Seyfarth Synopsis: CDC yesterday released an update to its recommended guidance on Vaccines & Immunizations. The guidance provides updated quarantine recommendations for fully vaccinated persons who “meet criteria will no longer be required to quarantine following an exposure to someone with COVID-19.”

Since the introduction of vaccines, the CDC has generally maintained the same guidance for vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals. The CDC had explained that additional research was necessary into whether vaccinated individuals could become infected with the virus and spread it to others, and maintained that these individuals should mask, social distance, and quarantine (among other precautions), consistent with the CDC’s general recommendations.

The CDC has now changed one of these recommendations: vaccinated persons with an exposure to someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 are not required to quarantine if they meet all of the following criteria:

  • Are fully vaccinated (e.g. two vaccine doses and the 14-day wait period)
  • Are within 3 months following receipt of the last dose in the series
  • Have remained asymptomatic since the current COVID-19 exposure

Persons who do not meet all of the criteria are required to follow current quarantine guidance after exposure to someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19.

The CDC has not changed any other guidance for vaccinated individuals. Vaccinated persons should continue to follow all the other current guidance to protect themselves and others, including “wearing a mask, staying at least 6 feet away from others, avoiding crowds, avoiding poorly ventilated spaces, covering coughs and sneezes, washing hands often, following CDC travel guidance, and following any applicable workplace or school guidance, including guidance related to personal protective equipment use or SARS-CoV-2 testing.”

This new guidance may reflect that the CDC has reviewed new data demonstrating that vaccinated persons pose and face less hazards. This change may portend additional revisions to CDC guidance in which vaccinated persons are permitted to reduce or even stop some COVID-19 precautions. According to news reports in the last few days, the CDC is discussing revising its social distancing guidelines for fully vaccinated persons as well.

Employers should consider updating their quarantining procedures to take into account the vaccination status of their employees. Employers should also closely track new CDC guidance which remains among the most authoritative sources on COVID-19 safety issues and determine whether they can change policies and procedures going forwards. They should also consult with outside counsel on how they can lawfully inquire as to employee vaccination status.