Feb 28, 2022 - Politics & Policy

White House lifts mask mandate ahead of Biden's State of the Union

Photo of Joe Biden in a mask in a White House chamber surrounded by people

President Biden departs after a Black History Month celebration in the East Room of the White House on Feb. 28. Photo: Ting Shen/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The White House will lift its mask mandate for fully vaccinated people starting Tuesday, press secretary Jen Psaki said at a briefing Monday.

Why it matters: The move comes ahead of President Biden's first State of the Union address, which is set for Tuesday at 9pm ET, and follows the Capitol physician's guidance that masks are no longer required in the Capitol complex.

  • Unvaccinated people who visit the White House will still be required to get tested, wear masks and follow social distancing guidelines, a spokesperson said in a statement to Axios.
  • It's unclear if or how the White House will verify vaccination status.
  • A memo sent to staff noted that people might still choose to wear masks and that "[w]e must respect these choices." The White House staff is almost entirely vaccinated, according to the New York Times.
  • When asked if the White House coordinated the move with Biden's State of the Union address, Psaki said the timing was coincidental and cited D.C.'s move into the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's green low transmission zone.
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