CDC Masking Rules Relax for COVID-19

Last month the CDC issued new COVID-19-related metrics that will allow many communities and workplaces to ease their masking requirements. Employers may have continuing obligations under state and local laws, but many localities are also relaxing their pandemic-related safety rules.

“With widespread population immunity, the overall risk of severe disease is now generally lower,” said CDC Director Rochelle Walensky. “Now, as the virus continues to circulate in our communities, we must focus our metrics beyond just cases in the community and direct our efforts toward protecting people at high risk for severe illness and preventing COVID-19 from overwhelming our hospitals and our health care systems.”

The CDC also offers a “COVID-19 Community Levels” tool which assigns a risk level to your specific geographic area.  You can toggle through and select your area from a pre-populated list of states and counties, and out pops your risk assessment. To use this resource, visit the CDC website at Use and Care of Masks.

Current Guidelines

Under the prior metrics, the CDC sorted counties into four risk categories—low, moderate, substantial and high—based on COVID-19 case numbers and test positivity rates. The agency recommended masking in public, indoor settings for communities with substantial or high community spread.

The new guidance sorts counties into three groups: high, medium or low COVID-19 risk.

Low Risk:

  • Wear a mask based on your personal preference, informed by your personal level of risk

Medium Risk:

  • If you are immunocompromised or at high risk for severe illness
    • Talk to your healthcare provider about additional precautions, such as wearing masks or respirators indoors in public
  • If you live with or have social contact with someone at high risk for severe illness, consider testing yourself for infection before you get together and wearing a mask when indoors with them.

High Risk:

  • Wear a well-fitting mask indoors in public, regardless of vaccination status or individual risk (including in K-12 schools and other community settings)
  • If you are immunocompromised or at high risk for severe illness
    • Wear a mask or respirator that provides you with greater protection

So, What’s Next?

Although the CDC’s guidance is not mandatory, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has typically followed the CDC’s recommendations.

By complying with the CDC’s recommendations, employers can also show that they are meeting their obligations under the Occupational Safety and Health Act’s general duty clause, which requires employers to provide a safe workplace that is free from known hazards.

Employers must review state and local COVID-19-related rules in addition to federal guidelines.

Employers should review their workplace masking requirements and other COVID-19 protocols in light of the new guidance, as well as the diminishing restrictions at the state and local level.

As more information is released on this topic we will be sure to update you via our website or email. We will also do our best to guide you and continue to advise on best practices during the days ahead.
Please contact your HR Consultant soon so we can assist you in your planning and implementation.

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