Biden Revokes COVID Mask Mandate for Federal Employees

President Biden has formally repealed one of his previous COVID-related mandates for federal employees.

President Biden issued an executive order (EO) on Friday afternoon, April 12, 2024, revoking one of his previously issued executive orders that required federal employees to wear face masks in federal buildings or on federal lands.

The executive order, Protecting the Federal Workforce and Requiring Mask-Wearing, was among the first executive orders issued by Biden when he took office on January 20, 2021.

He said at the time that requiring federal employees to wear face masks would help stop the spread of COVID-19. The EO stated:

…masks and other public health measures reduce the spread of the disease, particularly when communities make widespread use of such measures, and thus save lives.

Accordingly, to protect the Federal workforce and individuals interacting with the Federal workforce, and to ensure the continuity of Government services and activities, on-duty or on-site Federal employees, on-site Federal contractors, and other individuals in Federal buildings and on Federal lands should all wear masks, maintain physical distance, and adhere to other public health measures, as provided in CDC guidelines.

Even before formally repealing the mask mandate, the Biden administration had loosened its mask requirements for federal employees as the pandemic began to subside.

Elimination of the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force

In addition to the mask mandate, the 2021 EO also established the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force which began issuing various guidelines for agencies to follow during the pandemic. Now that the EO has been revoked, this Task Force will be terminated as well.

Examples of the kinds of guidelines issued by the Task Force were on when and how federal employees had to comply with the president’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate, guidance for federal employees seeking exceptions to the vaccine mandate, COVID-related leave options for federal employees, and guidance for agencies for asking federal employees about their vaccination statuses.

The White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued a memo in conjunction with Biden’s EO that delegates authority for issuing leave-related guidance on COVID-19 and other public health emergencies to the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) now that the Task Force has been disbanded. The OMB memo also states that the Task Force website will remain online but will not be updated.

Going forward, the OMB memo directs agencies to continue to maintain, update, and implement their workforce safety plans and to notify OMB of any significant revisions to these plans.

New COVID-19 Guidance from OPM

OPM issued a memo with its first guidance for federal agencies in its new role. OPM said that although the COVID vaccine mandate is no longer in effect, the Biden administration “strongly encourages” federal employees to stay current on their vaccine doses to “protect both Federal employees and those we serve.”

Biden formally repealed the federal employee vaccine mandate via executive order in May 2023 after he declared that the COVID-19 national emergency was over. The vaccine mandate ended on May 12, 2023 at 12:01 AM EST.

The COVID-related mandates were highly controversial and the subject of various lawsuits. The COVID vaccine mandate for federal employees was not enforced for a while after a court issued an injunction halting enforcement of the mandate while it continued to be fought in court.

Because the Biden administration is encouraging federal employees to continue getting vaccinated for COVID-19, the new OPM memo also “strongly encouraged” federal agencies to grant up to four hours of administrative leave to federal employees to get the vaccine per Centers for Disease Control recommendations. If an employee spends less than four hours getting vaccinated, then only the necessary amount of administrative leave should be granted.

OPM’s memo notes that federal employees must get their supervisors’ approval beforehand and that employees may not be credited with administrative leave or overtime work for time spent outside their tour of duty getting a COVID-19 vaccine.

OPM’s memo also states that it is no longer warranted to give federal employees administrative leave for the following:

  • Assisting a family member with getting a COVID-19 vaccination
  • When a federal employee has an adverse reaction to a COVID-19 vaccine
  • When a federal employee has COVID-19 symptoms and is isolating while actively being tested

However, supervisors may authorize the use of sick leave for the above circumstances upon request by employees.

The OPM memo also states that it is no longer appropriate to grant weather and safety leave in connection with COVID-19.

Executive Order on COVID-⁠19 and Public Health Preparedness and Response

April 12, 2024

By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, it is hereby ordered as follows:

Section 1.  Policy.  The Office of Pandemic Preparedness and Response Policy (OPPR), established by the Congress in December 2022 under section 2104 of Public Law 117-328, is playing a critical role in the Federal Government’s pandemic preparedness efforts.  The OPPR is providing advice, within the Executive Office of the President, on policy related to preparedness for, and response to, pandemic and other biological threats that may impact national security.  The OPPR is also supporting my Administration’s continued work to address COVID-19 and other public health threats, facilitating coordination and communication among executive departments and agencies to ensure that the United States can quickly detect, identify, and respond to such threats as necessary.  At this stage of my Administration’s response to COVID-19, I have determined that certain Executive Orders are no longer necessary and that certain roles and responsibilities established by other Executive Orders related to COVID-19 should be transferred to the OPPR.

Sec. 2.  Revocations.  Executive Order 13910 of March 23, 2020 (Preventing Hoarding of Health and Medical Resources to Respond to the Spread of COVID-19), Executive Order 13991 of January 20, 2021 (Protecting the Federal Workforce and Requiring Mask-Wearing), and Executive Order 13998 of January 21, 2021 (Promoting COVID-19 Safety in Domestic and International Travel), are hereby revoked.

Sec. 3.  Transfer of Responsibilities.  Responsibilities and duties of the Coordinator of the COVID-19 Response and Counselor to the President (COVID-19 Response Coordinator), including responsibilities and duties specified in Executive Order 13987 of January 20, 2021 (Organizing and Mobilizing the United States Government to Provide a Unified and Effective Response to Combat COVID-19 and to Provide United States Leadership on Global Health and Security), Executive Order 13994 of January 21, 2021 (Ensuring a Data-Driven Response to COVID-19 and Future High-Consequence Public Health Threats), and Executive Order 13996 of January 21, 2021 (Establishing the COVID-19 Pandemic Testing Board and Ensuring a Sustainable Public Health Workforce for COVID-19 and Other Biological Threats), are transferred to the Director of the OPPR.  The positions of COVID-19 Response Coordinator and Deputy Coordinator of the COVID-19 Response, as established by section 2 of Executive Order 13987, are hereby terminated.

Sec. 4.  General Provisions.  (a)  Nothing in this order shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect:

(i)   the authority granted by law to an executive department or agency, or the head thereof; or

(ii)  the functions of the Director of the Office of Management and Budget relating to budgetary, administrative, or legislative proposals.

     (b)  This order shall be implemented consistent with applicable law and subject to the availability of appropriations.

     (c)  This order is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.


April 12, 2024.

About the Author

Ian Smith is one of the co-founders of He has over 20 years of combined experience in media and government services, having worked at two government contracting firms and an online news and web development company prior to his current role at FedSmith.