CDC Reinstates Indoor Mask Policy

August 6, 2021

On July 27, 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) once again recommended that even fully vaccinated individuals should wear masks indoors in areas with high rates of COVID-19 transmission. This reversal from its May 2021 guidance, which dropped the mask recommendation for fully vaccinated people, was brought on by the increasing number of cases caused by the Delta variant.

In addition to reinstating the indoor mask recommendation, this latest guidance included the following advisements:

  • Fully vaccinated individuals should consider wearing a mask if they are immunocompromised or live with someone who is, regardless of whether their locale is experiencing high transmission rates;
  • Fully vaccinated individuals who have been exposed to someone who has or may have COVID-19 should be tested 3-5 days after exposure, and should wear a mask indoors for 14 days or until they receive a negative test;
  • Regardless of vaccination status, all teachers, staff, and students should wear masks.

While these recommendations are just that, certain employers and locales are already falling in line. Given the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s now long-standing guidance that employers may require employees to wear protective gear, like masks, retail chains like Home Depot, Target, and Walmart are once again requiring that employees be masked in high-risk areas. For Ohio specifically, as of August 2, 2021, 70 of the state’s 88 counties were classified as having a “substantial” or “high rate” of transmission, triggering the CDC’s latest recommendations. Counties like Cuyahoga and Summit have already reaffirmed that they will follow CDC guidance and have issued their own mask recommendations to that effect. However, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine has stated that he currently has no intention of reinstating the state mask mandate.

Given this latest guidance and the rising number of cases, more businesses and employers are likely to reinstate their own mask requirements. It will be important to be aware of the different and changing requirements that may be applicable to a particular business or employee as a result of recommendations from the CDC, local health and other governmental entities, local businesses, and employers.

For more information, please feel free to contact our Labor & Employment team.