On February 10, 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated its quarantine recommendations so that “fully vaccinated persons who meet criteria will no longer be required to quarantine following an exposure to someone with COVID-19.” These individuals should meet all 4 of the following criteria in order to bypass a quarantine (note these are a bit conservative right now, so hopefully these time frames would be more relaxed as more data is evaluated):
- Are fully vaccinated (i.e., ≥2 weeks following receipt of the second dose in a 2-dose series, or ≥2 weeks following receipt of one dose of a single-dose vaccine)
- Are within 3 months following receipt of the last dose in the series
- Have remained asymptomatic since the current COVID-19 exposure
- Are not inpatient or residing in a health care setting
School indicators and thresholds have also been updated effective February 12, 2021, from the previous September 15, 2020, guidelines. Current guidance emphasizes prioritizing in-person instruction for K-12 schools:
- K-12 schools should be the last settings to close after all other mitigation measures in the community have been employed, and the first to reopen when they can do so safely.
- Schools that are open for in-person instruction (either fully open or hybrid) may decide to remain open even at high (red) levels of community transmission. These decisions should be guided by information on school-specific factors such as mitigation strategies implemented, local needs, stakeholder input, the number of cases among students, teachers, and staff, and school experience. A decision to remain open should involve considerations for further strengthening mitigation strategies and continuing to monitor cases to reassess decisions. This should be driven by a “classroom-first” approach; in-person instruction should be prioritized over extracurricular activities including sports and school events, a common source of school transmission, to minimize risk of transmission in schools and protect in-person learning.
- The operational strategy presents a pathway to reopen schools and help them remain open through consistent use of mitigation strategies, especially universal and correct use of masks and physical distancing.
- The former indicators called for use of RT-PCR (reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction) diagnostic tests, while the new thresholds for community transmission recommend using nucleic acid amplification tests (NAATs). (Note: This is an update in terminology. RT-PCR is a type of diagnostic test that tests for nucleic acid amplification).
There are also some mask updates. We already knew the President had signed an Executive Order requiring the use of masks in public transportation effective February 2, 2021. Additionally, if you don’t have a cloth mask with at least two layers of fabric, or need to improve fit and/or filtration for certain environments/activities, then they advise wearing “two masks or a double mask” which is explained as follows:
Wearing a second mask on top of a first mask (to create a “double mask”) can:
- Improve fit by pressing the inner mask closer to the face, thereby reducing the amount of air that leaks around the edges of the masks.
- Improve filtration by adding more layers of material to reduce the number of respiratory droplets containing the virus that come through the masks.
One way to do this is to wear a medical procedure mask underneath a cloth mask. A recent study conducted in a laboratory found that this “double mask” combination provided much better protection to the wearer and to others as compared with a cloth mask by itself or a medical procedure mask by itself.
However, there are some mask combinations that should not be used to “double mask.”
- Do not combine two medical procedure masks to create a “double mask.” Medical procedure masks are not designed to fit tightly and wearing a second medical procedure mask on top of the first medical procedure mask does not help to improve the fit.
- Do not combine a KN95 mask with any other masks. You should only use one KN95 mask at a time, and you should not use any type of second mask on top of or underneath a KN95 mask.
Ensure the following:
- Breathing is not difficult
- Vision is not obstructed
Some situations may have higher risk of exposure to COVID-19 than others, so the level of protection needed may vary.
- In many circumstances, cloth masks or medical procedure masks work well for community use.
- For situations when you are in close contact with people who do not live with you, a mask option that provides a higher level of protection (improved fit and/or improved filtration) should be considered.
- For some situations, especially those that require prolonged close contact with people who do not live with you, you may prefer to use a KN95 mask identified on the FDA Emergency Use Authorization List.
IMA will continue to monitor regulator guidance and offer meaningful, practical, timely information.
This material should not be considered as a substitute for legal, tax and/or actuarial advice. Contact the appropriate professional counsel for such matters. These materials are not exhaustive and are subject to possible changes in applicable laws, rules, and regulations and their interpretations.