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Capitol abandons the mask requirement in preparation for State of the Union

For President Joe Biden's State of the Union Address Tuesday, face coverings will be allowed.

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Capitol abandons the mask requirement in preparation for State of the Union

This is because Congress has lifted its requirement for a mask on the House Floor following a revision of the nation’s strategy to adapt to a COVID-19 that is more manageable.

The policy change was announced by the Office of the Attending Physician in Congress on Sunday. It removes a requirement that had been in place for most of the past two decades and has become a political flashpoint on Capitol Hill. Biden is trying to push the country towards overcoming the pandemic by avoiding a disruptive display of national tensions or frustration.

The new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention metrics have placed the nation's capital in an area that is considered low-risk. These metrics are less focused on positive test results and more on community hospitals. The new system changes the appearance of the CDC's risk map. It places more than 70% of Americans in areas where the coronavirus poses a low to medium threat to hospitals. The agency stated that masks can be thrown out of the home by healthy people living in these risk areas.

Mask-wearing is still an option in Congress. Special precautions will be taken for Biden's speech. This will, unlike last year's joint address, be open to all members. Before Biden delivers his address, all attendees will need to pass a COVID-19 exam.

Nancy Pelosi, House Speaker, announced the initial guidelines from the Office of the Sergeant at Arms earlier this month. These guidelines included a threat of a violation of guidelines for social ditancing or mask wearing during the event that would "resultin the attendee being removed." This policy reduces the fear of some Biden allies who were preparing for disruptive protests by Republicans against the policies. For violating House mask-wearing mandates, some GOP lawmakers have been fined thousands of dollars.

Biden's relaxed guidance is a result of his efforts to highlight the progress made against COVID-19 over the past year, including therapeutics, as well as guide the country into a new phase of the virus response. This new phase will not be driven by emergency measures but will look more like pre-pandemic life.

Biden's April address to Congress was his first. The number of seats for the speech was 200, which is about 20% less than the usual capacity for a presidential presentation. White House aides worried that the repeat would create a conflict with the message the president wanted to convey to the American people.

Ron Klain, White House chief of staff, said Saturday that it would look more like a normal state-of-the-union than the president's joint speech. It will be the most normal thing that Washingtonians have seen for a long time.

The Capitol move is just a day ahead of Washington's expiration on Monday of Washington's mask mandate. A host states and local governments have also begun implementing new CDC guidelines and lifting school mask-mandates indoors.

Since January's peak, case loads have fallen precipitously across the country. The omicron strain is less likely to cause death or serious illnesses than other strains, particularly in those who are vaccinated or boosted.


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