ATTENTION EMPLOYERS: CDC Reverses Course on Mask and Testing Recommendations for Fully Vaccinated People; NJ “Strongly Recommends” Masks for All

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On July 27, 2021, the CDC updated its Interim Public Health Recommendations for Fully Vaccinated People to add that fully vaccinated people should wear a mask in public indoor settings in areas of community transmission of COVID-19 that are considered “high” (more than 100 cases per 100,000 people over a seven-day period) or “substantial” (50-100 cases per 100,000 people over a seven-day period).

The CDC further recommended that fully vaccinated people consider wearing a mask regardless of the level of transmission, particularly if they or someone in their household is immunocompromised or at increased risk of severe disease, or if someone in their household is not fully vaccinated. The CDC also added a recommendation that fully vaccinated people be tested three to five days following a known exposure to someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19, and to wear a mask in public indoor settings for 14 days or until they receive a negative test result. Fully vaccinated people also should get tested if they experience COVID-19 symptoms.

The impetus for the updated guidance was new evidence on the B.1.617.2 (“Delta”) variant, which has become increasingly prevalent in the United States. Although the CDC recognized that, even with the Delta variant, breakthrough infections occur only in a small percentage of fully vaccinated individuals, it revised its recommendations in light of scientific data suggesting that fully vaccinated people infected with the Delta variant can spread the virus to others at a more significant rate than with the ancestral strain. One day after the CDC issued its updated recommendations, New Jersey Governor Murphy and Department of Health Commissioner Persichilli likewise relied on the new evidence of transmissibility of the Delta variant among vaccinated individuals to issue a joint statement “strongly recommending” residents wear masks indoors, regardless of vaccination status. The joint guidance expressly reserved the right to take more drastic action – including a statewide mask mandate – if the state’s metrics on COVID-19 cases continue to rise.

The following New York and New Jersey counties are currently in the high or substantial risk category. Employers should keep in mind that this list is likely to change rapidly and frequently as the Delta (and any new) variant continues to circulate.

High / Substantial Counties

New JerseyNew York
GloucesterNew York
As with most things COVID-related, guidance on mask wearing and testing protocols continues to vacillate as the data evolves. We encourage employers to monitor the CDC’s COVID Data Tracker for the status of community transmission wherever they maintain workplaces and consider their indoor mask and other policies in light of the revised recommendations. NFC’s COVID-19 Response Team continues to monitor the constantly shifting guidance in this area and will alert our clients to new developments.


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