Due to concerns over the Delta variant of COVID-19, the CDC has reversed its prior guidance, now stating that fully vaccinated individuals should wear masks when indoors in COVID-19 hot spots. Previous CDC guidance stated that fully vaccinated individuals no longer had to wear masks in public places. Employers should be aware of this changing landscape, as workplace safety implications are likely to arise as CDC guidance changes.
Over the course of the pandemic, we have seen the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (“OSHA”) guidance coinciding with recommendations from the CDC. OSHA has not yet updated its mask guidance, however, we will be watching this issue closely over the coming days.
Employers should utilize CDC’s COVID Data Tracker, available here: https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#county-view, to determine whether their business is in an area of substantial or high transmission. Currently, most counties within New York State are in the low to moderate level of community transmission. However, the New York City area remains in the substantial level of transmission zone. Governor Cuomo has stated that his administration is currently reviewing the CDC guidance—we will have to wait and see if a mask mandate makes a return. Note also the changes in mandated vaccinations that the Governor just issued for all state employees. State employees must now show proof of vaccination or face weekly testing. Stricter rules apply to “patient-facing” workers who will no longer have the option of testing. These developments may push private employers to adopt similar workplace measures that go beyond the simple encouraging of vaccination. Private employers interested in adopting a mandatory vaccination program or taking a more active role with respect to vaccinations are advised to consult with experienced employment counsel.
We are continually assessing COVID-19-related issues in the employment context. For guidance on these issues, or other labor and employment concerns, please contact any member of the Hurwitz & Fine, P.C.’s Labor & Employment team at 716-849-8900 or visit our website at www.hurwitzfine.com