How will the new mask recommendations impact your workplace?
New Mask Recommendations and the Workplace
The CDC is now recommending that everyone – including fully vaccinated individuals – wear masks in indoor public settings in all areas with substantial and high transmission of the COVID-19 virus and get tested following exposure to someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19.
New CDC Recommendations For Fully Vaccinated Individuals in Non-Healthcare Settings
As a result, the CDC recommends new steps for fully vaccinated people in non-healthcare settings to protect themselves from being infected with the Delta variant and potentially spreading it to others:
- Wear a mask in public indoor settings if they are in an “area of substantial or high transmission.” The CDC suggests that fully vaccinated people might choose to mask, regardless of transmission level, particularly if they or someone in their household is immunocompromised or at increased risk for severe disease or if someone in their household is unvaccinated.
- Get tested 3-5 days following a known exposure to someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19, regardless of whether they have symptoms, and wear a mask in public indoor settings for 14 days after exposure or until a negative test result.
The CDC continues to recommend that vaccinated individuals isolate and get tested if they experience symptoms of COVID-19 and isolate if they test positive.
What Areas Have Substantial or High Transmission?
The CDC’s color-coded CDC COVID Data Tracker shows the level of transmission by county. Red counties have “High” transmission and orange counties have “Substantial” transmission. The data tracker is updated daily and is based on total new cases per 100,000 persons in the past 7 days and percentage of NAATs (a type of viral diagnostic test) that are positive during the past 7 days.
Employers should continue to carefully monitor state and local guidance as well as the level of transmission in their geographic areas which is evolving rapidly. The updated CDC guidance is specifically tied to areas that have substantial and high transmission rates. Since those rates are tied to the prior 7-day period, the transmission rates will continue to change for the foreseeable future, especially after holidays when individuals naturally gather together.
So Do We Requires Masks Now?
We recommend paying attention to transmission rates using the COVID Data Tracker linked above. Employers that are back in the office, either on a hybrid schedule or 100% onsite may want to survey employees to get feedback on their comfort levels and feelings of safety in the workplace.
As always, communication is key during the pandemic. It is important for employees to feel safe while at work. At a minimum, continue to encourage social distancing and masks for those employees who choose to wear them.
HR Affiliates will continue to monitor the situation and provide guidance when new information emerges. Please reach out to us at with any questions or concerns.