OSHA Responds to CDC’s Updated Mask Guidance – No Changes to the ETS… Yet

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August 10, 2021

OSHA issued a COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) on June 10, 2021 that applied to the healthcare sector. Included in the ETS is an exemption from the masking, distancing, and barrier requirements for employees who are fully vaccinated when in a well-defined area where there is no reasonable expectation that any person with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 will be present. For an in-depth discussion about the requirements of the ETS see our previous article: OSHA’s COVID-19 Standard … Finally! New Emergency Temporary Standard Limited to Healthcare Sector.

Almost two months after the ETS was published and became effective, the CDC issued new guidance recommending Americans “wear a mask indoors if you are in an area of substantial or high transmission.” For an in-depth discussion about this new guidance, see our previous article: BREAKING NEWS-CDC Now Recommends Masking Indoors for Certain Areas of Country and DOJ Clears Way for Employers to Mandate the Vaccine.

How does the new CDC guidance affect the ETS? It doesn’t. OSHA has updated its COVID-19 Healthcare ETS webpage to specifically address this question. Based on OSHA’s review of the latest guidance, science and data on COVID-19, OSHA has determined that “no changes to the ETS are necessary at this time, but the agency will continue to monitor and assess the need for changes each month.” OSHA’s full statement can be found here. Currently, healthcare facilities may continue to follow the ETS and allow vaccinated individuals to be exempt from the masking, social distancing, and barrier requirements when the conditions specified in the ETS are met.

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