House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) announced Tuesday that rules for lawmakers and staff regarding mask-wearing will be changed, with legislators allowed to remove them while recognized to speak for the first time since late 2020.
“To be clear, members and staff must wear masks in the hall of the House at all times, except that a member may remove their mask when recognized by the chair. In addition, members presiding as chair may remove their mask when speaking,” Pelosi said.
According to The Hill, “Across the Capitol, meanwhile, there is no mask requirement in the Senate chamber. But the vast majority of senators and staff have nonetheless worn masks in compliance with health guidelines.”
The change comes shortly after President Joe Biden spoke without a mask in a socially distanced speech to a joint session of Congress with only 200 people in attendance.
Others in the audience were required to wear a mask, even though many Congress members have been vaccinated.
Pelosi’s change is much slower than other parts of the nation, however. Half of America’s states have already ended mask mandates.
The move may be largely theater at this point. With most House members vaccinated and COVID-19 numbers dropping in the U.S., fears over the spread of virus have decreased in recent weeks.
Still, Pelosi seeks to hold high requirements for safety. This is the same lawmaker who sought to institute metal detectors for House members.
Many Americans have stopped wearing a mask, but the rule will remain in the House except for when lawmakers speak during session.