‘The CDC guidance is not law’: Legal expert weighs in on future of mask mandates in private spaces

BOSTON — The CDC easing guidance on mask-wearing for fully vaccinated people is likely to open the door to confusion in private spaces. Whether it’s customers entering a business or people heading into the workplace, companies are still within their rights to require masks. But will they?

Boston 25 News spoke with a legal expert and an HR consultant who believe companies will continue to make their own rules.

>>>MORE: Coronavirus: CDC eases mask-wearing guidance for fully vaccinated Americans

“The CDC guidance is not law. It’s guidance,” said Wendy Parmet, faculty director for the Center for Health Policy and Law at Northeastern University School of Law.

Parmet said it will be tough for businesses to distinguish between those who are fully vaccinated and those who are not.

“Businesses can ask for that information, but I think a lot of them are going to be reluctant to ask,” Parmet said. “It will most likely create significant backlash.”

Parmet said any changes Massachusetts makes to its state rules could also bring added tension for some private businesses.

“It’s going to be somewhat harder for private businesses, especially in states that don’t still have mask mandates, to enforce their mandates as a practical matter,” Parmet explained.

A spokesperson for the Baker administration told Boston 25 News that the state’s current mask order remains in place, but that Gov. Baker will be updating Massachusetts’ COVID restrictions in the near future.

RELATED: Baker administration ‘welcomes’ new CDC guidance, current mask order remains in place

“I think we’re still going to see masks on people for far longer than we anticipated,” said Elaine Varelas, managing partner with Boston-based Keystone Partners.

Varelas believes some companies will continue to require that people wear face coverings while walking through open areas. However, she said there may be some scenarios where that could shift.

“One of the things I’ve seen companies doing is literally setting aside physical space, potentially on other floors, for people who have declared they’re not vaccinated,” Varelas said.

While so many questions remain, Varelas said the CDC’s new guidance is a sign that things are moving in a positive direction. It had an immediate effect at the White House on Thursday. Staffers were informed that masks are no longer required for those who are fully vaccinated.

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