White House lifts mask mandate for vaccinated staffers, visitors

President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris approached the Rose Garden podium for an afternoon address on the news with no masks. They embraced, maskless, as they walked away from the podium after the speech and returned to the White House.

“America has been waiting for this day for a long time,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki tweeted Thursday, along with a photo of Biden speaking maskless.

First lady Jill Biden and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), who flew to West Virginia on Thursday, disembarked from their plane without masks on, a nod to the new CDC guidelines. Actor Jennifer Garner, who greeted them, showed up wearing a mask but immediately removed hers.

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) told reporters that in a meeting with Biden and other GOP senators on Thursday, Biden and lawmakers removed their masks based on the updated CDC guidance, according to a pool report.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) took off her mask and twirled it on the Senate floor Thursday after the news of the new guidance broke.

Biden has set a goal of getting 70 percent of Americans vaccinated and returning to some normalcy by July Fourth. Thursday’s announcement marked the first time the administration has said it is safe for vaccinated people to remove masks in any kind of group gathering no matter who is present.

In recent weeks, the White House has been reopening with more staffers and journalists allowed on campus, though it has moved slowly in part to show it was taking Covid more seriously than the Trump White House, which had hosted multiple crowded events and refused to require masks.

The White House is offering vaccines to all employees through its medical unit and allows staff to take time off to get vaccinations, but that’s rare, since the shots are available on the grounds themselves.