On Monday, March 8, 2021, the CDC issued long-awaited guidelines for “fully vaccinated” people, which are available HERE.
For the purposes of this guidance, people are considered “fully vaccinated” two or more weeks after they have received the second dose of either the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines or a single-dose of the Johnson & Johnson/ Janssen vaccine. The interim guidelines permit fully vaccinated people to:
Visit with other fully vaccinated people indoors without wearing masks or physical distancing.
Visit with unvaccinated people from a single household who are at low risk for severe COVID-19 diseases indoors without wearing masks or physical distancing.
Refrain from quarantine and testing following a known exposure (e.g. “close contact”) if they are asymptomatic.
While these interim guidelines may permit fully vaccinated individuals to relax some of the current restrictions in private settings, employers should not jump to changing safety protocols or quarantine rules at this time. As an initial matter, employers must still continue to follow current state and local Executive Orders that address workplace protocols as well as state and local quarantine guidance. In addition, in its interim guidance, the CDC noted that fully vaccinated individuals should continue to follow any guidance issued by their employers. Furthermore, the CDC, stated that fully vaccinated individuals should continue to follow a number of safety procedures, which include:
1. Masks: Wearing well-fitted masks and physical distancing if they are:
- in public;
- visiting unvaccinated people with increased risk of severe COVID-19 or people who have an unvaccinated person with increased risk for severe COVID-19 in their household; or
- visiting unvaccinated people from multiple households.
2. Travel Testing and Quarantine: Following CDC and health department travel requirements and recommendations. (*It is important to note that the CDC’s travel quarantine guidance, which is available HERE, has not been modified at this time.)
3. Testing: Getting tested if experiencing COVID-19 symptoms.
Importantly, employers may want to know if they can ask employees if they have been fully vaccinated in order to determine whether the employee must quarantine after a COVID-19 exposure. The EEOC has previously said yes, that such inquiry is permissible since it is not likely to elicit information about a disability. However, the EEOC also advised that “[i]f an employer requires employees to provide proof that they have received a COVID-19 vaccination from a pharmacy or their own healthcare provider, the employer may want to warn the employee not to provide any medical information as part of the proof in order to avoid implicating the ADA.”
The CDC noted that this newly released guidance is the first set of recommendations for fully vaccinated people and that this guidance will be updated and expanded based on, among other things, the level of transmission in the community. As further guidance is published, we will provide additional information as appropriate.