Ohio Department of Health Order Drops Most Mask Requirements for Vaccinated Individuals 

May 19, 2021

On Monday, the Ohio Department of Health issued an amended COVID-19 public health order that lifted the State’s mask and social distancing requirements for fully vaccinated individuals. The amended order was issued on May 17, 2021, but is retroactive to May 14, 2021.  It will run through June 2, 2021, when the State plans to lift most of its COVID-19 restrictions.

Ohio Implements New CDC Guidance

Following the latest guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Ohio Department of Health amended its order to permit fully vaccinated individuals (i.e. two weeks beyond their last shot) to resume most activities without wearing a facial covering. Facial coverings are still required for vaccinated individuals in congregate settings, such as nursing homes, daycares, and schools, as well as when riding on public transportation, including busses, trains, and airplanes. In addition, the amended order lifts social distancing restrictions for vaccinated individuals. The amended order does not apply, however, to unvaccinated individuals, who are still required to follow existing masking and social distancing guidelines unless they meet one of the listed exceptions.

The amended order requires all businesses to post clearly visible signage at all entrances of their premises that states all individuals are required to wear a facial covering and engage in social distancing while on the premises, unless the individual is fully vaccinated. The order states that compliant signage would be available on the State’s coronavirus website, but as of this publication there were no model signs available that addressed the new requirements. Businesses are free to choose whether they will also require vaccinated individuals to wear masks while on their premises, or under what circumstances.

This newly amended Order will remain in effect until June 2, 2021. Governor DeWine previously announced that most health orders, except those regarding nursing homes and assisted living facilities, will be rescinded on June 2, 2021, at 12:01 AM EDT. The Governor explained the two-week delay is designed to allow individuals not yet vaccinated the time to do so before the public health mitigation measures are lifted.

Enforcement Concerns

While not specifically addressed in the amended order or recent CDC guidance, employers may continue to require that all employees wear facial coverings and observe social distancing, but employers should continue to provide reasonable accommodations to qualified employees with a disability or sincerely held religious beliefs unless doing so would cause an undue hardship.

Employers that match their workplace policies to those in the amended order are faced with the problem of determining how to verify that an individual is vaccinated against the coronavirus. Recent Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) guidance states that employers may ask employees about their vaccination status and may require appropriate documentation to verify that the employee is vaccinated. The EEOC explains that such inquiries do not run afoul of the Americans with Disabilities Act because being vaccinated is not itself a disability and the question of whether an employee is vaccinated is not likely to elicit information about a disability. However, employers should take precautions and treat documents reflecting the employee’s vaccination status as confidential medical information. Employers should also be ready to engage in an interactive accommodation process with employees who assert that they are unable to receive the vaccine due to a disability.


If you have any questions regarding your organization’s current coronavirus policies or how to manage workplace issues surrounding the COVID-19 vaccine, please reach out to any KWW attorney. As always, your workplace is our priority.

Skip to content