Most COVID transmission happens indoors. Less than 10% happens outdoors and generally after prolonged close contact, like a personal conversation or two people jogging together. You may have read about a Slate op-ed published this week advocating for dropping masks when outdoors, but, especially in the context of your business, we think that’s still risky as a blanket rule. Instead, we advise that you generally follow the advice of Dr. Linsey Marr, a leading expert on viral transmission, who talks about the 2-out-of-3 rule: outdoors, distanced, or masked. Outdoors but not distanced? Wear masks. Outdoors but not masked? Stay six feet apart. Indoors, you should always be both distanced and masked.
For business operators, you’ll need to check in with your legal team before you decide to make masks optional for employees when outdoors. Because the CDC is still recommending masks, some interpret that to mean failure to enforce mask usage could be considered a violation of the General Duty Clause in the case of an OSHA inspection.
As many jurisdictions relax COVID restrictions and your businesses return to full capacity, it’s important to keep in mind that we are still seeing 50,000 new cases per day with new variants spreading, and now is not the time to let your guard down.
First and foremost, ensuring that your employees keep wearing masks is key, and we strongly recommend it. Wearing a mask reduces your individual risk by about 65% - multiply that by every employee in your business, and you can prevent a COVID+ guest or employee from turning into a full-fledged outbreak.
Focus on ventilation, too - it’s your next best defense for indoor areas if people will be removing their masks (to eat, for example). Getting a good cross-breeze, opening doors and windows and replacing as much air as possible is key. Adding physical barriers between any seats you add back in can also help.
The seven day average of daily vaccinations dropped by 11 percent compared to the previous week. We have our work cut out for us. Some of this is likely due to increased concern after the Johnson & Johnson pause. More so, we believe it’s a sign that we’ve started to hit the wall where most of the people who were excited to get vaccinated have done so, and the rest are those who are on the fence or never going to get vaccinated. Young people aren’t getting vaccinated at the rate we’d hoped, but new evidence showing higher hospitalization rates, deaths and serious complications after mild COVID cases might continue to sway them. Perks that come with proof of vaccination (like sitting with friends at the baseball game) could help, as well. This is where your business, as a trusted source of information, could make a big difference through good communication and reliable info about the vaccines for those “persuadables” among your workforce.
Yes. We’ll still have to worry about COVID for a long time - even after most of the US is vaccinated - because so much of the rest of the world is not yet vaccinated. The US, UK, Canada and other rich countries are refusing to waive the rights to the COVID vaccines, blocking production in more than 100 poorer countries - including in India, where case counts are astronomically high right now. The real concern is that the rampant spread of COVID worldwide will make our vaccines useless in the face of dozens of new variants. If we don’t get global COVID under control, we can definitely expect more booster doses of vaccines, more public health measures to control the spread and a long road ahead of us.