Fully Vaccinated Federal Employees Can Begin Removing Masks

Following new CDC guidance, federal employees who are fully vaccinated will be able to begin removing their masks inside of federal buildings.

As a result of the latest guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), federal employees who are fully vaccinated can begin to resume their day-to-day activities without having to wear masks inside of federal buildings.

Shortly after taking office, President Biden issued an Executive Order requiring federal employees to wear masks in federal buildings as a protection against COVID-19. Shortly after that, the White House also issued guidance instructing agencies on how to protect federal employees with enhanced COVID safety protocols.

These extra masking and physical distancing protocols are now beginning to be lifted as more people continue to get the COVID vaccines.

CDC Guidance for Fully Vaccinated Individuals

According to the CDC’s new guidance, people who have received a full dose of the vaccine are now allowed to do the following:

  • Resume activities without wearing masks or physically distancing, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance
  • Resume domestic travel and refrain from testing before or after travel or self-quarantine after travel
  • Refrain from testing before leaving the United States for international travel (unless required by the destination) and refrain from self-quarantine after arriving back in the United States
  • Refrain from testing following a known exposure, if asymptomatic, with some exceptions for specific settings
  • Refrain from quarantine following a known exposure if asymptomatic
  • Refrain from routine screening testing if feasible

President Biden warned in a recent statement that Americans who are not vaccinated will pay a price for not doing so. In remarks delivered on May 17, Biden said, “Ultimately, those who are not vaccinated will pay — end up paying the price. The vaccinated will continue to be protected against severe illnesses, but others may not be if you’re not vaccinated. But given that the vaccination is convenient and free, it will be a tragedy if — and a needless one — to see COVID cases among those who do not get vaccinated go up.”

As of the time of this writing, about 37% of the American population is fully vaccinated according to CDC data.

Federal Agencies Lift Mask Mandates

In conjunction with the new CDC guidance, the White House Office of Management and Budget issued a memo to all federal agencies which lifts the president’s previous mask mandate for all fully vaccinated individuals who are at least two weeks past their final dose.

“If you are fully vaccinated (at least 2 weeks past your final dose), you are no longer required to wear a mask,” states the memo.

It also adds, “If you are not fully vaccinated (at least 2 weeks past your final dose), please continue to wear a mask consistent with the requirements set forth in your agency workplace safety plan.”

The government’s maximum telework policy remains in effect, however.

Office of Personnel Management official government operating status for May 17, 2021 showing maximum telework in effect

Individual federal agencies have begun to follow suit in issuing their own guidance.

The Department of Defense, for example, said that fully vaccinated federal employees working at the agency are no longer required to wear masks. DOD made the announcement in a memo issued May 13.

The National Park Service also said that it was lifting its previous mask mandate for park facilities for visitors who are fully vaccinated. However, it states on its website that “All people, regardless of vaccination status, are required to wear a mask on all forms of public transportation and in healthcare settings on DOI lands.”

About the Author

Ian Smith is one of the co-founders of FedSmith.com. He enjoys writing about current topics that affect the federal workforce.

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