The reality right now is that we don’t have a good definition from public health officials and scientists about what exactly “fully protected” means, or what levels of antibodies provide protection. For right now, it looks like the CDC and other agencies mandating vaccination will not be considering booster shots when they determine if someone is fully vaccinated, but that’s subject to change as we learn more about the level of protection over time. It’s normal (and expected) that vaccine-provided protection will wane over time, which is why we get a yearly flu vaccine, for example. In the future, you might need to provide proof of your yearly COVID vaccine to prove that you’re fully protected. Given that this is subject to change, we think it’s a smart idea to start gathering info about which of your employees have a booster dose, in case the definition of “fully protected” changes, which can impact work exclusions after exposure, as well as vaccine mandate compliance.
We are also seeing a lot of breakthrough cases - 26% of all reported cases in Pennsylvania currently are among vaccinated individuals. Relaxed precautions including less social distancing and fewer people wearing masks are leading to this high breakthrough rate - along with the incredible infectiousness of the Delta variant. Make sure that you’re continuing to follow COVID prevention practices like not working sick (no, it’s probably not “just a cold” right now!), daily wellness checks, social distancing, and masking indoors. These will help reduce risks for both the unvaccinated and the vaccinated. And, most importantly, make sure you’re doing everything possible to encourage your unvaccinated employees to go get their shots!
A fully vaccinated employee who has no symptoms doesn’t need to be excluded when caring for a family member, even a child, with COVID. This is a great reason to get vaccinated! Without vaccination, it would be a 20 day exclusion starting from the child’s symptom onset. It is incredibly important that this team member wears a mask when working for a full 14 days after their child meets the criteria for ending self isolation - so they might be wearing a mask for a month or more. While the chances of a breakthrough infection are lower, they’re not zero, and wearing a mask drastically reduces the chances of them passing the virus to others. It’s also key that they monitor for symptoms, even very mild ones, throughout that time, and that they stay home if they have any symptoms at all.
If it’s true that the team member has had no close contact with their sister, and the baby doesn’t have any symptoms and hasn’t tested positive, the team member can work, regardless of her vaccination status. If the baby (or anyone else the employee has had close contact with) tests positive or develops symptoms, then the employee will likely need to quarantine for 10 days from the most recent contact if unvaccinated. Until then, she can continue to work as long as she’s had no direct contact with anyone sick. It’s not a bad idea to ask this person to wear a mask when working indoors, if they aren’t already, to reduce the risk of transmission if it turns out the baby or other family members are sick. Whether vaccinated or not, she should not work if she develops any symptoms.
While the government has the prior precedent confirming its authority to require vaccination mandates for contractors, the same likely isn’t true for private employers who aren’t government contractors. This is a question we’ll leave for the lawyers but all indications are that weekly testing will be required for non-vaccinated employees.