July 27, 2021

BREAKING: What Employers Need to Know about CDC's Updated Mask Guidance

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Businesses operating in areas with high COVID-19 transmission should consider requiring everyone to wear masks indoors, regardless of vaccination status.

This afternoon, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated its guidance for mask-wearing in response to the rapid surge in new COVID-19 cases. CDC reports that daily COVID-19 cases increased over 300% nationally between June 19 - July 23, driven by the highly transmissible Delta variant.

Here’s what you need to know:

CDC recommends the following actions be taken in areas with substantial or high COVID-19 transmission:

  • Everyone (including fully vaccinated individuals) should wear a mask in public indoor settings to help prevent the spread of Delta and protect others.
  • Community leaders should encourage vaccination and masking to prevent further outbreaks.

CDC recommends the following actions be taken across all areas of the United States, regardless of local transmission:

  • Fully vaccinated people might choose to wear a mask, particularly if they are immunocompromised or at increased risk for severe disease from COVID-19, or if they have someone in their household who is immunocompromised, at increased risk of severe disease or not fully vaccinated.
  • Fully vaccinated people who have a known exposure to someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 should be tested 3-5 days after exposure, and should wear a mask in public indoor settings for 14 days or until they receive a negative test result.
  • Universal indoor masking is recommended for all teachers, staff, students, and visitors to K-12 schools, regardless of vaccination status. Children should return to full-time in-person learning in the fall with layered prevention strategies in place.

CDC continues to emphasize that widespread vaccination is key to stopping the spread of COVID-19. Vaccination coverage by county ranges from 9% to 89% and remains below 40% in over half of all counties in the United States. Areas of low vaccination coverage have rapidly increasing COVID-19 cases. Deaths and hospitalizations from COVID-19 are almost exclusively among the unvaccinated.

What This Means for Employers

  • Businesses operating in areas with substantial or high rates of COVID-19 transmission should consider requiring all workers and customers to wear masks indoors.
  • Employers should encourage fully vaccinated workers to wear masks if they’re immunocompromised or at increased risk for severe disease from COVID-19, or if they have someone in their household who is immunocompromised, at increased risk of severe disease or not fully vaccinated.
  • Employers should encourage fully vaccinated workers who have a known exposure to someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 to be tested 3-5 days after exposure, and should wear a mask in public indoor settings for 14 days or until they receive a negative test result.
  • Employers should continue encouraging workers to get vaccinated and make it easier for them to do so. Employers should also consider making it easier for working parents to vaccinate eligible children. We offer free resources to help employers share vaccine facts and reduce barriers to vaccination.

Health Action Alliance recommends all businesses take a risk-based approach that prioritizes the health and safety of employees and customers and considers local community vaccination rates and guidance from public health officials.