Since early February, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has updated its COVID-19 guidance pertaining to exposure and containment. Specifically, the updated content has to do with mask protection, when to quarantine, and the use of vaccines. The three publications follow the release of guidance in January that the CDC created regarding COVID-19 testing for employees.

Recommendations for the Use of COVID-19 Vaccines (Updated February 10th, 2021)

Originally published in 2020, the CDC’s guidance included interim recommendations for the usage of COVID-19 vaccines. These recommendations followed data supplied by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), as well as expert opinion.

The following is a summary of recent changes included in the February 10 update:

  • Appendix A of the guidance now includes new recommendations for preventing, reporting, and managing COVID-19 vaccine administration errors.
  • Clarifications on contraindications and precautions. For instance, persons with a known allergy to PEG, a vaccine component, or polysorbate, can have a contraindication to vaccination. Persons who have had a reaction to any previous vaccine should consider that as a precaution to a COVID-19 vaccine.
  • Updated information has been added on delayed, local injection-site reactions after the first COVID-19 vaccine dose. These reactions are neither a contraindication or precaution to the second dose.
  • Additional information and updated recommendations added for testing for tuberculosis (TB) infection. TB testing can occur before or at the same time as an COVID-19 vaccination. However, if not completed during that time frame, TB tests cannot happen for at least 24 weeks after the vaccination.

 When to Quarantine (Updated February 11th, 2021)

First available at the beginning of the global pandemic, the CDC’s guidance on quarantining now reflects vaccinations. The guidance states that individuals who were in close contact with someone who has COVID-19 are not required to quarantine. This, however, is only if they were fully vaccinated against COVID-19 within the last three months and show no symptoms.

Improve How Your Masks Protect You (Updated February 13th, 2021)

Often a point of contention, the CDC has recommended the wearing of masks in public since March 2020. On February 10th, 2021, the agency released new research that found that using masks in certain ways offers more protection. Accordingly, the CDC released new guidance on improving the use of masks while variants of the virus start to spread.

In summary, there are two important ways to make sure a mask works the best it can:

  1. Make sure your mask fits snugly against your face. Gaps can let air with respiratory droplets leak in and out around the edges of the mask.
  2. Pick a mask with layers to keep your respiratory droplets in and others’ out. A mask with layers stops more respiratory droplets from getting inside or escaping if you are sick.

Additionally, the updated guidance includes the following “Do’s” and “Don’ts” when choosing a mask for the best fit:

  • Choose a mask with a nose wire.
  • Use a mask fitter or brace.
  • Only wear masks that fit snugly over your nose, mouth, AND chin.
  • Add layers of material. For example, use a cloth mask that has multiple layers of fabric. Also, you can wear one disposable mask under a cloth mask.
  • If using a 3-ply mask, knot the ear loops and fold and tuck unneeded material under the mask’s edges.

Employer Takeaways

Employers can use the information in this blog post to inform employees of ways to help prevent COVID-19 spread. Additionally, employers may find the guidance on quarantines to be a relief in terms of keeping the office appropriately staffed. Employers need to remember, however, that in many areas only state and local public health authority guidelines matter. Before updating or changing workplace quarantine, mask, or vaccination policies, employers should wait for any new state or local guidelines.