Lance Cpl. Jeremy Timms, acting desk sergeant with Security and Emergency Services Battalion, Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, responds to callers at the dispatch center on Camp Pendleton, CA in April. (Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Melissa I. Ugalde)

The Defense Department has issued a broad mandate for wearing of masks, social distancing and other pandemic protections at all facilities under its control, ranging from major bases to small posts and stations, in one of the first such directives in response to a Biden administration executive order.

“Individuals must wear masks continuously while on military installations except: (1) when an individual is alone in an office with floor-to-ceiling walls with a closed door; (2) for brief periods of time when eating and drinking while maintaining distancing in accordance with CDC guidelines and instructions from commanders and supervisors; (3) when the mask is required to be lowered briefly for identification or security purposes; and (4) when necessary to reasonably accommodate an individual with a disability,” says a memo from Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.


That applies to “any common areas or shared workspaces (including open floorplan office spaces, cubicle embankments, and conference rooms) and in outdoor shared spaces.” Further, masks must meet CDC standards, which allow for non-medical disposable masks, those with breathable but tightly woven fabric, those with two or three layers, and those with inner filter pockets.

In addition, in such areas individuals are to stay at least six feet from other people who are not from an individual’s household in both indoor and outdoor spaces. “Social distancing should be practiced in combination with other everyday preventive actions to reduce the spread ofCOVID-19, including by wearing masks, avoiding touching your face with unwashed hands, and frequently washing your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds,” it says.

Any exceptions to the general requirements must be in writing by a component head and must include “appropriate alternative safeguards whenever feasible, such as additional physical distancing measures or additional testing consistent with DoD testing protocols.” For situations outside of office settings when temporary unmasking is necessary for mission requirements, approval authority may be delegated but to no lower than the SES or military general/flag officer level.

DoD controls its own buildings and facilities while the GSA generally manages those of other agencies.

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