Now that COVID-19 vaccines are being administered to the general population, the Centers for Disease Control (the “CDC”) has issued new quarantine recommendations for individuals who have received the vaccination.
Quarantine not necessary for vaccinated individuals outside a healthcare setting who meet certain criteria. Under the new CDC recommendations, individuals who have been fully vaccinated (one or two doses depending upon the authorized vaccine) are no longer required to quarantine for 14 days after exposure or suspected exposure to COVID-19 if they meet the following criteria:
- they have been fully vaccinated , with at least 14 days since their final dose;
- they are within three months of their last dose of the vaccine; and
- they are not experiencing any symptoms of the virus.
Nevertheless, vaccinated individuals meeting this criteria should continue to monitor themselves for symptoms of the virus for 14 days after the exposure and get tested for the virus if symptoms develop.
Because it is uncertain how long the vaccine offers protection, the CDC made it clear that the three months since the last vaccination criteria may be updated as more data about the effectiveness of vaccines becomes available.
Despite these recommendations, vaccinated individuals must still comply with any applicable state quarantine requirements, such as the New Jersey and New York travel quarantines, until such time that the CDC’s recommendations are adopted in their jurisdiction.
Continuation of other safety protocols recommended. Given the uncertainties about duration of vaccine’s effectiveness and its protection against new strains of the virus, the CDC recommends vaccinated individuals continue to adhere to the CDC’s safety protocols, such as wearing masks and other personal protective equipment, social distancing, avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated areas, frequent handwashing and sanitizing, properly covering coughs and sneezes. Individuals should also continue compliance with the CDC’s travel guidance and any applicable workplace or school safety protocols.
Recommendations for Persons in Healthcare Settings. To avoid staffing shortages, the CDC recommends that vaccinated healthcare personnel with higher risk exposures need not quarantine if the aforementioned criteria are met. However, given the uncertainty about the vaccine’s effectiveness on patients and residents in healthcare facilities, the heightened health risks to these individuals, and the difficulty in maintaining social distancing in these settings, fully vaccinated patients and residents should continue to quarantine for 14 days following a COVID-19 exposure despite meeting these criteria. Healthcare facilities, in consultation with health officials, should consider waiving these requirements to mitigate the effects of staffing shortages, lack of beds or other operational issues.
“Open season” for the vaccine? In a February 11th interview on NBC’s today show, Dr. Anthony Fauci said that he expects that April will be “open season” for Americans to get the vaccine, meaning that individuals in any category will be able to be vaccinated.
Bottom line for employers. These developments are good news for employers struggling to maintain staffing in the face of viral outbreaks and consequent quarantine of employees. Employers can request employees provide proof of vaccinations and excuse these employees from quarantine requirements after a COVID-19 exposure for as long as these employees meet the requirements. Employers should also continue to monitor developments from the CDC, as the length of vaccine protection – and excusal from quarantine – may be extended as more data about the vaccine’s effectiveness comes in.