Transitioning to Normal
*ABA's actions on this outcome:
ABA had participated in stakeholder meetings at OSHA and met with the Office of Management and Budget to express concerns about the administration issuing a COVID-19 ETS covering general industry. ABA pushed for the agency to instead continue to provide the industry with updated guidance that could reflect current science and data.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued a Healthcare COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS). The ETS does not cover general industry and manufacturing facilities.
Today, OSHA also published updated guidance for businesses that are not covered by the ETS, this would include general industry and manufacturing facilities. OSHA says the updated guidance makes the following changes:
- Focus protections on unvaccinated and otherwise at-risk workers
- Encourage COVID-19 vaccination
- Add links to guidance with the most up-to-date content
Advanced Vaccine Considerations for the U.S. Workplace
As we have previously advised, and as confirmed in guidance issued by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in December, employers in the U.S. are permitted to require that employees be vaccinated, provided that they make certain accommodations for employees who are unable to receive the vaccine due to a disability or sincerely held religious belief. Implementing a vaccine requirement, however, leads to other questions about how to appropriately address those employees who are entitled to accommodations, whether vaccinated employees can be treated differently from unvaccinated employees, and related issues. Key questions concerning workplace COVID-19 vaccine policies are addressed in this alert.
*NEW* Employers can require COVID-19 vaccinations, new EEOC guidance
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced new guidance indicating that fully vaccinated people can safely participate in most activities, indoor or outdoor, without wearing a mask or social distancing. This decision is based on science and data which tells us that vaccines work, cases have been falling dramatically, and that vaccinated people are far less likely to spread the virus.
Given this new guidance, FSIS has instructed in-plant, laboratory, and in-commerce personnel to follow this guidance:
- If they are fully vaccinated (at least 2 weeks past their final dose), they are no longer required to wear a face mask and/or face shield or practice physical distancing in federal establishments, those facilities requesting voluntary inspection, laboratories, and locations where in-commerce duties are conducted.
- Fully vaccinated FSIS personnel may elect to continue wearing face masks and/or face shields based on their level of comfort.
- If the establishment or other facilities where duties are being conducted require face masks and/or face shields, FSIS employees will continue to follow those requirements.
- If they are not fully vaccinated (at least 2 weeks past their final dose), CDC guidance indicates they should continue to wear a face mask and face shield and maintain physical distancing consistent with the requirements set forth in our workplace safety plan.
FSIS inspection personnel will continue to follow requirements establishments have for their personnel to control exposure, including wearing face masks and/or face shields, physical distancing, and monitoring procedures.
Questions have come in asking about state mask mandates. Please note, these sites are only reporting at the STATE level (at the more individualized county levels, there may be other specific mandates)
- Facing Your Face Mask Duties – A List of Statewide Orders from ABA’s HR Outside Counsel
- The AARP has an updated list of the mask guidance for every state (and DC): https://www.aarp.org/health/healthy-living/info-2020/states-mask-mandates-coronavirus.html
- US News is tracking these changes, and they have a list here: https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/articles/these-are-the-states-with-mask-mandates along with further information (updated 5 hours ago).
- US News is also tracking retailer mask mandates: https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/shopping/2021/05/17/target-mask-policy-retailers-not-requiring-masks-fully-vaccinated-cdc/5111030001/