On Thursday, May 13, 2021, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued new Covid-19 related guidance. The CDC’s new guidance states that “fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear a mask or physically distance in any setting, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance.” People are considered to be 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 & Johnson.) There is currently no post-vaccination time limit on fully vaccinated status.

As of May 17th, New Jersey and Hawaii are the only states that have declined to follow the CDC’s new guidelines. New Jersey has lifted the outdoor mask mandate for fully vaccinated people but still requires all individuals to wear a mask indoors. At least sixteen states have already relaxed mask requirements or have set dates to do so. New York State will adopt the CDC’s guidance starting on Wednesday, May 19th, while California won’t ease mask restrictions until June 15th.

Because CDC guidance is not legally binding, businesses must continue to monitor and comply with applicable federal, state, and local laws. Furthermore, many jurisdictions recognize a variety of exceptions where fully vaccinated individuals still need to wear a mask. For example, New York will continue to require all individuals to wear a mask in nursing homes, homeless shelters, correctional facilities, schools, health care facilities, and while using public transportation.