New Mask Guidance a Real Shot in the Arm

By: Hank Lerner, Esq. on  in 

On Thursday, May 13, the Centers for Disease Control issued new public health guidance for fully vaccinated people. The key takeaway is that “fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear a mask or physically distance in any setting, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal or territorial laws, rules and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance.”

But before you get too excited, let’s break that down and see how it might apply to real estate practice in Pennsylvania.

There are three main concepts just in this one sentence:

  • Fully vaccinated people: The guidance applies only to those who are “fully vaccinated,” which occurs two weeks after the individual’s second dose (or the one-dose vaccine). You’re either fully vaccinated or you’re not. And if you’re not, different guidance applies.
  • No longer need to wear a mask or physically distance: If you’re fully vaccinated, taking off your mask and sitting shoulder-to-shoulder with a stranger is no longer deemed medically risky. But some of those who are fully vaccinated may still have a good reason to wear masks and/or ask others to wear masks around them. No mask shaming, please.
  • In any setting, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal or territorial laws, rules and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance: CDC guidance is just that – guidance. Some states and municipal governments may have more restrictive rules that still need to be followed; this guidance doesn’t overrule them, though it may hasten changes at the state and local level. And, of course, businesses (and…individual homesellers) may choose to have stricter rules for their premises.

So how does this apply to real estate practice in Pennsylvania?

As of May 13, 2021, there are two main health and safety orders still in effect in Pennsylvania: a business mitigation order and a universal face covering (mask) order.

The state has already announced plans to lift the business mitigation orders as of 12:01 a.m. on May 31 (Memorial Day). Until then, brokers should adhere to those mitigation rules in running their offices, which includes things like encouraging remote work, operating the office at no more than 50% capacity and implementing additional cleaning protocols. Nothing in the updated CDC guidelines changes those rules.

The state masking order was updated in March to include language that conforms the order to the most current CDC guidance. This means that when the CDC guidance changes the state order automatically changes with it…and the mask order is therefore modified to incorporate the guidance that masks are not necessary for most fully vaccinated people. Those who are not yet vaccinated, though, are still subject to the full order and must wear masks in most indoor, and some outdoor, settings. This order will be lifted completely once 70% of Pennsylvania’s adults have been fully vaccinated.

PAR will be thoroughly updating our resource page, FAQs and best practices to reflect these new developments, with an eye towards the business orders being lifted on May 31.