Defense Secretary Lloyd AustinLloyd AustinGOP holds on Biden nominees set back gains for women in top positions Drones are a strategic liability for US Buttigieg has high name recognition, favorability rating in Biden Cabinet: survey MORE on Thursday ordered all military personnel to wear masks while on Defense Department property or while working anywhere outside their homes for the department, a move intended to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Effective immediately, all individuals on military installations ... and all individuals performing official duties on behalf of the Department from any location other than the individual's home, including outdoor shared spaces, will wear masks in accordance with the most current CDC guidelines,” Austin wrote in a memo to the force.
“COVID-19 is one of the deadliest threats our Nation has ever faced. As we have done throughout our history, the military will rise to this challenge. It is imperative that we do all we can to ensure the health and safety of our force, our families, and our communities so we can prevail in this fight,” he added.
The new directive follows President Biden’s recent executive order, signed on his first day in office, that mandates face coverings while on federal property.
The Pentagon memo lays out the guidelines of the new order, which stipulates that individuals must wear masks continuously while on military property except when they are alone in an enclosed office with the door closed; for brief periods of time when eating and drinking; for identification purposes; and to “reasonably accommodate an individual with a disability.”
The new rules update those that have been in place since last year but allowed for more exceptions, including not requiring a mask in shared office spaces as long as individuals were socially distanced.
More than 225,753 service members, Defense personnel, their family members and contractors have contracted the coronavirus as of Wednesday, according to an online chart the Pentagon maintains.
Of that number, 143,272 cases were in the military, 45,106 among civilians, 23,034 among dependents and 14,341 among contractors.
In addition, 20 service members, 164 civilian, nine dependents and 60 contractors have died from the virus.