U.S. government agencies start dropping mask requirements

By David Shepardson and Idrees Ali

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The U.S. Defense and Justice departments are no longer requiring masks be worn indoors at Washington-area facilities, they said on Wednesday, following the latest COVID-19 guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Other agencies are expected to follow suit this week.

The change affects about 20,000 military and civilian employees at the Pentagon.

The Justice Department said masks are no longer required at its operated buildings in Washington and will implement new workplace policies, “including a phased increase in onsite presence, over the next two months.” Facilities outside Washington must follow the CDC’s community level guidance, it added.

The White House told federal agencies late on Monday they can stop requiring employees and visitors to wear masks in federal buildings in much of the country, according to a document first reported by Reuters.

The White House-led Safer Federal Workforce Task Force said Monday federal facilities in counties with low or medium COVID-19 community levels can drop the mask requirement, regardless of vaccination status. About 70% of U.S. counties covering 72% of the U.S. population are listed as having low or medium levels.

The White House directed agencies to revise federal employee masking and testing rules 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 of Virginia and Maryland, which are home to the Pentagon, Central Intelligence Agency and many other agencies.

The White House Tuesday lifted requirements for fully vaccinated individuals to wear masks on the White House campus, but testing, providing vaccination information, and other COVID-19 protocols remain in place.

Federal mask requirements at airports, train stations and on buses, airplanes and trains remain in place at least through March 18 and could be extended.

FILE PHOTO: An aerial view of the Pentagon building in Washington, June 15, 2005./File Photo

Source : Reuters

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