As A Special Holiday Gift for Employers, the CDC Updated Its Guidance

Just when businesses thought it was safe to relax, maybe unplug for a while, BAM!

Yesterday, the CDC announced that it is shortening the recommended time for isolation from 10 days for asymptomatic people—regardless of whether they are vaccinated or not—with COVID-19 to 5 days, followed by 5 days of wearing a mask when around other people.

My FisherBroyles, LLP employment partner Eric Meyer posted all about these updated workplace quarantine recs for 2022 in his blog here.

The CDC explained this change saying that science demonstrates that most SARS-CoV-2 transmission occurs early in the course of illness, generally in the 1-2 days before the onset of symptoms and the 2-3 days after. Therefore, people who test positive should isolate for 5 days and, if asymptomatic at that time, they may stop if they can continue to mask for 5 days to minimize the risk of infecting others.

The key here is being asymptomatic. For workers with COVID-19 symptoms, the rules don’t change.

Additionally, CDC is updating the recommended time to quarantine for those exposed to COVID-19.

For unvaccinated people or more than 6 months out from their second Pfizer or Moderna dose (or more than 2 months after the J&J vaccine) and not yet boosted, CDC now recommends quarantine for 5 days followed by strict mask use for an additional 5 days. Alternatively, if a 5-day quarantine is not feasible, an exposed person should always wear a well-fitting mask at all times when around others for 10 days after exposure.

Those who have been boosted do not need to quarantine after exposure but should mask for 10 days. 

The best practice would include a test for SARS-CoV-2 on day 5 after exposure for all those exposed.

If an individual develops symptoms, the person should immediately quarantine until a negative test confirms symptoms are not because of COVID-19.

The CDC update also recommends boosters via publication of new data from South Africa and the UK, which demonstrates that vaccine effectiveness against infection for two doses of an mRNA vaccine is approximately 35%.

A COVID-19 vaccine booster dose restores vaccine effectiveness against infection to 75%.

Employer Recommendations

At a minimum, organizations should implement this new guidance (or, of course, more stringent quarantine and isolation policies for their employees) unless state or local law requires stricter rules.

Revise your written policy, and don’t forget to communicate the change to your workforce.

Whether or not you mandate the vaccine, employers want to consider encouraging workers to get vaxxed and boosted.

The update is here – https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2021/s1227-isolation-quarantine-guidance.html – and includes a handy chart.

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Amy Epstein Gluck

Amy Epstein Gluck has represented individuals and corporate clients in Virginia, Washington, D.C., and various federal district courts for more than twenty years. Ms. Epstein Gluck’s current practice areas include employment law—advising on and drafting employment agreements; handling employment negotiations, severance agreements, noncompete and nondisclosure agreements, “wrongful terminations” and other EEO matters; representation at the EEOC level; advising employers about discrimination laws and how to remain in compliance, and employment negotiations.