President Biden signed an executive order today titled "Executive Order on Protecting the Federal Workforce and Requiring Mask-Wearing":

Accordingly, to protect the Federal workforce and individuals interacting with the Federal workforce, and to ensure the continuity of Government services and activities, on-duty or on-site Federal employees, on-site Federal contractors, and other individuals in Federal buildings and on Federal lands should all wear masks, maintain physical distance, and adhere to other public health measures, as provided in CDC guidelines.

As of January 20, which Federal buildings or lands did not have an existing mask mandate? I'm curious to understand the practical impact of this executive order.

  • 1
    The WH? Didn't Trump say he wasn't wearing masks because they looked bad on him? I mean sure, everyone around him was probably wearing one, but I guess he didn't put it into writing "everyone but me shall wear a mask". Jan 21, 2021 at 6:33
  • 1
    @Fizz seems like there was a mask mandate at the White House even if a few people were excluded. My own suspicion is that there were exactly zero Federal buildings in all of US without an existing mask mandate thus making the Executive Order of questionable impact. Jan 21, 2021 at 8:23

2 Answers 2


Prior to the executive order that mandated mask-wearing on federal buildings, mask-wearing policies varied across different agencies as there was no single mandate.

From this article by Bloomberg Law (Aug 2020):

The Trump administration has allowed individual agencies to determine how and when to un-shutter their facilities. The White House Office of Management and Budget encouraged agency leaders to review guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which has recommended face coverings.

Multiple agencies including the Office of Personnel Management, which acts as the government’s central human resources branch, have issued more detailed guidance for bringing staff back to the office, and some have encouraged or even required masks. OPM’s guidance for its own staff doesn’t require mask-wearing.

[ ... ]

Staff have their temperatures checked when entering the building, an HHS spokesperson said. The National Treasury Employees Union, which represents HHS workers, said the agency has required masks to enter or walk through the building, but not in designated workspaces.

As such, it would be difficult to answer precisely which federal buildings or lands had required mask-wearing since it was up to the discretion of each individual agency to implement mask-wearing rules and enforce them.

Furthermore, statewide mask mandates issued by governors / mayors do not cover federal buildings:

The D.C. regulations do not cover federal property, meaning the White House was technically exempt, but the fallout has left city officials scrambling over how to respond.

[ ... ]

The D.C. government is in a difficult position regarding the White House, however, because federal properties do not fall under local regulations.

President Biden's executive order institutes a blanket mandate across all federal agencies to make mask-wearing mandatory.

(a) The heads of executive departments and agencies (agencies) shall immediately take action, as appropriate and consistent with applicable law, to require compliance with CDC guidelines with respect to wearing masks, maintaining physical distance, and other public health measures by: on-duty or on-site Federal employees; on-site Federal contractors; and all persons in Federal buildings or on Federal lands.

  • Surely it would be possible to find at least one maskless agency, if such existed as of today? Would've been quite notable to see a Federal building which allowed maskless people to freely enter. Jan 21, 2021 at 5:53
  • @JonathanReez Well, federal buildings mostly consist of courthouses and post offices. I'm aware that there are guidelines in place encouraging masks before this EO, such as in most courthouses. So, you do have a point regarding the practical impact.
    – Panda
    Jan 21, 2021 at 8:53
  • 1
    Nevertheless, I'm also aware there are federal buildings that recommend masks and do not deny entry to individuals without masks. See this Post Office in Rockland (Dec 2020): The Courier-Gazette asked for the agency's policy after being told the Post Office in Rockland will not deny service to customers who refuse to wear masks.
    – Panda
    Jan 21, 2021 at 8:54
  • 1
    FWIW the Postal Service noted: U.S. Postal Service spokesman Ray Diautolo said post offices are not required to follow state orders, but the postal service has made a “voluntary decision to align with local and state ordinances” during the pandemic. That, however, brings about the issue of enforcement since federal buildings are not necessarily subjected to state law.
    – Panda
    Jan 21, 2021 at 8:55
  • Interesting! Though its unclear what exactly would change there with Bidens EO Jan 21, 2021 at 9:58

I've been looking all over the Internet for this as well as reading up news on how the EO is being implemented, but unfortunately it doesn't seem like anything whatsoever changed in practice. For example there were big news on the TSA implementing masks in all airports, but as far as I can tell every single airport in America that was big enough for a TSA checkpoint already had a mask mandate in place. Even South Dakota's airports were already mandating masks, even though the state didn't have a blanket mask mandate. Things are similar in airports located in other Republican counties.

So the answer is: no, this EO did not change anything in practice.

  • But did the TSA enforce the rules? Just because the airport implemented a mask mandate, it doesn’t mean the TSA was actually enforcing it.
    – divibisan
    Feb 4, 2021 at 2:46
  • @divibisan the TSA is not the only authority in the airport. The airports have their own employees who are capable of enforcing mask mandates. If you can find at least one airport where the mask mandate was not enforced on Jan 20th, but enforced now, I'll delete my answer. Feb 4, 2021 at 2:47
  • Downvoters care to explain? Feb 4, 2021 at 17:16
  • Your question asked "which fed buildings didn't require masks," but this self-answer you've inexplicably accepted says only "most airports already had a mask mandate" which is practically a non-sequitur. Feb 5, 2021 at 17:16

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .