Face masks are no longer required on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives for individuals who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, the Office of the Attending Physician stated Friday.
Updated guidance issued by the office, which provides medical services to members of Congress, also said that fully vaccinated individuals no longer need to practice social distancing in most situations.
Persons not fully vaccinated against COVID-19 must continue to keep their faces covered while inside the Capitol building unless they are speaking on the floor or in a committee proceeding or alone inside their office, the physician’s office said.
“Wearing an approved, well-fitted, face covering, if unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated, is a necessity while occupying an indoor space at the Capitol,” the office said in an 18-page document it issued.
The new guidance rolls back requirements put in place last year as Congress sought to stop its members from spreading COVID-19, the highly contagious respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
Members of Congress had been required under the rules to cover their faces on the House floor and in committee meetings unless recognized to speak regardless of if they have been vaccinated against COVID-19.
Democratic leadership subsequently made breaking the face mask rule punishable by a fine of $500 for a first offense and $2,500 for subsequent instances. A number of Republicans were fined accordingly.
Congressmen who fail to wear a face mask when required may still be subject to fines, according to the updated guidance from the physician’s office.
The physician’s office said its updated guidance was issued because of both a considerable rate of vaccination on Capitol Hill as well as diminishing daily evidence of community transmission occurring.
Nonetheless, the office stressed the “pandemic is still here” and said that unvaccinated individuals remain at “significant risk” of becoming infected with COVID-19 and potentially becoming sick or dying.
Different vaccines approved in the U.S. to curb the COVID-19 pandemic are administered in either one or two doses. A person is considered fully vaccinated two weeks after receiving their final dose.
Nationwide, 64.1% of U.S. adults have received at least one COVID-19 vaccination, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. President Biden wants that number to reach 70% by July 4.
“Congressional community vaccination rates are generally much higher” than the general public but vary between offices and agencies, the Office of the Attending Physician said in its updated guidance.