After my post yesterday regarding Executive Order 12, the state Department of Public Health released its guidance further clarifying (or not) the rules of the road for masks going forward.
The problem is there is still some questions that remain even after the guidance.
Before I talk about that, let’s talk about words. When someone says you “must” or “need to” or “are required” to do something, odds are you’re going to do it. That is even more true if that someone is the government.
But what happens when someone says you “may” or “should” do something? Is it really required? When it comes from the government, does that change your perspective? What happens if you don’t do it?
That is, in essence, where some of the remaining confusion lies.
In one part of the new DPH guidance, it states that all people (vaccinated or not) “need to” wear a mask inside a school building. That seems pretty direct without much wiggle room: A requirement.
In another part of the guidance for businesses, however, it states that stores “Should consider requiring customers to wear a mask when they are inside an establishment…” That seems more optional. But questions start to arise: If a company fails to follow this guidance, is it opening itself up to a claim?
Now take another example. In another part for businesses, it states that they “should require employees to wear a mask if they are unvaccinated or their vaccination status is unknown and they cannot maintain continuous separation from customers or coworkers.”
Does this mean that employers are not required to have their unvaccinated employees wear masks? It certainly suggests it, though the guidance could also still be read to require unvaccinated employees to wear masks “indoors”.
Thus, we’re back where we were earlier this week. Employers should exercise caution when opening back up and should recognize they still have a duty to provide a safe work environment. Thus, employers should continue to think about mask mandates indoors for at least unvaccinated employees.
If and when we have any additional information, we’ll provide an update.