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May 19, 2021


The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that fully vaccinated people can resume activities without wearing a mask or socially distancing, except where required by federal, state, or local rules and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance.  Let’s take a look at the impact.



Following the CDC announcement, many states are dropping mask orders for fully vaccinated people.  Approximately 21 states require people to wear face coverings in most indoor public settings.  After the CDC guidelines were released, Connecticut, Illinois, Kentucky, Minnesota, Nevada, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Washington, and other states began to adjust their mask-wearing guidance.  New York lifts its mask mandate today to align with federal guidelines while California won’t lift its mandate until June 15 in an effort to persuade more people to get vaccinated.



The Standards Board of California’s Division of Occupational Safety & Health (Cal/OSHA) will consider proposed revisions to the COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) Rules at its May 20, 2021 meeting.  This includes the allowance for verbal notice of a COVID-19 case in the workplace if the employer knows that the employee did not receive the written notice.  Currently, employers must comply with existing written notification requirements.  The proposed revisions would substantially change the physical distancing requirements to allow work locations with fully vaccinated employees to cease physical distancing.  Public comments will be accepted at the May 20 meeting and it’s expected the board will vote that day as well.



President Joe Biden on Jan. 21 signed an executive order that directed the U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration to consider an ETS related to COVID-19 and issue it by March 15 if it was considered necessary.  On April 26, OSHA submitted for review an ETS draft related to COVID-19 to the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs – one of the final steps before an ETS can be published.  However, lawmakers are expressing concern that an ETS would mandate requirements for a disease and public health guidance that is constantly evolving.  A timeframe is not set on when the ETS review will be completed.



The CDC clarified that people in schools (K-12) should continue to use masks for the 2020-2021 academic year, as all students will not be fully vaccinated.  The CDC will update its guidance for schools in the coming weeks.  According to the CDC, only about a third of all Americans are now fully vaccinated.  For businesses and employers, the onus is on them to figure out how to integrate these new recommendations into their operations while taking into account state and local rules and federal and state OSHA requirements. 




Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey signed into law on Monday a bill legalizing medical marijuana in the state.  Alabama is the 37th state to approve of medical marijuana.  Doctors will be able to prescribe medical marijuana for several conditions, including cancer, a terminal illness, epilepsy, and chronic pain.  Under this program, vaping or smoking of medical marijuana would be prohibited while other products such as gummies, oils, or creams are allowed.



The Minnesota House voted to legalize recreational marijuana last week, but the bill has staunch opposition in the Senate and will not likely pass this week.  Currently, Minnesota allows marijuana only for certain medical conditions.  Last election, Mississippi voters approved a ballot measure legalizing marijuana for medical purposes.  However, the state’s Supreme Court struck down the measure last week, citing an outdated provision in the state constitution that requires supporters of an initiative to collect signatures from all five of the state’s congressional districts.  But Mississippi only has four districts, after losing a seat following the 2000 census.  Under this ruling, any voter-approved ballot initiative would be invalid.


Making Our Way Around The Country


The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday ruled that a captive firm’s challenge to an Internal Revenue Services (IRS) reporting requirement for microcaptives is not barred by federal law.  It reversed a federal appeals court ruling and remanded the case back to the district court.  At issue in this case was whether firms can challenge the reporting requirement without having to pay the $50,000 tax penalty or wait for the IRS to start enforcement proceedings.  The IRS argued that the lawsuit was barred by the Anti-Injunction Act, which requires taxpayers to pay a disputed tax before filing a legal challenge. 


Massachusetts lawmakers held a hearing on a bill (H 1986) that would create a rebuttable presumption that employees in public-facing jobs or working outside their homes who contract COVID-19 would be presumed to have caught the virus at work and eligible for workers’ compensation benefits.  The bill would allow employees to file workers’ compensation claims within four years of the discovery of the any condition caused by exposure to the COVID-19 virus or any loss of employment due to the exposure.  In the State of Washington, Gov. Jay Inslee signed multiple bills creating a presumption that COVID-19 is a compensable occupational illness for front-line workers. 



With the CDC lifting mask mandates for fully vaccinated people, eyes are turning to summer vacation season.  For about half of Americans, that means taking a summer road trip.  About one in five vehicles has an open safety recall that has not been repaired, so be sure to check before hitting the open road.  Please stay well, stay safe, and stay connected.


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