Mask mandate lifted for vaccinated people in national parks, federal buildings

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A grocery store displays a sign requiring customers to wear masks on March 10, 2021 in Austin, Texas. The City of Austin said it will continue to maintain its mask rules despite an executive order from Gov. Greg Abbott taking effect today that lifts the statewide mask mandate and permits businesses to fully reopen.

The federal government is lifting mask requirements for vaccinated people in its buildings and in national parks following last week’s guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

A notice from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) sent to all federal government agencies lifts the mask requirement for anyone two weeks post-vaccine.

It’s change not only for the nation’s more than 2 million federal workers but any contractor or visitor to a federal facility, including post offices and at the country’s more than 400 national parks.

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

“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 agency continued.

The guidance was distributed to agencies late Thursday after the CDC announced vaccinated people don’t need to wear masks indoors or outside.

More than 117 million Americans, or about 35 percent of the population, are now fully vaccinated, though the announcement sparked concern that the shift could remove an incentive for unvaccinated people to get inoculated. 

National parks preparing for a busy summer season have urged unvaccinated people to continue wearing masks even when outdoors.

“Consistent with CDC recommendations, people who are not fully vaccinated must continue to wear masks indoors and in crowded outdoor spaces,” the National Park Service says on its website.

All visitors, regardless of vaccination status, are required to wear masks on public transportation within parks.

The announcement was one of the first major updates to an executive order President Biden signed on Inauguration Day that required federal employees to wear masks. The order says agencies should be in “compliance with CDC guidelines.”

The move has had ramifications beyond the civilian federal workforce.

The Department of Defense announced Friday that vaccinated personnel would no longer have to wear masks, lifting the requirement for more than 600,000 service members and 250,000 civilian employees.

Updated at 12:46 p.m.

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