On Monday, March 8, 2021, the Center for Disease Control (“CDC”) issued new Guidance for Fully Vaccinated People.  The CDC defines “fully vaccinated people” as those who received both doses in a 2-dose series, or one dose of a single-dose vaccine, and two weeks have elapsed since receiving the final dose.  Alongside its recommendations as detailed below, the CDC released a Background Rationale which provides a scientific analysis in support of its recommendations.

As set forth in its Guidance, the CDC relaxed its recommendations on face coverings and social distancing for fully vaccinated people.  Specifically, fully vaccinated people can visit with other fully vaccinated people indoors without wearing face coverings or physical distancing.  Additionally, fully vaccinated people are permitted to visit indoors without masks or distancing with unvaccinated individuals, provided the unvaccinated individuals are from a single household and are at low risk for severe COVID-19 disease.  Fully vaccinated people are also no longer required to quarantine following known exposure, if asymptomatic.

However, the CDC continues to recommend that fully vaccinated people wear masks and social distance in public, while visiting unvaccinated people who are high risk, and while visiting with unvaccinated people from multiple households.  Fully vaccinated people are also encouraged to avoid medium and large-sized in-person gatherings, and to follow testing and quarantine protocols if they experience symptoms of COVID-19.

Importantly, the CDC still recommends that fully vaccinated people follow the guidance issued by individual employers, who in turn, must adhere to state and federal civil rights laws, including the Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”).  Under recent guidance issued by the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (“DFEH”), an employer may require employees to be vaccinated, subject to certain restrictions.  A detailed analysis of the DFEH guidance can be found here.

The legal landscape continues to evolve quickly and there is a lack of clear-cut authority or bright line rules on implementation.  This article is not intended to be an unequivocal, one-size fits all guidance, but instead represents our interpretation of where applicable law currently and generally stands.  This article does not address the potential impacts of the numerous other local, state and federal orders that have been issued in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including, without limitation, potential liability should an employee become ill, requirements regarding family leave, sick pay and other issues.

Sheppard Mullin is committed to providing employers with updated information regarding COVID-19 and its impact on the workplace.  Stay informed on legal implications with Sheppard Mullin’s Coronavirus Insights Portal which aggregates the firm’s various COVID-19 blog posts on a broad range of topics.