Coronavirus in the Workplace

Hey Employers: Vaccinated ≠ Back to Normal!

By Fiona W. Ong - Shawe Rosenthal LLP

February 8, 2021

So I keep telling my husband that I’m looking forward to going back a normal social life of restaurants, shows, and girls’ nights out, once I’m vaccinated (whenever that will be – I’m at the bottom of the eligibility list). And my husband, who is a doctor and has been vaccinated, keeps saying, “THAT’S NOT HOW THAT WORKS!!!”

Sadly, he’s right. (He likes hearing that). Many people, like me, view the vaccination as a silver bullet that will allow us to resume our old, carefree, socially-not-distant lives. But the reality is – that’s not how it works. As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) makes clear in their Vaccine FAQs, the current vaccines – while extremely effective – are NOT 100%. A 94-95% effective rate means that out of every 100 vaccinated people, 5-6 of them will get COVID-19. And that was in the studies – as the CDC notes, it may be different in “real-world conditions.” Furthermore, the CDC flatly admits, “We also don’t yet know whether getting a COVID-19 vaccine will prevent you from spreading the virus that causes COVID-19 to other people, even if you don’t get sick yourself.”

Which is why the CDC says, “While experts learn more about the protection that COVID-19 vaccines provide under real-life conditions, it will be important for everyone to continue using all the tools available to help stop this pandemic.” (And that’s the CDC’s emphasis, folks). These tools are the ones with which we’ve all become oh-so-familiar: wear a mask, stay 6 feet away from others, avoid crowds, avoid poorly-ventilated spaces (like some restaurants and theaters, sadly), and wash your hands often.

Now as to quarantines, the CDC issued updated guidance on February 10, 2021, stating that, “Fully vaccinated persons who meet criteria will no longer be required to quarantine following an exposure to someone with COVID-19. ” (!!! ) BUT (because there’s always a “but”) only if they have received both doses, it has been at least two weeks and not more than three months since the second dose, and they have not exhibited any symptoms following exposure. After three months, or if the vaccinated person doesn’t meet the other criteria, they should quarantine after exposure.

As we discussed in our December 2, 2020 E-lert, the most recent CDC guidance, while still ideally recommending a 14-day quarantine period, now permits exposed individuals to end quarantine after 7 days with a negative test (collected within 48 hours of the final day of quarantine), or 10 days without a test.

And even if the fully vaccinated person meets the criteria for skipping quarantine, the CDC recommends that they continue to monitor themselves for symptoms for 14 days following exposure. If they develop symptoms, they should be evaluated by a health care professional and possibly tested for COVID-19 infection. The CDC also reiterates that fully vaccinated persons should continue to follow all guidance to protect themselves and others, including testing and travel recommendations! (BTW, these recommendations have not yet made it into the CDC’s vaccine FAQs – I expect they will soon).

So, for all you employers who are requiring or recommending the vaccine for your employees – please remember that being vaccinated will not eliminate the need to continue following the recommended COVID-19 protocols in the workplace – both to prevent the spread of COVID-19, and to address incidents of infection among your workers!

(But it won’t stop me from torturing my husband about my post-vaccination plans – after all, I’ve been cooped up for almost a year and I’m bored…)

Tweets Follow

May 06

Oregon: OR-OSHA Issues New Permanent Rules for All Workplaces During COVID-19 https://t.co/AccVG34xUm

May 05

Ontario has Introduced Three Days of Employer-Paid (WSIB-Reimbursed) COVID Sick Leave https://t.co/HXza1pNZBG

May 03

The CDC’s Revised Rules for the Fully Vaccinated: What This Means for Employers https://t.co/3G4aaAWOdj