With the Center for Disease Control's (CDC's) move to reverse its mask policy for vaccinated people in areas of substantial or high transmission this week, companies and individuals are once again forced to navigate new and changing guidance.
The COVID-19 pandemic isn't over
Just as many Americans had started to travel, shop, attend conferences, concerts and sporting events and frequent bars and nightclubs again, the CDC has now signaled that the COVID-19 pandemic is not even close to being over. In fact, according to the CDC's COVID-19 County View tracker, 2,000 U.S. counties (63% of all counties) are now experiencing substantial or high COVID-19 case transmission rates.
Is CDC guidance controlling?
Regardless of how employers viewed the CDC guidance back in May 2021, the "CDC guidance really is just that--guidance," according to Cressinda "Chris" Schlag of Counsel at Jackson Lewis. In fact, the legal view of the CDC's guidance remains the same this time around, leaving organizations to determine what risks they want to take for their employees, staff and guests.
How companies react to changes in CDC guidance varies
Earlier in May when the CDC dropped the mask guidance for vaccinated individuals, most companies decided to wait to see what OSHA and local health departments would do before responding to the CDC's updated guidance, and OSHA followed suit with relaxation with the exception of healthcare and a few other settings.
While widespread vaccination is undisputedly the best way to combat COVID-19, without higher vaccination rates across the country (and the world), other safety measures like mask-wearing can help to reduce the spread of COVID-19, including the more contagious Delta variant. With clear data supporting this argument, some companies are charting their own way forward even before hearing from OSHA and health departments this time.
- Vaccine Mandates and Delaying Return to Office Delays: Facebook and Google have decided to require all U.S. campus employees to be vaccinated, and Google has already decided to delay its return to office plans until October.
- Closing Offices Again: Twitter has now shut down its offices in San Francisco and New York that just opened a mere two weeks ago, and the company was already requiring proof of vaccination for employees in the office.
- Reinstating Mask Mandates: Starting yesterday, Apple now requires employees and staff at over half of its stores to wear masks regardless of vaccination status.
Less conservative or "TBD" approaches
- Following local regulations: Costco has signaled that it "will follow the face mask regulations of the applicable state and local jurisdictions," and GE and Boeing aren't mandating vaccines at this time.
- County-by-County Complexity: Walmart expressed that it has followed CDC recommendations in the past and that they'll be making an announcement about the new, more complicated county-by-county approach soon.
What's clear is that the pandemic situation will evolve over time, and companies will need to continue to protect their employees and staff from workplace hazards, including COVID-19. How they do that remains a complicated challenge.
Kogniz helps organizations with many of these challenges, including: vaccine management, contact tracing, PPE monitoring, occupancy monitoring, social distancing and other solutions to help organizations manage pandemic-related risks in the workplace.
Contact us to see how our solutions can help you solve a variety of workplace safety issues.