The Pentagon announced on Wednesday that masks will be mandated indoors at Defense Department installations in areas with substantial or high community transmission of COVID-19, regardless of vaccination status.
Service members, civilian workers, contractors, and visitors must wear masks indoors at military installations and other facilities “owned, leased, or otherwise controlled” by the Pentagon in areas where COVID-19 transmission is “substantial” or “high,” according to a statement from Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary Jamal Brown.
The decision follows the latest mask-wearing guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which moved to say that fully vaccinated individuals should wear masks indoors in some areas, citing new research into outbreaks from several states and other countries.
A memo from Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks states also says that those who have not yet been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, the disease caused by the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus must practice social distancing.
It comes after CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky told reporters on Tuesday research indicates that “on rare occasions, some vaccinated people infected with the Delta variant after vaccination may be contagious and spread the virus to others.”
Fully vaccinated individuals who contract the Delta variant may have the same viral load as people who are unvaccinated, Walensky said, noting that the variant can be transmitted by vaccinated people.
“This new science is worrisome and warrants an update to our recommendations,” Walensky said at the time.
“All defense personnel should continue to comply with CDC guidance regarding areas where masks should be worn. The Department will review and revise all applicable Force Health Protection guidance to address the new CDC guidelines,” Brown wrote in his statement on Wednesday.
The mask mandate announcement comes as the Navy said that two sailors had died from COVID-19 complications in the past week. Capt. Corby Ropp, 48, of Swansboro, N.C., died on July 23, and Navy Reserve Master-at-Arms 1st Class Allen Hillman, 47, of Boise, Idaho, died July 26. Their vaccination status is unknown.
According to the Pentagon, a total of 28 service members have died of the CCP virus since the start of the pandemic.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the White House, and the House of Representatives have also mandated that all staff again wear masks indoors following the CDC recommendations.
President Joe Biden, meanwhile, has said that the White House is considering mandating the COVID-19 vaccine for all federal workers. He is set to deliver his remarks on COVID-19 at the White House on Thursday afternoon.