Health Law Scan

Legal Insights and Perspectives for the Healthcare Industry

Update: States to Implement CDC Guidance on Mask Use

May 26, 2021 (Updated June 3, 2021)

Members of our labor and employment team have published resources highlighting updates to state mask guidance in California, Illinois, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Oregon, and Washington in alignment with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) new guidance that allows fully vaccinated individuals to forgo masks and social distancing requirements in most indoor and outdoor locations.

These resources may be of particular interest for Health Law Scan readers operating in California, Illinois, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Oregon, and Washington. Below, we highlight the main takeaways for each state.


On May 17, 2021, California announced that it will align its mask guidance with the CDC’s, effective June 15, 2021, while noting that fully vaccinated individuals still have the option to wear a face mask if they choose.

California’s announcement did not address whether employers should seek proof to confirm vaccination status. State and local health officials communicated reluctance to adopt the CDC’s guidance earlier than June 15 because not enough people, including children and teenagers, have been vaccinated in California, and to allow businesses to prepare for the new guidance.

Read the full LawFlash >>


The governor’s office issued a press release on May 17 declaring that Illinois would align its executive orders with the CDC guidance. Shortly thereafter, the governor signed Executive Order 2021-10.

Under the new executive order, fully vaccinated individuals are no longer required to wear a face covering in most settings. The order defines “fully vaccinated” as an individual who is two weeks past their second dose of a two-dose COVID-19 vaccine series or two weeks past a single-dose vaccine. Face coverings remain required for all individuals on public transportation, in congregate facilities, and in healthcare settings, regardless of vaccination status. Unvaccinated individuals must continue to use face coverings when they are in a public place and unable to maintain a six-foot social distance.

Read the full LawFlash >>


Governor Charlie Baker announced on May 17 that Massachusetts will rapidly accelerate the commonwealth’s reopening process by adopting the CDC’s Interim Public Health Recommendations for Fully Vaccinated People.

Effective May 29, all businesses can open at 100% capacity, with very limited exceptions. The governor also announced that the 14-month state of emergency will end on June 15, 2021. The state’s current mask order and restrictions on certain businesses will remain in effect until May 29, after which businesses can implement additional safety restrictions, but the existing state restrictions will be lifted.

Read the full LawFlash >>

New York

On May 19, 2021, New York released guidance formalizing the changes initially summarized in a press release following Governor Cuomo’s announcement that fully vaccinated individuals no longer need to wear a mask or maintain social distancing, subject to certain exceptions. 

Under the new guidance, vaccinated individuals will not be required to wear a mask in most settings. However, unvaccinated individuals, under both CDC and New York State guidance, must continue to wear masks.

Read the full LawFlash >>

New Jersey, Oregon, and Washington

On May 26, 2021, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy issued Executive Order 243 (EO 243), which allows employers to permit employees working in non-public-facing workspaces to stop wearing face coverings and discontinue social distancing if they provide proof that they are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. EO 243 goes into effect June 4, 2021 at 6:00 am.

Similar developments have taken place in Oregon and Washington, which both require that employers take an affirmative step to confirm COVID-19 vaccination status before permitting employees to go maskless and stop social distancing. Like New Jersey, Oregon requires that employees provide proof of full vaccination. In Washington, while employers can require proof of full vaccination status, employers also can accept a signed statement from employees that they are fully vaccinated without requiring that employees submit documented proof of receiving a COVID-19 vaccine.

Read the full LawFlash>>


We have developed many customizable resources to support employers’ efforts in safely returning to work. These include tracking of state and local orders on return to work requirements and essential/nonessential work; reopening plans, policy templates, and guidelines for key topics such as social distancing procedures, wellness screening, and workplace arrangements for high-risk employees; and webinar training on safety measures for return to work. View the full list of return to work resources and consult our workplace reopening checklist.

Don’t forget to check out our Navigating the NEXT. and Coronavirus COVID-19 resource centers to stay up to date on developments as they unfold. Subscribe now if you would like to receive a digest of new updates to these resources.