- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 27, 2022

The U.S. Capitol’s attending physician said Sunday that masks can be optional in the halls of Congress, citing revised guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Dr. Brian P. Monahan advised members of the change days before President Biden delivers his State of the Union address Tuesday evening. 

He said other virus-prevention measures, including mandatory testing, will remain in effect for members attending the speech but masks will be optional.

His memo said individuals “may choose to mask at any time, but it is no longer a requirement” because Washington is in the low-risk, or “green,” category under three-tiered guidance the CDC released on Friday. 

The new guidance factors in hospital capacity alongside transmission in a given area.

Dr. Monahan said anyone who feels symptoms, tests positive or was exposed to the virus should still wear a mask.

The mask mandate has been a divisive issue on Capitol Hill, with some Republicans racking up tens of thousands of dollars in fines as majority House Democrats enforced a mandate.

Dr. Monahan’s decision will sweep away a potential distraction as Mr. Biden marks progress and challenges one year into office amid the turmoil in Ukraine.

States and cities had lifted mask mandates at a rapid clip even before the CDC updated its guidance. Many Republicans say K-12 school students should be allowed to ditch their masks and have been left behind in the rush to shed them in public indoor spaces for adults.

For more information, visit The Washington Times COVID-19 resource page.

• Tom Howell Jr. can be reached at thowell@washingtontimes.com.

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