The White House Just Issued This New Face Mask Policy

President Joe Biden's first executive order set some changes in motion for PPE requirements.

For months, major health agencies including the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO) have stressed the importance of wearing face masks to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus. And while many state and local officials across the U.S. have issued mandates for their constituencies, no federal-level orders on the use of face masks have yet been issued. But on Jan. 20, in the first executive order issued by President Joe Biden, the newest White House resident, a new face mask policy will now require them in certain places.

"The first order I'm going to be signing here relates to COVID," Biden told reporters shortly after his inauguration, looking down a stack of 15 executive orders. "It's requiring, as I said all along, where I have authority, mandating that masks be worn, social distancing be kept on federal property." Read on to see what changes the new face mask policy will bring, and before you mask up, know that If You Have This Mask, Get a New One Now, Experts Say.

The new order requires masks in all federal buildings and lands.

united states capitol building
Shutterstock/W. Scott McGill

According to CNN, Jeff Zients, a counselor for President Biden who will be the administration's COVID-19 response coordinator, said Biden's mask executive action will "require compliance with CDC guidance on mask-wearing and physical distancing in federal buildings, on federal lands, and by federal employees and contractors." And while the order doesn't apply to all public areas, officials hope that local lawmakers will follow their lead.

"The president will call on governors, public health officials, mayors, business leaders, and others to implement masking, physical distancing, and other public measures to control COVID-19," Zients said, adding "this is not a political statement. This is about the health of our families, and economic recovery of our country." And for the masks that won't help, check out The CDC Warns Against Using These 6 Face Masks.

The order is part of Biden's "100 Days Masking Challenge."

A crowd of people wearing face masks walk down a busy street in the city.
iStock

The new federal mandate is part of the Biden administration's "100 Days Masking Challenge," which had been previously outlined by the now president before he took office. The new initiative calls on all Americans to wear a mask for 100 days to help curb the spread of the coronavirus while vaccines are rolled out.

"It is important that we, in fact, the president and the vice president, we set the pattern by wearing masks," Biden said in an interview with CNN's Jake Tapper in December. "Just 100 days to mask. Not forever. One hundred days. And I think we'll see a significant reduction … If that occurs, with vaccinations and masking, to drive down the numbers considerably." And for more on what could come next in the pandemic, find out why The New CDC Director Just Issued This Very Dark COVID Warning.

Experts agree Biden's mask order could have a positive effect.

iStock

Despite face masks being deeply divisive politically, the scientific community widely agrees that the move will likely help in the long term. This is especially true as winter weather has forced more people to congregate inside, heightening the risk of spreading the virus.

"We have ongoing high levels of community transmission all over this country," Chris Beyrer, MD, a professor of epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, told NBC's Today. "With that rate of community transmission, with the infectiousness of this virus and with the weather that we're dealing with (leading to) indoor activity, that really consistent mask-wearing could have a major impact on reducing community transmission." And for more COVID news delivered right to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

But a national mask mandate is not likely.

Man wearing a cloth mask
Shutterstock

Biden's new policy will not put a national mask mandate into place, as that might be too lofty, according to Anthony Fauci, MD, who has previously expressed concern that rules that come off as too stringent could make some people less willing to don PPE.

During an interview with Kaiser Health News Editor-in-Chief E"The only reason that I shy away from making a strong recommendation in that regard is that things that come from the national level down generally engender a bit of pushback from an already reluctant populace that doesn't like to be told what to do," he explained. "So you might wind up having the countereffect of people pushing back even more." And for more on what you don't have to do to cut down your risk of contracting coronavirus, check out The One Thing You Can Stop Doing to Avoid COVID, According to Doctors.

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Zachary Mack
Zach is a freelance writer specializing in beer, wine, food, spirits, and travel. He is based in Manhattan. Read more
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