U.S. Army soldier on December 8, 2020, in Fort Drum, New York.

U.S. Army soldier on December 8, 2020, in Fort Drum, New York. Getty Images

DOD Lifts Mask Mandate for Fully Vaccinated Personnel

Fully vaccinated DOD personnel are no longer required to wear a mask at Defense Department facilities.

Defense Department personnel who are at least two weeks out from a final vaccine dose are no longer required to wear masks indoor or outdoors at DOD facilities, the Pentagon announced Friday. 

The official announcement, signed by Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks, comes just a day after the CDC updated its guidelines to say fully vaccinated people “can resume activities without wearing a mask or physically distancing,” except when required by law or regulations. It also comes shortly after reports that individual installations were starting to lift mask mandates. At the beginning of May, Defense One reported that U.S. Marines at Camp Lejeune, in North Carolina, were no longer required to wear masks inside many buildings on base if they’re fully vaccinated—including some gyms and most work facilities.

The DOD mask mandate was ordered by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin in February of this year and required anyone at any military installation worldwide to wear a mask if not inside their own home or inside an enclosed office alone, except for brief periods when eating or drinking, or to show one’s face for identification purposes. 

Now, as the Defense Department surpasses 870,000 fully vaccinated personnel, the mandate has been partially lifted. 

Per CDC regulations, those who are not fully vaccinated—including DOD’s 348,000 partially vaccinated personnel—are still required to wear masks in and around Defense Department facilities. Additionally, even fully vaccinated personnel are required to follow CDC guidance regarding where masks should be worn, such as airports. 

As has always been the case, DOD gave commanders and supervisors the authority to make exceptions to the regulation to “ensure a safe workforce.”