Federal Agencies Can Relax Their Mask and Testing Requirements
The Safer Federal Workforce Task Force updated its guidance following new guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Federal agencies can relax their mask and testing protocols in the wake of new public health guidance.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s released on Friday a “new framework” that “moves beyond just looking at cases and test positivity to evaluate factors that reflect the severity of disease, including hospitalizations and hospital capacity, and helps to determine whether the level of COVID-19 and severe disease are low, medium, or high in a community,” Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the agency’s director, said on a call with reporters. Guidance from the Biden administration’s Safer Federal Workforce Task Force on Monday reflects this new framework.
“This document provides federal agencies with initial implementation guidance they should follow in utilizing the CDC’s COVID-19 Community Levels to determine the appropriate mask-wearing and screening testing requirements for each federal facility at a given time,” said the guidance.
If the COVID-19 community transmission is “low” in the county where the federal facility is, then agencies don’t have to mandate that individuals wear masks while in that facility, regardless of their vaccination statuses, and don’t have to use their screening testing program.
If the level is “medium,” then masks aren’t required and for screening testing, agencies should use their preexisting screening testing programs. And then if the level is “high,” then masks are required and use their screening testing programs.
About 70% of counties in the United States live in areas with “low” or “medium,” COVID-19 community levels, Dr. Greta Massetti, a member of the CDC’s COVID-19 Incident Management Team, said during Friday’s briefing.
However, according to the guidance, the “CDC notes that some settings, such as high-risk congregate settings, might include additional layers of prevention. In addition, recommendations based on COVID-19 Community Levels may not apply in healthcare settings, which should follow relevant regulations and guidance.”
Agencies must implement their new mask and screening test procedures no later than Friday.
The guidance says agencies should make sure that people can wear a mask if they want to regardless of community conditions. Additionally, agencies should review their COVID-19 community levels every week to see if any changes need to be made. Further guidance from the task force will touch on the “intersection of COVID-19 community levels with other workplace safety protocols for federal agencies.”