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Masks shed at White House; McConnell: 'Free at last'

Many White House staffers and reporters were able to shed their masks Thursday after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued new guidance saying vaccinated individuals did not need to wear face coverings, with few exceptions.

The White House informed staff that those who were fully vaccinated — meaning they are 14 days clear of their last dose of the vaccine — no longer were required to wear masks while on campus. And the White House Correspondents Association (WHCA) informed its members that masks were no longer necessary for reporters working at the complex.

"Effective immediately, pursuant to the new CDC guidance, mask-wearing requirements are lifted at the White House complex for those who are 14 days after their last required dose of one of the COVID-19 shots," WHCA President Zeke Miller said in an email to members.

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The new guidance came roughly one year after White House reporters began wearing face coverings during press briefings. Biden administration officials have been wearing masks since taking office in January as the president and his staff hewed closely to CDC guidelines.

The change in approach was immediately visible at the White House.

"Just ran into @MGwin46 in the hall, both of us sans mask for the first time in the building — what a treat!!" tweeted Peter Velz, a press aide for Vice President Harris.

Sen. Shelley Moore CapitoShelley Wellons Moore CapitoOvernight Energy: Biden seeks to reassert US climate leadership | President to 'repeal or replace' Trump decision removing protections for Tongass | Administration proposes its first offshore wind lease sale In Europe, Biden seeks to reassert U.S. climate leadership Antsy Democrats warn of infrastructure time crunch MORE (R-W.Va.) told reporters that she and other Republican senators removed their masks during a meeting with President BidenJoe BidenEx-Biden adviser says Birx told him she hoped election turned out 'a certain way' Cheney rips Arizona election audit: 'It is an effort to subvert democracy' News leaders deal with the post-Trump era MORE once the CDC guidance was made official. Biden removed his mask, too, she said.

First lady Jill BidenJill BidenBiden meets Queen Elizabeth for first time as president Overnight Health Care: FDA says millions of J&J doses from troubled plant must be thrown out | WHO warns Africa falling far behind in vaccinations | Top CDC official says US not ready for next pandemic The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Sights and sounds from Biden's UK visit MORE, visiting West Virginia to promote the administration's American Jobs Plan, took off her mask upon landing in the state.

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“We feel naked,” the first lady told reporters, adding: "I didn’t mean it that way!"

On Capitol Hill, Republicans rejoiced at the updated guidance.

“Free at last,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellMaher goes after Manchin: 'Most powerful Republican in the Senate' Supreme Court confounding its partisan critics Why the Democrats need Joe Manchin MORE (R-Ky.) told reporters as he walked out of the chamber without a mask.

Sens. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsSunday shows preview: Biden foreign policy in focus as Dem tensions boil up back home Why the Democrats need Joe Manchin White House briefed on bipartisan infrastructure deal but says questions remain MORE (R-Maine) and Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstOvernight Defense: Pentagon details military construction projects getting .2B restored from wall funds | Biden chooses former commander to lead Navy | Bill seeks to boost visa program for Afghans who helped US Meghan McCain: Harris 'sounded like a moron' discussing immigration Senate bill would add visas, remove hurdles to program for Afghans who helped US MORE (R-Iowa) removed their masks and yelled "freedom" in celebration of the news.

But changes were not expected to fully take hold on Capitol Hill despite the CDC's new recommendations.

Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) was still wearing a mask Thursday afternoon, and several House members were still sporting face coverings.

There was not expected to be an imminent change to House rules that require masks for lawmakers inside the Capitol complex.