The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) recently approved mask leniency with its “post-surge” classification, primarily advising mask wearing in high-risk congregate settings (e.g., health facilities). long-term care and health care, correctional facilities, shelters) . On February 25, 2022, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) updated their guidelines, aligning them with the MDHHS.
New CDC guidelines on mask use recommend continuing to mask only in areas with high rates of new infections and hospitalizations. The guidelines implement a three-tier system, classifying every county in the United States as low, medium or high risk.
In low- and medium-risk areas (currently about 70% of the United States), the CDC advises that most individuals can do without masks. As of March 4, 2022, the vast majority of counties in Michigan are classified as low or medium risk. In areas classified as high risk, masks should continue to be worn in indoor public spaces. People who are immunocompromised or otherwise at high risk of severe disease may decide to mask regardless of the level of community transmission.
Employers should consider this advice when complying with OSHA’s requirement to provide “a safe and healthy workplace.” In high-risk counties, employers should continue to require the use of masks for unvaccinated workers. In all other counties, while employers may relax their mask requirements, they must continue to implement the following COVID-19 precautions:
- Maintain and enforce a preparedness plan;
- Make masks available to employees who wish to wear them;
- Ensure that any confirmed case of COVID-19 does not return to work until they have met the symptom-based strategy to end home isolation; and
- Quarantine, per CDC guidelines, close contacts of confirmed COVID-19 cases.
Employers should monitor the level of risk in their county at regular intervals and implement masking and other pandemic-related policies accordingly.