Nearly a year into the coronavirus pandemic, Americans have received national guidance on where they are required to wear face masks.
Health officials like Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading expert on infectious diseases, have long advocated for the use of face masks in public spaces since the pandemic led to widespread shutdowns last March.
While states have taken the lead on guidance in their regions, the country hasn’t received any mandates on a national level until this week.
The “100 Days Masking Challenge” was the first executive order that Biden signed after taking office.
While the action leaves the onus of local guidance to the discretion of state governments, the executive order does mandate that while in federal offices and on federal lands, individuals must wear face masks.
Jeff Zients, a counselor to Biden and coordinator of the new administration’s response to the pandemic, explained what’s covered by the action.
“This executive action will direct the agencies to take action to require compliance with CDC guidance on mask wearing and physical distancing in federal buildings, on federal lands and by federal employees and contractors,” Zients told CNN.
Zients added: “And the president will call on governors, public health officials, mayors, business leaders and others to implement masking, physical distancing and other public measures to control COVID-19.”
Biden’s COVID response coordinator added that the mandate was essential for the administration, which faces entered the White House with the task of managing an outbreak that has left over 400,000 Americans dead.
“This is not a political statement,” Zients said. “This is about the health of our families, and economic recovery of our country.”