The Legal and Regulatory Impact of CDC’s New Mask Guidance

By: Dr. Donna Garren, EVP of Science and Policy, AFFI

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently updated their mask and physical distancing guidance for fully vaccinated individuals, raising many questions for food and beverage manufacturers.

To help the food industry navigate the latest federal guidance on COVID-19 workplace operations, the American Frozen Food Institute (AFFI), the American Bakers Association, along with members of the Food and Beverage Issue Alliance, co-hosted a webinar on Monday, June 7. Here are a few highlights from our discussion:

1) Vaccines in the Workplace
Based on the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC) updated guidance, you can ask employees if they’ve been vaccinated and also offer incentives for vaccination. However, keep in mind:

  • This information should be kept confidential and kept separate from the standard personnel file.
  • Designate one point of contact, like a human resource professional, to handle vaccine-related issues.

2) CDC Guidance on Fully Vaccinated Individuals
In light of CDC’s new guidance for fully vaccinated individuals, employers should continue to follow safety rules put in place during the COVID-19 pandemic (masks, social distancing, screening and periodic COVID-19 testing) but may want to loosen restrictions for vaccinated individuals in specific environments (non-food production) until further guidance is released. However, keep in mind:

  • State and local guidance may supersede CDC guidance.
  • If a business requires employees to receive a vaccination, they will need to account for accommodations like disabilities and religious objections. Regardless of the situation, all similarly situated employees should be treated the same and various work settings will require different approaches.

I hope this webinar and key points are helpful for your company as you continue to navigate new and emerging federal guidance. For a more in-depth analysis of CDC’s latest vaccination guidance and what it means for employers, please refer to these blog posts from AFFI’s legal counsel Hogan Lovells on OSHA’s emergency temporary standard and this blog post on CDC’s latest vaccination guidance.

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