WASHINGTON - The U.S. Department of Defense announced on Thursday that all individuals on military installations as well as all individuals performing official duties on behalf of the DOD must wear face masks.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin signed the memo Thursday ordering DOD personnel to wear facial coverings in accordance with the most current U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Guidelines.
According to the new memo, all individuals must wear masks continuously while on military installations.
Some exemptions include:
- When an individual is alone in an office with floor-to-ceiling walls with a closed door
- When an individual is eating and drinking for a brief period of time while maintaining social distancing
- When masks are required to be lowered for identification
- When necessary to accommodate anyone with a disability
Austin’s memo comes after a flurry of executive orders by President Joe Biden around the COVID-19 pandemic including a requirement that Americans mask up for travel.
Biden’s mask order for travel applies to airports and planes, ships, intercity buses, trains and public transportation. Travelers from abroad must furnish a negative COVID-19 test before departing for the U.S. and must quarantine upon arrival. Biden has already mandated masks on federal property.
It marks a sharp break with the culture of President Donald Trump’s administration, under which masks were optional, and Trump made a point of going maskless and hosting big gatherings of like-minded supporters. Science has shown that masks, properly worn, cut down on coronavirus transmission.
Biden said his administration’s coronavirus decisions would be based on science, not politics.
Rct. Logan Angeles, a recruit with Mike Company, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion, receives a haircut at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, Feb. 3, 2021. Recruits received haircuts to create uniformity. Rct. Angeles is from Sacramento, CA and was re
"It is the policy of my Administration to halt the spread of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) by relying on the best available data and science-based public health measures," Biden wrote in an official decree posted to the White House website on Jan. 20, 2021.
"Put simply, masks and other public health measures reduce the spread of the disease, particularly when communities make widespread use of such measures, and thus save lives," Biden said.
A CDC report published Nov. 20 found that government mandates requiring people to wear facial coverings in public help slow the spread of COVID-19.
The findings also showed that communities without such orders can suffer a dramatic increase of new virus cases.
In early July, 2020, Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly issued an executive order requiring residents to wear masks in public spaces amid surging coronavirus cases. State law enables individual counties to opt out of the governor’s order for less stringent provisions.
Among the state’s 105 counties, 24 adhered to the mask mandate — while 81 counties did not, according to the CDC. The counties that required face coverings in public accounted for two-thirds of Kansas’ population.
At the time of the governor’s mandate in early July, new COVID-19 cases had "increased 467%" in counties that ultimately continued to follow the mask requirement. Also during this time, the counties that eventually chose to opt out of the mandate weren’t experiencing as dramatic of spread, roughly "six per 100,000" people, the CDC said.
But about six weeks later, the rate of COVID-19 spread dramatically increased — by 100% — in the counties that didn’t require masks in public places. The 24 counties that adhered to the mandate were able to control the spike in new cases previously reported, and actually saw a 6% reduction in new COVID-19 cases.
The figures were calculated as a seven-day rolling average of new daily cases per capita.
"Kansas counties that had mask mandates in place appear to have mitigated the transmission of COVID-19, whereas counties that did not have mask mandates continued to experience increases in cases," the study authors wrote.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.