Biden’s State of the Union Will Require Strict COVID Restrictions for Attendees

By Nick Ciolino
Nick Ciolino
Nick Ciolino
Nick Ciolino covers the White House.
February 18, 2022 Updated: February 18, 2022

President Joe Biden is putting strict coronavirus measures in place for attendees at his State of the Union address on March 1.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) in a tweet Thursday shared the rules for Congressional members who attend the upcoming speech. The rules include social distancing, showing proof of a negative COVID PCR test, and mask wearing.

“For the 2022 State of the Union, coronavirus safety measures emphasize a negative PCR test one day before the event, the wearing of a high-quality, properly fitted, medical-grade filtration mask (KN95 or N95) at all times, an attestation of a negative health screening inventory and social distancing separation of seating,” the rules read.

The guidelines also strongly recommended that attendees receive a coronavirus booster vaccine two weeks prior to the event.

The rules go for members of Congress, as well as staff, members of the media, and all other State of the Union attendees.

In his tweet, Rubio, a Republican from Florida, a state that has long been without any COVID restrictions, called the president’s requirements “#COVIDTheater rituals” adding “No thank you, maybe next time.”

The rules are not aligned with local and state requirements. Washington D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser recently moved to lift the city’s indoor vaccine mandate and announced plans to lift its mask mandate on March 1, the same day as the State of the Union which will be held in Washington.

Many of the states around the country that have had COVID-related mandates in place the longest are now also dropping those policies. The Democrat-run states of New York, Connecticut, and Delaware all recently announced they’re lifting indoor mask mandates.

However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) continues to recommend indoor mask wearing as part of its COVID-19 guidance. And White House officials have said repeatedly that the White House will continue following that guidance over local requirements.

As data is showing a decreased spread of the virus, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said this week that the CDC is “looking” at revising its COVID-19 guidance, including on masks.

Walensky said this week that COVID-19 cases have dropped off by 40 percent from the previous week, while related hospitalizations are down 28 percent and deaths decreased by 9 percent.

Biden ran on the promise that he would “shut down” the virus.

Nick Ciolino
Nick Ciolino covers the White House.