Tuesday, the federal Centers for Disease Control (CDC) updated its guidance for vaccinated persons in response to sharp regional spikes in COVID-19 cases. Last week, cases surged over 300% nationally due to the highly transmissible Delta variant.
For areas with substantial or high COVID-19 transmission, the CDC recommends the following:
Everyone (yes, even the fully vaccinated) should wear a mask in public indoor settings to help prevent transmission and to protect others.
Community leaders should encourage vaccination and masking to prevent further outbreaks.
You might ask, "Where are Tennessee's 'substantial or high transmission areas'?" According to the CDC's COVID Tracker website, as of July 25, those areas included 85 of Tennessee’s 95 counties:
Image from: CDC COVID Tracker
The ten rural Tennessee counties where transmission wasn’t substantial or high (as of July 25) include Unicoi, Meigs, Van Buren, Pickett, Clay, Macon, Trousdale, Bedford, Stewart, and Obion.
How should employers respond?
The Health Action Alliance - a coalition co-founded by the DC-based Business Roundtable and dedicated to helping the business community improve the health of employees, customers and communities - offered these suggestions on Tuesday:
Businesses operating in areas with substantial or high rates of COVID-19 transmission should consider requiring all workers and customers to wear masks indoors.
Employers should encourage fully vaccinated workers to wear masks if they’re immunocompromised or at increased risk for severe disease from COVID-19, or if they have someone in their household who is immunocompromised, at increased risk of severe disease or not fully vaccinated.
Employers should encourage both unvaccinated and fully vaccinated workers who have a known exposure to someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 to be tested 3-5 days after exposure, and should wear a mask in public indoor settings for 14 days or until they receive a negative test result.
Employers should continue encouraging workers to get vaccinated and make it easier for them to do so. Employers should also consider making it easier for working parents to vaccinate eligible children.
What’s everyone saying?
The CDC announcement came on the same day the Tennessean reported that 16 out of 27 Republican state senators signed an open letter urging Tennesseans to get vaccinated. “Unfortunately, efforts to get more people vaccinated have been hampered by politicization of COVID-19. This should not be political,” their letter stated.
The Tennessean also reported that Nashville Metro Mayor John Cooper has no plans to reinstate a countywide mandate, but will instead focus on vaccination efforts.
Nashville Business Journal reported that the CDC change could lead OSHA to shift its recommendations as well.
What do we say?
The Tennessee Business Roundtable is committed to keeping our members and Tennessee business operators informed about new/updated guidelines and/or practices relating to businesses and COVID-19 regulations.