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July 27, 2021

Yesterday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (the “CDC”) issued new recommendations for all teachers and students to wear masks this upcoming school year, regardless of vaccination status.  It further recommended even vaccinated people located in high-transmission areas to wear masks in indoor public spaces.  The CDC also advised vaccinated people who have vulnerable household members (including the elderly, the young and individuals who are immunocompromised) to wear masks in indoor public spaces.  All of this is recommended to help curtail the viral spread of the new COVID-19 delta variant. 

This new guidance marks a substantial retreat from the Agency’s May 13, 2021, guidance which recommended vaccinated people no longer needed to wear masks in most cases (whether indoors or out) because of the immune protections gained from being vaccinated. Prior to this latest CDC guidance, some local governments (such as Los Angeles County) had already begun to once again require residents to wear masks indoors.

Why the Change?

Public health experts have praised the new CDC guidance in the face of surging delta variant cases. The CDC’s new guidance primarily stems from new data which shows the contagious qualities of the delta variant are not significantly limited by the vaccine.  However, the data shows vaccinated people are less likely to become severely ill if they contract the delta variant.  Thus, the vaccine remains a crucial tool in this fight, but it may not be the bullet-proof shield everyone first expected.  Another key fact is recent data showed that people infected with the delta variant may carry a viral load (the level of how contagious the variant is) that is up to 1,000 times greater than earlier strains of the virus.

As we have written previously, CDC guidance is just that, guidance.  It will be up to individual states to determine if they want to follow these new CDC guidelines.  And, if the states don’t act, individual business owners will have the right to decide how they want to respond.  And of course, if no one else acts, it will be up to each induvial to decide what, if any, preventive steps will be taken.  Unfortunately, it appears even for the vaccinated, we may not be out of the woods yet.

The subject matter of COVID-19 posts are often very technical. It is also an evolving area of science and law and very fact specific. Our goal here is to simply alert you to some of the key issues involved. We urge you to seek competent legal counsel before applying these ideas to your specific situation. Since March 2020, we have had a team of attorneys focusing on COVID-19 related developments and they continue to stand ready to help you with any issues involving the pandemic.