White House, Capitol Reimpose Mask Mandates Following Updated CDC Guidance, House Threatens Fines For Unmasked Members
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) wears a cloth mask to cover her mouth and nose to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus during her weekly news conference at the U.S. Capitol April 30, 2020 in Washington, DC.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The White House and the United States Capitol have both reinstituted mask mandates in light of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) revised mask-wearing guidance. The House has also issued a “threat of fines” for Members of Congress who are caught without a mask.

“Capitol Attending Physician Brian Monahan said late Tuesday that the House of Representatives is reinstating its mask mandate – and therefore the threat of fines to members who don’t comply – following updated guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on the delta variant of the coronavirus,” Fox News reported Wednesday.

The White House also appears to be reinstituting its own mask mandate.

“A White House press representative was seen Tuesday swapping a sign saying people are required to wear masks if unvaccinated with another saying masks are required regardless of vaccination status,” Fox said.

The CDC has largely rescinded its recommendations for indoor mask mandates earlier this year, after cases of COVID-19 dropped dramatically across the country and vaccination rates inched up. On Tuesday, however, amid concerns about the disease’s Delta variant, the CDC “revised” those masking recommendations again, suggesting that individuals who live in areas with an outbreak of the Delta variant return to masking when indoors, even if they are fully vaccinated.

“We believe the vast majority of transmission is occurring in unvaccinated people and through unvaccinated people, but unlike the Alpha variant that we had back in May — where we didn’t believe that if you were vaccinated you could transmit further — this is different now, with the Delta variant, and we’re seeing now that it’s actually possible if you are a rare breakthrough infection that you can transmit further, which is the reason for the change,” said CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky.

Monahan sent a letter to House Members Tuesday night reinstituting the mandate — and the fines.

“For the Congress, representing a collection of individuals traveling weekly from various risk areas (both high and low rates of disease transmission), all individuals should wear a well-fitted, medical-grade filtration mask (for example an earloop surgical mask or a KN95 mask) when they are in an interior space,” Monahan wrote.

“To be clear, for meetings in an enclosed US House of Representatives controlled space, masks are REQUIRED,” Monahan said. “Failure to wear a mask in the Hall of the House is subject to fines imposed for violation as contained in the previous House rule.”

The only people not mandated to wear masks are those individuals who currently hold the floor or are seeking the floor.

As of late May, most Members of Congress were vaccinated against COVID-19.

“Democratic lawmakers in both chambers of Congress have a 100% vaccination rate against Covid-19, a CNN survey of Capitol Hill found this week, significantly outpacing Republicans in the House and Senate and illustrating the partisan divide over the pandemic,” CNN reported. “For Republicans, at least 44.8% of House members are vaccinated and at least 92% of senators are.”

The CDC’s decision, Fox News notes, was received with some confusion, with many, including a number of state governors, blasting the new guidelines as unscientific — particularly the new guideline recommending that all individuals in K-12 institutions mask up, regardless of vaccination status.

CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky tried to defend the guidelines in media interviews and calls on Tuesday and Wednesday.

“Information on the delta variant from several states and other countries indicate that in rare occasions, some vaccinated people infected with the delta variant after vaccination may be contagious and spread the virus to others,” Walensky said in a press conference. “This new science is worrisome and unfortunately warrants an update to our recommendations.”

Related: ‘It Isn’t Based In Science’: DeSantis’s Office Blasts CDC Over K-12 In-School Mask Guidelines

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