Here’s how to adapt to new CDC guidance and ensure your company’s mask policies and procedures are updated.
As we move back to normal in the workplace, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have issued new mask guidelines for Americans and businesses. The agency lifted the need to wear masks in most indoor and almost all outdoor spaces in early May 2021. Business leaders now have an opportunity to update their policies and procedures to adapt to the new guidance.
As more Americans are going barefaced in public, employees are hoping to see each others’ smiles again. Your company may be ready to develop a new mask policy that mirrors updates from the CDC. The agency’s newest guidelines outline that fully vaccinated Americans no longer need to wear a mask indoors except in hospitals, on public transportation, and traveling by air. The updated guidelines also remove the need for masks in most outdoor settings.
Many large retailers have announced that vaccinated customers will be welcome in their stores without masks: none will require vaccination proof of customers. Most retailers and food service companies continue to require even fully vaccinated employees wear masks in customer-facing roles, at least until the CDC fully lifts mask mandates.
For fully vaccinated employees, the new guidance from the CDC eases the need to wear a mask indoors in most settings and in almost all outdoor settings. In some states and local areas, however, indoor and outdoor mask mandates continue to be in effect — even when contrary to CDC guidance. Business owners will need to verify their regional requirements before easing any mask policies in their company.
Who does the new guidance cover?
The CDC guidelines state fully vaccinated Americans do not need to wear a mask indoors in most settings, and outdoors in almost all.
The CDC guidelines state fully vaccinated Americans do not need to wear a mask indoors in most settings, and outdoors in almost all. The agency published what constitutes full vaccination status. Americans will be considered fully vaccinated against COVID-19:
- At least 2 weeks after the second dose in a 2-dose series: Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or
- At least 2 weeks after the single-dose Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine
While vaccination does not guarantee Americans won’t contract or aren’t able to transmit the virus, the likelihood of significant detrimental outcomes greatly lowers. Along with updated information, the CDC believes lifting the mask guidance will help Americans get back to normal as well as encourage those who haven’t been vaccinated to do so.
What does it mean for business?
A best practice (until there are no more mask requirements), will be to mirror the recommendations from the CDC as they update them.
Business owners, except in some industries, now have the option of dropping mask requirements in their organization. To do so safely, a best practice (until there are no more mask requirements), will be to mirror the recommendations from the CDC as they update them. That offers the option of allowing fully vaccinated employees to remove their masks while requiring non-vaccinated staff members to keep theirs on. As state and local authorities update mask guidance, businesses should continue to adapt their internal policies accordingly.
You should require vax proof
Private-sector at-will employers can require employees to get COVID-19 vaccinated. However, employers must respect employees’ rights in regard to medical, religious, and healthcare privacy issues. The latest data suggests nearly 40% of Americans have been vaccinated.
Retailers are using the honor system for vaccinated customers to enter a store mask-free. However, business leaders should verify staff members are fully vaccinated before the CDC lifts individual mask requirements. Your policy should reflect only fully vaccinated employees, in accordance with CDC guidelines, may go mask-free in the workplace.
Communicating company mask guidelines
Business leaders will want to keep employees informed on current internal mask requirements and link directly to guidance from the CDC to verify company protocols are in line with the most current scientific data available. Create a new policy and notification memo to staff based on the new guidance offered and your company’s new procedures.
Create a new policy and notification memo to staff based on the new guidance offered and your company’s new procedures.
Access our sample memo below, which includes options on whether you will allow all or some employees to go mask-free.
Download this sample mask policy memo that you can customize and use for your workplace.
Communicate your policy widely — through emails, text messages, and company-wide signage and notifications. Let employees know the policy will likely change in the future with new guidance; you should provide further policy updates and notifications as appropriate.
You may still require mask use
For some roles, a direct supervisor may be the authority on mask usage, providing it aligns with company guidance. An example may be front-facing employees who works directly with the public. To ease concerns and boost public confidence, even fully vaccinated employees who interact with customers should likely continue to wear a mask.
Occasional use may be required of staff members who rarely interact on a face-to-face basis with non-employees. These could be vendors, business partners or customers. Their supervisor, after discussion and agreement with management/HR, should inform staff members when the mask must be in place, and when it can be removed. A best policy will be to determine guidance in advance, and in writing, before supervisors notify staff of the protocol.
Other mitigation efforts
As you move to a mask-less workplace, remember other procedures to minimize the spread of COVID-19 and other infectious diseases should remain in place. Personal hygiene requirements, cleaning and sanitizing shared spaces, avoidance of crowded areas, and staying home or leaving work immediately if symptomatic should continue until the threat of COVID-19 has completely passed.
For business, the new CDC mask guidance is a welcome step toward normalcy in the workplace. To minimize risk to employees and the public, make sure your business mask policy aligns with the agency’s guidelines and best practices for the safest possible environment for your staff.