office worker wearing a mask (FILEOPEN CREATION/Shutterstock.com)

Workforce

CDC has guidance on masks for federal workforce

The federal government looks to be one step closer to reopening workplaces for vaccinated workers, contractors and guests without masking and distancing requirements.

The White House-led Safer Federal Workforce Task Force updated its information on mask-wearing and physical distancing to reflect recent changes from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

"In most settings, fully vaccinated people generally do not need to wear a mask or physically distance in Federal buildings or on Federal lands, except where called for by Federal, State, local tribal or territorial laws, rules and regulations," reads the updated Frequently Asked Questions on the task force's website.

The update also instructs agencies to "communicate with employee representatives and satisfy any bargaining obligations prior to implementing changes to policies regarding mask wearing and physical distancing."

People are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after the second dose of a Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or 2 weeks after the single-dose Johnson and Johnson vaccine.

Unvaccinated people will still need to mask and distance, the FAQ says.

Finally, the updates also make clear that these changes don't alter current occupancy limits or telework guidance set in an earlier OMB memo issued in January to implement Biden's executive order. That January memo encouraged agencies to maximize the use of telework and capped federal buildings at 25% of normal capacity during significant or high community transmission.

Rep. Jody Hice (R-Ga.), ranking member of the Subcommittee on Government Operations, has pointed to the change in CDC masking guidelines in his push for feds to go back to the office.

An OPM spokesperson told FCW via email that the current "maximum telework" posture is still in place.

"As a co-chair of the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force, OPM is working closely with other members of the Task Force to ensure agencies are protecting the health and safety of the Federal workforce, and updating their plans and procedures as CDC guidance evolves," the spokesperson said on Wednesday.

Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) chairman of the Government Operations subcommittee within the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, asked acting OPM Director Kathleen McGettigan on Thursday, urging her to prioritize safety in planning.

"We must ensure that administration officials are cautious and prudent when requiring federal employees and contractors to return to federal office buildings," Connolly wrote in a May 20 letter. "I believe that federal employees who need to be in offices should be allowed to return as soon as is practicable. Yet we must balance the needs of continuing government operations … with the equally important obligation to protect the health and safety of federal employees."

Reader comments

Mon, Jun 7, 2021

I'd give up my desk in new open floor plan to put 6 feet of distance between coworkers.

Mon, May 24, 2021

Been working remotely for a while now even before pandemic happened. Was going to bldg only 1x wk. I would not trust to commute for total of 2 1/2 hrs on that day and wear mask and then also wear in bldg. That is too much time to be with a mask. And it should be our choice to be vaxxed or not. Don't work with the public. Any trngs been done virtual.

Mon, May 24, 2021

really ?????? Powers to be ?????? you are going to end a system that is working for federal workers, that are working remotely, so you would rather have the federal worker commute for an hour or more to and from work, so all you people of power on your power trips, really need to just let things be, Its working and productivity is up, because no one wants to jeopardize there privilege's of working remotely.

Mon, May 24, 2021

“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”

Mon, May 24, 2021

I'm an employee over 65 years old and would not want to return to the office at least not until September. Also Telework should remain in place for a staggered work force since everyone is not vaccinated and cubicles are extremely close. I think it should be mandatory to be vaccinated unless a physician states otherwise for health reasons. Please take comment into consideration.

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