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Mask guidance relaxed for vaccinated individuals, employers can impose their own mask requirements

Posted at 6:49 PM, May 13, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-14 03:38:19-04

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — The new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now allows fully vaccinated people to resume more normal aspects of life amid the pandemic, but businesses and medical professionals say the law and science are not always so simple and straightforward.

The sweeping new guidance is for those that have received their full regimen of the vaccine and at least two weeks have elapsed since their last dose.


Masks for those individuals will not be needed in most indoor and outdoor locations.

Masks are still required on planes, trains, buses and similar public transportation in the United States.

"Regardless of what the CDC guidelines happen to be, an employer has to decide for themselves what's best for them," said Richard Dreitzer, an employment attorney at Fennemore Craig.

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Dreitzer says businesses and employers still have an obligation to keep workers and their patrons safe from COVID-19.

"It's called the general duty clause and that means if you are an employer, you have a general duty to protect the employee as well as patrons who come on the property," explained Dreitzer.

The question of how to enforce non-vaccinated people to wear masks is another issue and would likely be left up to the business to decide on how to handle it.

"Ordinarily, pre-COVID, the whole concept of protected health information was taken very seriously but that has relaxed a lot with COVID because it's more than just your own personal health that's at stake, it's everybody else's health," said Dreitzer.

Dreitzer says similar concepts like "no shoes, no shirt, no service" can be used in a mask context.

A business, company or employer can ask patrons and workers to wear masks and refuse service or employment to those who do not comply, according to Dreitzer.

Additional requirements such as showing proof of vaccination are also within the legal rights of businesses.

"I would analogize it to driving a car, the state requires you to have a license, a piece of paper, you carry in your wallet, you produce on-demand to show that I am authorized to drive vehicles, that's to protect not only you but to protect everybody else that drives with you on highways and streets," said Dreitzer.

Health officials say, despite the new guidance, there are concerns about breakthrough cases for fully vaccinated people and some mutant COVID variants that are among the population.

"It is going to be really interesting to see what happens to our infection rate for the next several weeks," said Dr. Jeffrey Ng, with Ng Family Health Care.

Dr. Ng says children under 12 who are not eligible for the vaccine should wear a mask while in public.

He also notes people with compromised immune systems or who are otherwise unable to get the COVID vaccine should also wear a mask and take precautions.

DIGITAL EXCLUSIVE | Joe Bartels digs deeper in the Daily Debrief

Daily Debrief for May 13: Can businesses ask if you're vaccinated?