Heads up, employers. Just as we thought the COVID-19 pandemic was turning a corner, mask mandates are making a comeback.
Eight states have recently announced all are required to wear masks indoors, regardless of vaccination status. Those states are:
- New Mexico
- New York
- Oregon, and
Puerto Rico also has a mask mandate in place.
If your state’s not on the list, it doesn’t mean you can throw away your masks. For example, Connecticut has an indoor mask mandate for unvaccinated people, and an outdoor mask mandate for everyone at events with more than 500 attendees.
Many large cities and counties have new mask mandates in place, even if the state doesn’t. This is largely in response to the Delta variant surging over the summer, and now the Omicron variant spreading in time for the holiday season.
While the CDC hasn’t reissued a general mask mandate, it highly recommends that all people (regardless of vaccination status) wear masks in areas like public health facilities, on public transportation and in travel hubs like airports and bus stations.
It’s important to note that private businesses and employers can require mask wearing, even if their state or city doesn’t have a mandate in place.
Mandates at work
Besides being concerned about rising COVID-19 numbers, employers may be worried about employee reaction to reinstated mask mandates. There could be a lot of pushback, particularly if employees are vaccinated and are used to not wearing masks.
Here’s advice on the matter from employment law attorney Anthony Mingione of the firm Blank Rome.
Mingione says communication on the matter is key. It could be helpful to show employees increased COVID case numbers in your area, and to remind them that vaccinated people can still transmit the virus.
It helps to highlight all the positives of masking in the workplace, like higher levels of safety and trust.
Mingione also says not to be afraid of disciplining those who don’t follow the mandate. That will show employees you’re taking it seriously, and will likely solve most of the pushback problems.