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The reopening of institutional and commercial facilities wasn’t supposed to go like this. As spring 2020 unfolded, facility managers were developing strategies and tactics to welcome back returning workers — most of whom would be vaccinated — to healthy buildings with only secondary concerns about pandemic staples such as masks and social distancing.
The delta variant and low vaccination rates have changed all that.
The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) issued guidance on Friday urging employers to require many fully vaccinated workers to wear masks to protect unvaccinated colleagues and customers, amid a surge in COVID-19 cases.
OSHA recommended that workers wear masks "in areas of substantial or high community transmission" unless they have medical conditions that make it difficult to wear a face covering.
Employers should also consider staggering the times workers clock in and out of work and take breaks to prevent large groups of people from congregating, OSHA said. High-volume retail businesses should ask customers to wear masks and consider requiring them. The agency had made similar recommendations last year, early on in the pandemic.
The updated guidance comes as COVID-19 cases are on the rise across the U.S., particularly in areas where large numbers of people remain unvaccinated. Some preliminary studies have shown that vaccinated people are still capable of spreading the highly contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus.
Dan Hounsell is Senior Editor, Facility Market.