On March 22, the Pennsylvania Department of Health updated the state order on masks/face coverings to incorporate recent CDC guidance regarding those who have been fully vaccinated. The change may affect personal/private interactions of those who have been vaccinated, but at the moment there should be no change to business interactions with clients.
The biggest change in the latest guidance is that it suggests there may be some circumstances in which fully vaccinated individuals can interact with others using fewer health and safety precautions. But there are many qualifiers.
For starters, the guidance only applies to individuals who have been “fully vaccinated.” That status only occurs about two weeks after the final vaccine shot (depending on which vaccine a person receives). At the time of publication (March 23, 2021) just about 13% of Pennsylvania residents were fully vaccinated, though those numbers should be climbing substantially in the next weeks and months.
Most importantly, the CDC guidance applies primarily to “visiting with others in private settings.” For example, the guidance gives new suggestions on interactions that might occur between family members or friends in a private home, but does NOT suggest any changes to the precautions that should be used during “personal or social activities outside the home.”
Notably, the CDC guidance does not contain any specific language referencing work/business interactions, but it does note that everyone should follow “any applicable workplace or school guidance” in their activities. The amended Pennsylvania order does not rescind any business-related masking requirements, nor does it alter the basic mitigation orders that apply to businesses, so all those existing business-related rules (remote work, site cleaning, physical distancing, etc.) are still be in effect without change.
Next, the guidance is predicated on the idea that while the risks to fully vaccinated individuals are considerably lower, it still appears possible for someone who has been vaccinated to transmit the virus to others. Therefore, the recommendation is that those who are fully vaccinated can interact with each other privately in small group settings without masks and physical distancing, but that interactions with unvaccinated individuals should be based on the risk factors of those who are unvaccinated.
For example, interactions between a vaccinated grandmother and her healthy, unvaccinated daughter and grandchildren could occur without additional precautions. But if the daughter or grandchildren have any additional risk factors, then any interactions should still utilize the standard precautions (masks, physical distancing, etc.) to protect the most at-risk people in the room.
Finally, the guidance suggests that any interactions outside of these one-on-one (ish) in-home personal visits should continue to utilize typical precautions. For example, if the above visit takes place at a restaurant instead of in the daughter’s home, everyone needs to wear masks, etc. Similarly, the fully vaccinated grandmother hosts three of her children (who live in their own homes) for her birthday party, all precautions should be taken because the transmission risks rise when multiple households are involved.
To state it directly, your interactions don’t morph from business to personal just because you’re doing business with a client their (or someone else’s) home. And even if they did (which they don’t), to follow this guidance agents would end up asking a slew of additional and even more invasive questions about things like vaccination schedules, underlying health conditions and living arrangements that go far beyond anything you’d want to deal with and might even bump up against some issues with protected classes.
With all of that in mind, PAR’s best practices are not being changed at this time. Our recommendation – consistent with the CDC guidance and amended Pennsylvania order – is that real estate licensees should continue to wear masks when interacting with clients regardless of the setting.