With the updated guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Tuesday, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) told federal employees to mask up indoors in federal buildings, vaccine or not. The updated guidance is specifically for substantial or high COVID-19 community transmission levels – like the D.C., Maryland, and Northern Virginia (DMV) area.
Mask and Capacity Changes
Previously, as the CDC adjusted the mask recommendations for vaccinated individuals, the federal government also responded with an update in their mask policies for their buildings. Capacity levels also shifted, with the Pentagon operating at 90% capacity. No word on changes to capacity limits yet or a shift in timelines to return to the office. Some agencies had plans for an early fall return to the office, while many in the DoD are already back in full swing. Increases in numbers, especially in the D.C. region could cause adjustments to the current way of operating and any future plans.
OMB’s deputy director for management, Jason Miller emailed federal agencies, saying, “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.”
And while the vaccine is not mandated, for employees who are not fully vaccinated, they need to implement proper social distancing as well. Time will tell if a vaccine mandate comes through for the federal workforce. Currently, the Veterans Affairs is the first federal agency to require its healthcare workers to get the COVID-19 vaccine. For anyone providing care to veterans, vaccines are now mandatory for medical personnel.
“With more than 300 million doses administered in the United States and nearly 4 billion doses administered worldwide, we know the vaccines are safe and highly effective at preventing severe illness and death from COVID-19,” Dr. Susan Bailey, immediate past president of the American Medical Association, said in a statement. “Increased vaccinations among health care personnel will not only reduce the spread of COVID-19 but also reduce the harmful toll this virus is taking within the health care workforce and those we are striving to serve.”
More details on vaccine requirements and mask mandate timelines are expected from President Biden tomorrow, but he explains, “More vaccinations and mask wearing in the areas most impacted by the Delta variant will enable us to avoid the kind of lockdowns, shutdowns, school closures, and disruptions we faced in 2020.”