Fully vaccinated people can ditch their masks, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Thursday. Does this mean workers can go barefaced? Not necessarily. The CDC's directive came with a series of caveats, and there are several more factors employers need to consider, attorneys say.
Fully vaccinated people can resume activities without masking and distancing only when it's not required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations, the CDC said. This includes business and workplace mandates.
But the CDC "is not the ultimate authority" for employers, Cozen O'Connor Member David Barron said — that spot belongs to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
Until OSHA updates its guidance, that agency's current standards still apply, Kevin Troutman, partner at Fisher Phillips, told HR Dive in an email. "Employers will be anxious to implement this latest CDC guidance, but we are still not entirely sure how OSHA will apply it in the context of its workplace guidance," he said.
Guidance from OSHA could be imminent, however. Emergency temporary standards were put together weeks ago and delivered to the White House, Barron said.
"If OSHA comes out and says, you know, employees have to wear masks, even if they're within six feet of each other, even if they're vaccinated, then that's going to really trump whatever the CDC says," Barron said. "I don't know that they're gonna say anything, and no one really knows."
Employers will need to play a waiting game, then, despite the new CDC guidance. "That's the big wait and see that I would throw out there for HR professionals," Barron said. "Let's not run off and do anything too drastic, because we will need to wait and see what OSHA says."