Employer Update New CDC COVID-19 Quarantine
The CDC released an update to it’s Clinical Considerations for Use of mRNA COVID-19 Vaccines Currently Authorized in the United States on February 10, 2021. This update by the CDC changes the manner in which fully vaccinated individuals need to respond upon a direct exposure to COVID-19. As such it is important for employers to be aware of this change and take it into consideration when determining how they wish to proceed with the COVID-19 policies they are currently implementing in the workplace.
Up until this CDC update, the same guidance has been implemented for vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals. Now, the CDC recommendations state that individuals that are vaccinated and come into contact with someone suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19 are not required to quarantine if they meet all of the following criteria:
- Are fully vaccinated (meaning have received both vaccine doses and it has been over 14 days since their receipt of the second dose);
- Are within 3 months following receipt of the last dose in the series
- Have remained asymptomatic since the current COVID-19 exposure
Fully vaccinated individuals who do not quarantine after an exposure should still be on the look out for COVID-19 symptoms for 14 days following the exposure. If they experience symptoms, they should be evaluated and tested for COVID-19 before returning to work.
Individuals who do not meet all of the criteria are still required to follow current quarantine guidance after exposure to someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19. With this update in mind, employers should consider updating their current COVID-19 workplace policies specifically as it pertains to quarantining procedures. They should be taking into account their employees vaccination status.
As per guidance released on December 16, 2020 by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), employers are permitted to ask employees about their COVID-19 vaccination status without triggering any implications of the American Disabilities Act. As per EEOC guidance, asking employees whether they have received the vaccine or not does not constitute a disability-related inquiry because it is not likely to elicit information about a disability suffered by the employee. Employers should keep in mind however, that subsequent questions by the employer such as asking why the employee has chosen not to get vaccinated could reasonably be expected to elicit information about disabilities and thus would in fact be subject to the relevant ADA standard that the question be “job-related and consistent with business necessity”.
It is important to note that the CDC guidance about preventative and protective measures such as “wearing a mask, staying at least 6 feet away from others, avoiding crowds, avoiding poorly ventilated spaces, covering coughs and sneezes, washing hands often, remains the same for vaccinated individuals. Due to the rapidly changing information on COVID-19 and the vaccine, employers should continue to closely track new CDC guidance on COVID-19 safety issues to determine whether changes in their workplace policies and procedures are needed.
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