Friday, May 14, 2021

Coronavirus Update 5-14-2021: CDC ends masking and social distancing for the fully vaccinated, but what does it mean?

Yesterday, the CDC updated its Covid guidance to remove all masking and social distancing guidance for those of us who are fully vaccinated. According to the CDC—

  • If you are fully vaccinated, you can resume activities that you did prior to the pandemic, without wearing a mask or physically distancing. 
  • If you are not fully vaccinated, you must keep wearing masks when around others indoors.

But what does this really mean? And, more to the point, how you know who's vaccinated and who's not so that you can permit them to remove their masks inside your business?

I see three viable reactions to this new guidance:

1/ Confirm vaccination status before allowing employees or visitors/customers to be maskless.

2/ Continue to require masks for everyone. 

3/ Use the honor system.

To me, number three is out. As a society, we have proven ourselves too selfish and too unreliable to count on others to "do the right thing," especially when there is certainly a massive overlap between the communities of anti-maskers and anti-vaxxers.

Thus, moving forward, and until further notice, the only options that make sense for businesses are number one when we know vaccination status, and number two when we don't. If those who are fully vaccinated can be maskless, then let's confirm vaccination status before we allow people to remove their masks. Or, if we don't want to be bothered, or don't know who's been fully vaccinated (such as customers entering a store) then just keep requiring the masks. Otherwise, we cannot operate with any confidence that the mouths are noses we are now seeing for the first time in 14 months have their shots. Unless and until vaccine passports become a reality, how do we have a level of comfort to know who is and isn't vaccinated?

This news gets muddled when states like Ohio are doing away with their Covid rules (Ohio's mask mandate and other Covid public health orders end on June 2), and as OSHA's Covid guidelines (which OSHA says it will "update … over time to reflect developments in science, best practices, and standards") for now still recommend masks and social distancing. Yet, as the CDC makes clear, "You will still need to follow guidance at your workplace and local businesses." So let's make our guidance clear for our employees and others.

Finally, for anyone interested, I'll be conducting a webinar on this very topic one week from today, May 21, at 1:30 pm EST. You can register here.