US government agencies begin to remove mask requirements | Top news
By David Shepardson and Idrees Ali
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Departments of Defense and Justice no longer require masks to be worn inside Washington-area facilities, they said on Wednesday, following the latest COVID- 19 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Other agencies are expected to follow suit this week.
The change affects about 20,000 Pentagon military and civilian employees.
The Justice Department said masks are no longer required in its Washington-operated buildings and will implement new workplace policies, “including a gradual increase in on-site presence, over the next two month”. Facilities outside of Washington must follow CDC guidelines at the community level, he added.
The White House told federal agencies late Monday that they could stop requiring employees and visitors to wear masks in federal buildings across much of the country, according to a document first reported by Reuters.
The White House-led Safer Federal Workforce Task Force said Monday that federal facilities in counties with low or medium COVID-19 community levels can drop the mask requirement, regardless. regardless of vaccination status. About 70% of US counties covering 72% of the US population are listed as having low or medium levels.
The White House has ordered agencies to revise rules for masking and testing federal employees no later than Friday.
The District of Columbia, where most federal agencies are based, is listed as having low COVID-19 community levels, along with nearby suburbs in Virginia and Maryland, home to the Pentagon, Central Intelligence Agency and many other agencies.
The White House on Tuesday lifted requirements for fully vaccinated people to wear masks on the White House campus, but testing, provision of vaccination information and other COVID-19 protocols remain in place.
Federal requirements for masks at airports, train stations and on buses, planes and trains remain in place until at least March 18 and could be extended.
(Reporting by Idrees Ali, David Shepardson and Diane Bartz; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Richard Chang)
Copyright 2022 Thomson Reuters.