In the short span after his Inauguration as the President of the United States (POTUS), Joe Biden has signed several executive orders, many on his first day in office. Two such executive orders were related to mask-wearing during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
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One order requires the public to wear masks during domestic interstate travel, and the other mandates people to wear masks on federal property. The latter mandates physical distancing, mask-wearing, and other public health measures on all 640 million acres of federal land that covers approximately 28% of the US. The order also has a provision for the establishment of a new “safer federal workforce” task force, led by the White House COVID-19 response coordinator, the director of the Office of Personnel Management, and the administrator of the General Services Administration.
The second order requires the public and all federal contractors and employees to wear a mask on all federal lands and inside executive branch buildings. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB), in its guidance related to the mask mandate by Biden, said, “As a general principle, every effort will be made to maximize the use of remote work during widespread community transmission. Unless it is physically impossible or poses a threat to critical national security interests, generally speaking, occupancy in federal workplaces should be no more than 25% of normal capacity during periods of significant or high community transmission.”
The OMB also said that all federal contractors and employees must wear a mask that covers the nose and mouth, and face shields can’t be used as a substitute for face masks. Employees and contractors must wear a mask inside any shared workspace or common area, including cube embankments, conference rooms, and open office spaces. The OMB added that if agencies have funding available, they can buy masks to give to visitors or staff.
POTUS Joe Biden’s mask-wearing mandates may be the beginning of many more aggressive measures to come that are necessary to contain the COVID-19 pandemic in the US.