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3/11/21 COVID-19 Brief: Implications of CDC Guidance for Fully-Vaccinated People

The CDC’s new Guidance for fully-vaccinated people is worthy of review and consideration from a business perspective. After months of intense focus on limitations and restrictions, messaging that encourages people to take advantage of new freedoms will be a breath of fresh air!

A Message on COVID-19 from WorkSTEPS Chief Medical Officer Dr. Ben Hoffman

Implications of CDC Guidance for Fully-Vaccinated People

Hello Again,

Well, that didn’t take long!  In last week's brief, I said we were changing to a monthly cadence of communication but would be back as needed to address emerging issues. The CDC’s new Guidance for fully-vaccinated people is worthy of review and consideration from a business perspective.

The Guidance

The “Key Points” summary presented by the CDC needs no translation:

This is the first set of public health recommendations for fully-vaccinated people. This guidance will be updated and expanded based on the level of community spread of SARS-CoV-2, the proportion of the population that is fully-vaccinated, and the rapidly evolving science on COVID-19 vaccines.

For the purposes of this guidance, people are considered fully-vaccinated for COVID-19 ≥2 weeks after they have received the second dose in a 2-dose series (Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna), or ≥2 weeks after they have received a single-dose vaccine (Johnson and Johnson (J&J)/Janssen ).

The following recommendations apply to non-healthcare settings. For related information for healthcare settings, visit Updated Healthcare Infection Prevention and Control Recommendations in Response to COVID-19 Vaccination.

Fully-vaccinated people can:

  • Visit with other fully-vaccinated people indoors without wearing masks or physical distancing.
  • Visit with unvaccinated people from a single household who are at low risk for severe COVID-19 disease indoors without wearing masks or physical distancing.
  • Refrain from quarantine and testing following a known exposure if asymptomatic.

For now, fully-vaccinated people should continue to:

  • Take precautions in public like wearing a well-fitted mask and physical distancing.
  • Wear masks, practice physical distancing, and adhere to other prevention measures when visiting with unvaccinated people who are at increased risk for severe COVID-19 disease or who have an unvaccinated household member who is at increased risk for severe COVID-19 disease.
  • Wear masks, maintain physical distance, and practice other prevention measures when visiting with unvaccinated people from multiple households.
  • Avoid medium- and large-sized in-person gatherings.
  • Get tested if experiencing COVID-19 symptoms.
  • Follow guidance issued by individual employers.
  • Follow CDC and health department travel requirements and recommendations.

Implications for Employers

Policy Implications

The new guidance may stimulate thinking about policy changes.

One policy change that seems straight-forward: If an entire group of essential workers has been vaccinated, the new guidance suggests they can begin to gather and interact in a more normal fashion.

Other changes are more challenging, such as: returning fully-vaccinated employees back to work (vs. work-from-home); enabling fully-vaccinated employees to meet indoors without masks or distancing; or approving travel for fully-vaccinated employees. Ideas such as these should be considered on a case-by-case basis, in full compliance with the new guidance, and in context of the reality that vaccines are not available to all who want them. Questions like these should come to mind:

  • Might employees who are not yet able to be vaccinated feel excluded by policies that open new options to vaccinated employees?
  • If a policy enables a low-risk non-vaccinated employee to meet live with vaccinated employees, does that put non-vaccinated employees who are high risk or who have high risk family members in a position where they feel they need to share personal/family health information?

It's likely that we’re just two or three months away from full vaccine availability. It may make better sense to simply keep existing prevention policies in place and avoid unnecessary conflicts.

Education Implications

As communications from the CDC go, the new Guidance is pretty straight-forward. That said, it is worth amplifying the guidance, including and especially the liberating aspects of it. People have been told for over a year now that they need to keep their distance, wear masks, and avoid contact with friends and relatives who are at risk for serious illness. Now it’s possible to visit fully-vaccinated parents and friends, to have dinner, converse without masks, and even hug. Such new freedoms can do a world of good for the mental wellbeing of your employees and their families.

After months of intense focus on limitations and restrictions, messaging that encourages people to take advantage of new freedoms will be a breath of fresh air!

Vaccination Implications

I have never been a fan of the doom-and-gloom prophecies of those who warned early on that large percentages of the population might not get vaccinated. Those cold and gloomy forecasts ignored the fundamental desire people have for sunshine. The effectiveness of the vaccines, and the freedoms they are enabling represents a long-sought ray of sunshine. People who have been under clouds of fear or doubt about vaccines are now seeing others enjoy the warmth of interaction made possible by vaccination. Not everyone will change their mind, but many will.

So, from a communications standpoint now is the time to: A) Educate employees about the new guidance (as noted above); B) Remind employees of their current or soon-coming eligibility based on age, essential worker status or health risk); and C) Reinforce information about vaccine safety and efficacy.

A Trusted Voice

We have worked with a few clients now to develop video messages related to vaccinations. The videos enable companies without a Chief Medical Officer to essentially borrow the impact of my trusted M.D. credentials to provide information, guidance, and encouragement in language employees can understand. Contact us if you’re interested in learning more about how we can create messaging specifically for your employees.

Ben Hoffman, MD, MPH
Chief Medical Officer, WorkSTEPS

For more from Dr. Hoffman, connect with him on LinkedIn.

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