WASHINGTON – Jill Biden says finally going without a mask feels like “We move forward.” Republican senator says he’s unmasked “Definitely helps the conversation flow.”
But the conversation on House floor on Friday approached snipers as lawmakers objected to the requirement to continue masquerading until all 435 of them receive all of their shots. COVID-19.
Across Washington, the government is adjusting to new federal guidelines that are relaxing when masks must be worn.
“So much for following the science,” Rep. Greg Murphy, RN.C., a urologist, said after complaining that he would have to put his mask back on after his speech in the House when he was fully immunized.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday that fully vaccinated people – those who have exceeded the last required dose of a COVID-19 vaccine for two weeks – can stop wearing masks outside in crowds and in most indoor environments. Partially vaccinated or unvaccinated people should continue to wear masks, as directed.
But on Capitol Hill, lawmakers must continue to wear masks on House floors, according to a note from the office of attending physician Dr Brian Monahan.
“The current mask requirements and other guidelines remain unchanged until all members and staff on the floor are fully immunized,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a note to fellow Democrats. “The return of the Capitol to the welcoming and safe place it has been obliges us not only to secure it physically, but also to protect it from the virus.”
Recent surveys suggest that around 1 in 4 House legislators are not fully immunized.
Lawmakers can remove their masks when in the House to make speeches, but must mask themselves after they are finished. They are, however, free to resume “Pre-pandemic activities” elsewhere in the home complex of office buildings and public spaces.
In the Senate, Republicans Susan Collins of Maine and Joni Ernst of Iowa were among the senators who were quick to remove their masks as soon as they heard the news. They were seen entering the Senate Chamber on Thursday, marveling at not having a mask on and calling, “Freedom!”
Senate leadership did not comment on the updated mask guidelines, which were drafted as Biden and a group of Republican senators discussed infrastructure in the Oval Office.
“So we all looked at each other… we took off all our masks,” Senator Shelley Moore Capito, RW.Va., told Fox News on Friday. “It was very liberating and we had a great discussion after that. We all felt great and it certainly makes the flow of the conversation easier. “
It was a much different scene on Friday at the White House.
Reporters met President Joe Biden as he made an unannounced appearance down the aisle of the White House to pose for photos with a departing staff member. When asked if he’s enjoying his first day on the job without a mask, Biden responded “Yes” as he entered the west wing.
For the first time in about a year, reporters went barefoot while interviewing White House press secretary Jen Psaki during the daily press briefing.
After the CDC guidelines were released, Psaki said, staff were immediately informed by email that they could stop wearing masks, including in meetings with Biden. Similar directives were issued to the White House Correspondents Association, which dropped its mask requirement for reporters at the scene.
Psaki said it might take a few days to put the new guidelines in place government-wide and determine whether that means additional staff – many of whom work remotely – will be allowed on the White House campus. .
“We can’t wait to get back to a normal version, but we need some time to implement it and also to go through the additional steps,” Said Psaki.
Some departments did not need time to find out.
The Pentagon announced Friday that fully vaccinated Defense Department personnel no longer need to wear masks indoors or outdoors at DOD facilities.
The updated guidelines from the Department of Health and Human Services stated “Fully vaccinated federal employees, fully vaccinated on-site contractors, and fully vaccinated visitors to federal buildings are no longer required to wear masks.”
The wearing of the mask remained in effect at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture when it reopened on Friday. Jill Biden stopped to greet staff and said the mask’s relaxed advice felt as if “Inch by inch, we are moving” against the pandemic.
The Smithsonian said it will keep mask requirements in place for anyone over 2 years old while reviewing the new guidelines.
In a House Republican caucus leadership vote, most members did not wear masks and several reporters also removed them following advice from the Capitol doctor that vaccinated people should not wear them in the hallways.