For months, major health agencies including the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO) have stressed the importance of wearing face masks to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus. And while many state and local officials across the U.S. have issued mandates affecting their constituencies, no federal-level orders on the use of face masks has yet been issued. But in the first executive order issued by the newest White House resident, President Joe Biden, a new policy will now require that a face mask be worn on all federal property nationwide. Read on to see what changes the decision will bring, and for more on how to get the most out of your PPE, check out The Most Popular Mask May Also Be the Least Effective, Study Finds.
The new order covers all federal buildings and lands.
According to Jeff Zients, a counselor for President Biden who will be the administration’s COVID-19 response coordinator: “This executive action will direct the agencies to take action to require compliance with CDC guidance on mask-wearing and physical distancing in federal buildings, on federal lands, and by federal employees and contractors.” And while the order doesn’t apply to all public areas, officials hope that local lawmakers will follow the lead they’re providing.
“The president will call on governors, public health officials, mayors, business leaders, and others to implement masking, physical distancing, and other public measures to control COVID-19,” Zients said, adding “this is not a political statement. This is about the health of our families, and economic recovery of our country.”
The order is part of Biden’s “100 Days Masking Challenge.”
The new federal mandate is part of the new administration’s “100 Days Masking Challenge,” which had been previously outlined by the then President-elect. The new initiative calls on all Americans to wear a mask for 100 days to help curb the spread of the coronavirus while vaccines are rolled out.
“It is important that we, in fact, the president and the vice president, we set the pattern by wearing masks,” Biden said in an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper in December. “Just 100 days to mask. Not forever. One hundred days. And I think we’ll see a significant reduction … If that occurs, with vaccinations and masking, to drive down the numbers considerably.” And for more on what could be to come next in the pandemic, check out The CDC Just Issued This Grim Warning About the COVID Surge.
Experts agreed the order could have a positive effect.
Despite face masks being a deeply divisive political issue, the scientific community widely agrees that the move will likely help in the long term. This is especially true as winter weather has forced more people to congregate inside, heightening the risk of spreading the virus.
“We have ongoing high levels of community transmission all over this country,” Chris Beyrer, MD, a professor of epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, told NBC’s Today. “With that rate of community transmission, with the infectiousness of this virus and with the weather that we’re dealing with (leading to) indoor activity, that really consistent mask-wearing could have a major impact on reducing community transmission.”
Other officials have supported similar policies.
Even though the latest policy will not put a national mask mandate into place, there are other top officials who have argued that such a policy might be too lofty. This includes Anthony Fauci, MD, who has previously expressed concern that rules that come off as too stringent could make some people less willing to don PPE.
During an interview with Kaiser Health News Editor-in-Chief EThe One Thing You Can Stop Doing to Avoid COVID, According to Doctors.“The only reason that I shy away from making a strong recommendation in that regard is that things that come from the national level down generally engender a bit of pushback from an already reluctant populace that doesn’t like to be told what to do,” he explained. “So you might wind up having the countereffect of people pushing back even more.” And for more on what else can cut down your risk of contracting coronavirus, check out