TAG’s Recommendations for a Prudent Unmasking

TAG’s Recommendations for a Prudent Unmasking

Key Points:

Recommendations for Industry

TAG’s Recommendations for a Prudent Unmasking

In its May 13 COVID-19 update, CDC stated that fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear a mask or physically distance in any non-healthcare setting, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations – as well as any federal, local business and workplace guidance.

While understanding the science behind the change announced by CDC and the federal impetus to allow those fully vaccinated to “start doing many things that you had stopped doing because of the pandemic,” TAG reflects on what this announcement means to the food industry and others.

Is it as simple as discarding the mask if you are vaccinated, but having to wear one if you are not vaccinated? Not really.

Immediate questions arise such as, “I have had COVID-19 and thus have antibodies – do I have to wear a mask?” If we require proof of vaccination, will it encourage counterfeit vaccine documentation?  The announcement sounds simple, but in reality, it is not. There is a danger that it will drive the population into two factions of those who have been vaccinated vs those who have not.

So how should we approach this next phase? TAG encourages some businesses to exhibit caution in the transition to complete unmasking, making the following recommendations as we strive to balance the risk of transmission with the risk of creating tension in the workplace:

  1. Follow state and local requirements if they are more stringent than the CDC’s guidance. 
  2. For private workplaces there are a few options to consider:
    1. Make masks totally voluntary and do not ask for proof of vaccination.
    2. Allow people to continue to mask based on their personal comfort level even if fully vaccinated. 
    3. Require masks for those who are not vaccinated. If people would like to work unmasked, use a “Trust but Verify” approach, asking for proof of vaccination.
    4. For office settings require everyone to wear a mask in common areas but make it optional when at your desk.

Whichever option you select, develop a written policy that clearly addresses the expectations on masking, as well as how you will effectively execute and enforce your policy.

  1. For workplaces where physical distancing over a work-shift is not possible, we recommend that everyone continue to mask until the impact of this guidance on case and transmission rates in the workplace is better understood.
  2. For public places like food establishments, there’s no ability to enforce customer behavior (or truthfulness in vaccine status). Ask fully vaccinated employees for proof, and post your policy on the door of the establishment (e.g., “Our unmasked employees have provided proof of vaccination.”). Again, employees who are fully vaccinated can continue to mask if they feel more comfortable in doing so.
    1. When communicating this change to your workforce or the public, consider language such as, “We know that many of our employees and customers may feel more comfortable continuing to mask, regardless of the setting. We encourage everyone to support and respect each other’s decisions regarding masking and the decision to be vaccinated during this time of transition.”

As these recommendations show, while the CDC guidance seems fairly simplistic, it can be very complex to implement in a business. If you have questions about its impact on your business and customized recommendation for your facility, give TAG a call. We can help.

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