated individuals can gather indoors without masks or social distancing. Second, vaccinated individuals can gather with unvaccinated individuals from one other household without masks or social distancing unless any unvaccinated person is at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19. Third, vaccinated individuals do not need to quarantine or get tested if they have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 unless they develop symptoms.
The CDC’s new guidance is also notable for what it has not changed. The CDC still recommends that fully vaccinated people continue to wear a mask in public, exercise social distancing, avoid crowds and gathering with more than one household of unvaccinated people, and avoid visiting unvaccinated people who are at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19. The CDC also declined to revise its recommendation against travel.
What does this mean for the workplace? Until the CDC updates its guidance further, employers should continue to enforce mandatory masking and social distancing policies. Employers may, however, relax their exposure response policies. Unless fully vaccinated employees are suffering symptoms of COVID-19, they no longer need to quarantine or get tested after being exposed to someone with the virus.