White House tells agencies to mandate masks in federal buildings in hot spots

A woman wears a mask following the CDC recommendation that fully vaccinated Americans wear masks as the highly transmissible Delta variant has led to a surge in infections.
REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

By David Shepardson

The White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) told federal agencies they must mandate masks indoors in federal buildings for all employees and visitors regardless of vaccination status in areas of substantial or high COVID-19 community transmission, according to an email seen by Reuters.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued guidance on Tuesday that vaccinated people should wear masks indoors in areas of substantial or high COVID-19 transmission.

In an email sent to all federal agencies late on Tuesday, Jason Miller, OMB’s deputy director for management, said in line with the CDC guidance, “in areas of substantial or high community transmission, agencies must require all federal employees, onsite contractors, and visitors, regardless of vaccination status, to wear a mask inside of federal buildings. As of today, that includes the Washington, D.C., area.”

It added that people “not fully vaccinated also need to continue to physically distance consistent with CDC guidance.”

The CDC said on Tuesday at least 63% of U.S. counties are considered substantial or high risk.

President Joe Biden’s administration on Monday required that all Veterans Affairs staff receive vaccinations, and on Wednesday, the Department of Homeland Security said in a Twitter post all of its 240,000 employees, will need to wear a mask indoors and physically distance, effective immediately and regardless of vaccination status.

As the virulent Delta variant of the coronavirus blazes through parts of the United States and immunizations lag, the federal government is once again racing to contain the pandemic that began more than a year ago, in the hopes of avoiding future nationwide shutdowns.

Biden is expected to announce further mandates for federal agencies on Thursday.

Reuters

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