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CDC Updated Guidance on Mask Protocol

By Lindsey A. DiCesare posted 03-02-2022 14:32


On Friday, February 25, 2022, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced updated protocol for COVID-19 mask mandates. The risk of medically significant disease, hospitalization, and death from COVID-19 has decreased with many individuals now either vaccinated or developing natural immunity from COVID infections. Therefore, the effect of COVID-19 on health and health care systems is also decreasing. However, some health systems are still strained by serious COVID-19 illnesses. Data broken down by county can be found with this map.

The CDC’s new COVID-19 community levels tools is being used to help counties determine the steps to take based on the most up-to-date data. The CDC recommends mask use based on one of the three “community levels” listed below:

  1. Low. Wear a mask based on personal preference that is informed by your level of risk.
  2. Medium. Wear a mask if you are immunocompromised or at high risk for severe illness. Discussion with your health care provider for additional precautions is advised. In addition, consider testing yourself for infection and wearing a mask indoors if you live with or are in contact with an individual with high risk for severe illness.
  3. High. Wear a mask indoors in public places regardless of vaccination status or your risk level. Wear a mask if you are immunocompromised or at high risk for severe illness.

If an individual tests positive for COVID-19, has been exposed, or are symptomatic, they should wear a mask regardless of community level. If an individual is sick or caring for someone who is sick with COVID-19, the CDC still recommends wearing a mask or wearing a respirator for the best level of protection.

The CDC will be updating its workplace guidelines following this update to align with the new community levels, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration will likely do the same. Employers should keep in mind that state and local jurisdictions may have additional restrictions above the CDC’s recommendations. Employers may also implement and maintain COVID-19 protocols that are stricter than the CDC protocol. The CDC has previously identified factors to help guide employers on evaluating the necessary protocols for their workplace, including higher county risk levels; settings with more unvaccinated people; indoor settings with poor ventilation; inability to maintain social distancing; and activities that include shouting, physical exertion, or heavy breathing and the inability to wear a mask.

New data shows 66 of Michigan’s 83 counties are no longer classified as high or substantial risk for COVID-19, and masks are no longer universally recommended indoors or in public places. The state of Michigan appears to be rolling back rules that required state employees to wear masks while working indoors following a letter released to state employees on February 16, 2022. Liza Estlund Olson, head of the Office of the State Employer, stated in the letter that most people working in “standard office and outdoor settings” do not need to continue wearing a mask. Employees who are at high risk or feel more comfortable wearing a mask may continue to do so. In addition, mask requirements may still exist at prisons, hospitals, and other workplace settings. Specific agencies may create “additional policies to address specific operational needs” that pertain to nonemployees, specific work locations, and quarantine guidelines.