NELP Decries New CDC Mask Guidance for Failing to Address Workplace Exposure

For Immediate Release: May 18, 2021
National Employment Law Project
Contact: Amy Lebowitz,

NELP Decries New CDC Mask Guidance for Failing to Address Workplace Exposure

Frontline workers of color continue to be more impacted by COVID-19

Following is a statement from Rebecca Dixon, executive director at the National Employment Law Project:

“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) new guidance on mask wearing for fully vaccinated individuals fails to address the continuing danger to people in workplaces that are still  placing workers at increased exposure to COVID-19. The new guidance neglects to specify the mitigation measures needed to protect workers in workplaces where large numbers of both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals work in enclosed spaces—including meatpacking, grocery stores, warehouses, and food processing—where large numbers of workers have been infected and outbreaks continue to occur. It is underpaid workers of color who are disproportionately represented in these most-at-risk frontline workplaces.

A majority of the working age population is still not fully vaccinated. Black and Latinx workers continue to face some of the greatest risks, working in jobs and industries where workplaces are crowded, ventilation is poor, and mitigation measures have been lacking.

“The current CDC guidance has created confusion in the workplace, leaving the nation’s most vulnerable workers, such as those in meatpacking, poultry, and retail unprotected.

“NELP calls on the Biden administration’s CDC and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to jointly and immediately clarify that workplace mitigation measures to protect workers from COVID-19 are still needed in many workplaces. Those measures must be maintained in workplaces where workers come into frequent contact with co-workers, or with members of the public, who are both vaccinated and unvaccinated. These mitigation measures must focus on ventilation and filtration to control airborne exposures, and require physical distancing, mask wearing, and isolation of infected individuals.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is not over. According to CDC, on May 15 there were over 27,000 new infections reported, and 658 deaths due to COVID-19. The Biden administration must ensure that OSHA immediately issues an emergency temporary standard for COVID-19 to make sure that workplace mitigation measures are implemented and maintained to prevent exposures and infections.”


The National Employment Law Project is a non-partisan, not-for-profit organization that conducts research and advocates on issues affecting underpaid and unemployed workers. For more about NELP, visit Follow NELP on Twitter at @NelpNews.

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