Facebook on Monday announced it would require all US employees to wear masks on the company’s office campuses, even if they’re fully vaccinated against COVID-19, CNBC first reported.
The new policy will start on Wednesday and remain until further notice. “The health and safety of our employees and neighbors in the community remains our top priority,” a spokeswoman for the company said in a statement to CNBC.
“Given the rising numbers of COVID cases, the newest data on COVID variants, and an increasing number of local requirements, we are reinstating our mask requirement in all of Facebook’s U.S. offices, regardless of an employee’s vaccination status,” the spokeswoman said.
The mask policy comes the week after the social-media giant announced that staff coming into US offices must be fully vaccinated.
Dr. Francis Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health, said on Sunday that “masks are the best thing we’ve got right now” to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in schools as students are gearing up to return to class.
Children younger than 12 years old aren’t currently approved to receive any of the COVID-19 vaccines. In its guidance for K-12 schools, the CDC emphasizes the importance of encouraging vaccinations among eligible student populations, in addition to “other prevention strategies” like social distancing and wearing masks indoors.
“When it is not possible to maintain a physical distance of at least 3 feet … it is especially important to layer multiple other prevention strategies, such as indoor masking,” the agency said.
“I know people are frustrated, and it’s gotten very political, and people are looking for someone to blame. Just put all that aside and look at the facts,” Collins said on “Fox News Sunday.” “If Delta is as contagious as we now know it is, and we want to try to put an end to what is a very significant uptick right now, wearing masks, if you’re under 12 and can’t be vaccinated when you’re in school, is a really smart thing to do.”
“If we are going to be able to continue, whether in business or in school, to do things that we really value, putting the mask on is the best way to ensure that things don’t get worse,” Collins said. “So it seems like a sacrifice worth making.”
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the White House’s chief medical advisor, warned Sunday that “things will get worse” with “pain and suffering ahead” in the current surge in COVID-19 cases in the US, primarily driven by the Delta variant.
“Are we headed towards a period once again where we’re going to see lockdowns, businesses shut down, masks routine for everybody, or is this potentially just a temporary setback?,” ABC’s Jon Karl asked Fauci on Sunday morning.
“Jon, I don’t think we’re going to see lockdowns. I think we have enough of the percentage of people in the country, not enough to crush the outbreak, but I believe enough to allow us to not get into the situation we were in last winter,” Fauci said. “But things are going to get worse. If you look at the numbers, the seven-day average has gone up substantially.”
Fauci added that “we are seeing an outbreak of the unvaccinated,” highlighting the efficacy of vaccines against COVID-19 illness.
“We’re looking not towards lockdown, but we’re looking towards some pain and suffering in the future because we’re seeing the cases go up, which is why we’re saying over and over again that the solution to this is to get vaccinated, and this would not be happening,” Fauci said.
Nationwide, COVID-19 cases have risen by 148%, hospitalizations by 73%, and deaths by 13% over the past 14 days, according to a New York Times database, primarily driven by the contagious Delta variant.
Currently, 44 US states and the District of Columbia have substantial or high COVID-19 spread, according to CDC data, are thus subject to the CDC’s guidance for fully vaccinated people to wear masks indoors.
The Delta surge is hitting communities with the lowest vaccination rates the hardest, spurring new, urgent efforts to get reluctant Americans vaccinated.
With the Delta variant of the coronavirus surging in the US, the Office of the Attending Physician announced this week that masks would once again be required when visiting the House of Representatives. The notice followed recent Centers for Disease Control guidance that even vaccinated people should resume wearing masks indoors in certain circumstances because they may transmit the Delta variant.
On Capitol Hill, the move prompted partisan debate, with Democrats and Republicans firing insults at each other over the reinstated mandates.
As lawmakers duke it out, Insider wants to hear from the thousands of staff who work for them about how their offices are handling the latest surge of COVID-19 – and whether they feel safe working in Congress or their district office. We’ll keep you anonymous.
What are your office’s COVID-19 policies and procedures? How have they changed due to the Delta variant? How are the protocols being communicated in your office? How do you feel about the changing policies?
If you have a copy, send a picture or screenshot. (If your office doesn’t have any rules, that’s worth telling us too.)
Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or message us on Signal at 1-202-567-7343.
We’re also interested in hearing about the following if you have information:
Does your office require you to be vaccinated? If so, do they verify?
Is your office or committee complying with the newly-reinstated House mask mandate and CDC recommendations? Yes, or no?
Have there been COVID-19 outbreaks among staffers in the last two weeks? Have you or others had to quarantine because of potential exposure?
Is your office making it mandatory to work in person? Is your office mandating masks?
Do you agree with the new mask guidelines in the House? Why or why not?
Insider is committed to covering Capitol Hill as a workplace and telling the stories of the employees who work there, including on the burnout and low salaries staffers face. Here are some examples:
But one of the US’ leading retail unions says the new guidelines don’t do enough to protect store workers, and say masks should be mandatory again.
“A national mask mandate is the only way we can finally take control of this virus and every retail CEO in the country must recognize that now is the time for all of us to mask up so we can keep our economy open and communities safe,” UFCW international president Marc Perrone said in a statement shared with Insider.
Insider asked leading retailers in the US including Costco, Target, Walmart, Best Buy, and Home Depot whether they were updating their mask policies, but did not immediately hear back.
The UFCW represents 1.3 million retail workers in the US. It said that 878 of its members had died of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic.
Mandatory masks would help prevent workers from playing “vaccination police,” enforcing different rules in different states, he said.
“Urgent action is needed from states and retailers to strengthen COVID safety enforcement so the burden doesn’t fall on the shoulders or essential workers already stretched thin,” he said.
Some vaccinated Americans, though, have already been told to mask up again.
Amid a rise in COVID-19 cases fueled by the Delta variant, at least six cities have issued new mask guidance in the last few weeks. Los Angeles and St. Louis have instated official mask mandates for all residents, while New Orleans, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Seattle have recommended masks.
Some cities have also reissued mask mandates for specific indoor settings. Clark County, Nevada – which includes Las Vegas – began requiring masks in court facilities last week. Public schools in Atlanta, Chicago, and New York City will require students and staff to wear masks this school year, regardless of their vaccination status. And in Hawaii, the government is waiting until more residents are vaccinated before lifting its indoor mask mandate.
Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told Fox News that these local mask requirements are “quite understandable” given Delta’s prevalence in the US.
CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said on Tuesday that vaccinated people infected with Delta may be contagious and spread the virus to others. Data on previous variants indicated that vaccinated people were less likely to transmit the virus than unvaccinated people.
At least 6 cities have issued new mask guidance
The San Francisco Bay Area was among the first places to buck the no-mask trend in July. Several Bay Area counties, including San Francisco County, began recommending masks for all people – vaccinated or not – in indoor spaces like theaters, grocery stores, and retail stores starting July 16. In nearby San Mateo County, masks are now required, even for fully vaccinated people, inside county offices, clinics, and public facilities.
Los Angeles County also reinstated its indoor mask mandate on July 18 following a sharp uptick in cases. Average daily cases more than doubled there in the first two weeks of July, then tripled by the third week.
In New Orleans, health officials issued a “mask advisory” instead of a mandate. The city’s “inadequate vaccination rate” was part of the reason for that rule, they said. New Orleans has the second-highest vaccination rate in Louisiana – around 57% of residents have received at least one dose – but cases have still increased 10-fold there since the start of July.
On Thursday, Philadelphia also “strongly recommended” that all residents wear masks inside public places. James Garrow, a spokesperson for the city’s health department, told The Philadelphia Inquirer that officials were concerned about an uptick in COVID-19 hospitalizations among the city’s unvaccinated children.
King County, Washington, which includes Seattle, followed suit with a similar recommendation on Friday. Health officials now advise that all residents ages 5 and up wear masks in indoor public settings – despite the fact that King County is one of the most vaccinated counties in the US. (Around 72% of residents have received at least one dose.)
“This extra layer of protection will help us all stay safer, including those who are unvaccinated, such as the 300,000 children in King County who aren’t able to get vaccinated yet, and the many thousands of people who have immune systems that are weakened or suppressed,” the county said in a statement.
St. Louis County, Missouri, took a firmer stance on Monday by requiring vaccinated people ages 5 and older wear masks on public transportation and in all indoor public spaces. The mandate doesn’t apply to people eating or drinking in restaurants or bars, though.
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey warned two school districts this week that requiring unvaccinated students to quarantine after exposure to COVID-19 is against state law.
In a letter to two superintendents on Wednesday, Ducey said the districts’ policy to mandate a 10-day quarantine for unvaccinated students who come into contact with the virus goes against a state law that prohibits schools from requiring vaccines or face masks among students.
The Republican governor’s office tweeted a copy of the letter that was sent to the Catalina Foothills Unified School District No. 16 in Pima County and the Peoria Unified School District No. 11 in Maricopa County, after the districts released guidance for parents in preparation for the impending school year.
Ducey said the policy “must be rescinded immediately” in order for all students’ education to align with the law.
But lawyers for the two districts disagreed with the governor’s characterization and asked that his letter be rescinded.
In a written response obtained by KTAR News, the attorneys argue that both districts are in full compliance with the Arizona law that forbids mask and vaccine mandates, as neither district has a mask or vaccine requirement in place.
Instead, the 10-day quarantine rule for unvaccinated students comes directly from state health and federal CDC guidance.
Arizona’s health department previously issued guidance suggesting that a person who has close contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19 should quarantine for 14 days from their last exposure. The guidance notes that some individuals, including those who have been vaccinated, are eligible for shortened quarantine or no quarantine at all.
Nothing in the state’s law “restricts a school district from following guidance provided by federal, state, and local public health authorities with regard to students who have been exposed to COVID-19,” attorney John C. Richardson wrote in the response letter.
Both the Arizona Department of Education State Superintendent and the Arizona School Boards Association slammed Ducey’s letter.
“I am tired of Arizona’s public schools being a leverage point for the Governor’s political conversation on COVID-19 that growingly has nothing to do with science or public health,” State Superintendent Kathy Hoffman tweeted.
A representative for Ducey did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.
Students attending schools in both districts head back to the classroom in less than a month.
In the UK, July 19 is being hailed as “freedom day.”
The country has maintained pandemic restrictions over the last few months such as social distancing, wearing face masks on transport, eateries, and shops, and working from home.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is set to lift these measures on Monday, meaning pubs and clubs will reopen, and the wearing of face masks will no longer be compulsory.
But with coronavirus infections high and rising in the UK, companies are issuing their own mandates on coronavirus safety as white-collar workers return to the office.
Goldman Sachs told London staff on Thursday that the wearing of masks will be mandatory “at all times” at its European headquarters, except for when staff are sitting at their desks.
Social distancing measures will also remain, as will the bank’s on-site testing program.
The bank has not specified for how long.
Insider obtained a copy of the internal memo sent to all staff by Richard Gnodde, the CEO of Goldman Sachs international on July 15.
The memo was sent the day after an official visit by Prince Charles to the bank’s London office. The royal met summer interns, banking analysts, and executives.
Gnodde later told the BBC that the bank expects 70% of staff to have returned to the physical office over the next few months. But the bank will not insist on staff being fully vaccinated, or force them back if they feel uncomfortable.
Goldman Sachs invested £1 billion ($1.4 billion) when it opened its European headquarters on Plumtree Court in 2019. The 10-story offices come equipped with a creche and lactation pumps for breastfeeding mothers. At its peak capacity, it housed 6,000 staff.
Read the memo in full:
15 July 2021
UK Reopening: What This Means For Return to Office
As you will be aware, from Monday, 19 July, the UK government will be lifting all restrictions on social contact, including removing the guidance to work from home. This follows the positive progression of the vaccination rollout amongst the broader population.
However, the government has advised caution and a gradual return over the coming weeks. Therefore, in light of this guidance and the current levels of external community infection, the existing in-office health and safety measures will remain unchanged for now.
These include the wearing of masks at all times, apart from when seated at your desk, social distancing, and participation in the on-site testing programme, which has proved a critical safety measure in identifying non-presenting cases of COVID-19. Encouragingly, through our contact tracing process, we have not seen any cases of COVID-19 spreading within our office so far.
On a related note, thank you to all who participated in our second London vaccination survey; nearly three-quarters of you responded which has been helpful for us in understanding the vaccination uptake of our UK population. Of those that responded, the vast majority have received one dose and nearly half are fully vaccinated, showing a significant upward trajectory since our first survey in June and positive outlook for overall vaccination levels in the weeks ahead.
This has been a long and tough journey, but the resilience you have shown throughout has been outstanding. We will continue to monitor local case rates and public health safety guidance, and will update our in-office protocols as and when appropriate.
In the meantime, I hope you all manage to take some time this summer for some much-deserved rest.
A man who’s suing seven airlines and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) over mandatory mask-wearing on flights has taken his case directly to the Supreme Court.
Lucas Wall has asked the Supreme Court to issue a preliminary injunction against the CDC to put an end to the federal mask mandate, which has been extended through September 13.
Wall, of Washington, DC, last month filed a pair of lawsuits against the CDC and seven airlines over the mandate, arguing that it discriminated against people who couldn’t wear masks because of medical conditions. Wall said he’s been grounded because he can’t wear a mask due to an anxiety disorder.
Wall said in his 99-page Supreme Court application: “I respectfully ask for relief no later than Friday, July 16, because I have a flight booked to Germany on Saturday, July 17, to visit my brother and his wife.”
Wall hasn’t yet exhausted his appeals in the lower courts. With his emergency application to the Supreme Court, he is attempting side-step the formal process, legal scholars said.
Elliot E. Slotnick, professor emeritus at The Ohio State University, said: “Such applications are both rare and rarely accepted, likely only in a case where irreparable harm could occur through not acting immediately.”
It was unclear if Wall – who has been stuck in his mother’s retirement community in The Villages, Florida, and listed $769.89 in flight-related costs – would meet the threshold for “irreparable harm.”
Legal experts who reviewed Wall’s Supreme Court application this week said his airline costs likely wouldn’t meet that standard.
Joseph F. Kobylka, chair of political science at Southern Methodist University, said the court would be more likely to take up Wall’s emergency application if a broad group of Americans were in situations similar to Wall’s. Otherwise, he doubted it would get traction, he said.
However, he added: “I also said that the court would never take Bush v. Gore.”
Wall’s earlier lawsuits were filed in US District Court in Orlando, in the 11th Circuit, so his application would be sent directly to Justice Clarence Thomas, one of the anchors of the court’s conservative wing. Thomas would then decide whether to bring the application to the full court.
Nicole Huberfeld, professor of law, policy, and management at Boston University, said: “It is doubtful he would have a sympathetic ear in Justice Thomas, even though Thomas has long wanted to limit congressional authority over commerce.”
Wall, meanwhile, said in a phone interview that he felt his arguments were strong.
“No one is a wise enough to predict what the Supreme Court will do on any given issue,” he said.
However, he added: “If the Supreme Court denies preliminary injunction, then that’s the end of the road for that avenue.”
Emergency requests to the Supreme Court like Wall’s have become more frequent during the pandemic, creating what some scholars have called a “shadow docket,” Huberfeld said.
She said legal scholars have been studying the shift, which included pandemic-era requests over whether churches and businesses should have been closed during the spread of COVID-19.