ARCHIVE: Mask Requirements Updated for FSIS Employees
This story is an archived copy and may not reflect the most up to date information. Please visit the Employee section of our site for the latest employee information.
Since the introduction of the COVID-19 vaccines earlier this year, the U.S. had seen a steady decrease in cases of COVID-19. However, unfortunately, we have seen that trend change in the last few weeks as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations rise again, fueled by the Delta variant of the coronavirus which is highly transmissible and has become the leading cause of cases nationwide. “This increase has been especially prevalent in areas of the country with low vaccination rates,” said Kis Robertson Hale, Chief Public Health Veterinarian and Deputy Assistant Administrator for the Office of Public Health Science. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced last week Interim Public Health Recommendations for Fully Vaccinated People in response to this increase in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. The CDC guidance recommends that fully vaccinated people wear a mask in public indoor settings in areas of “substantial” or “high” transmission.
Due to the highly dispersed nature of the FSIS workforce, FSIS is making a uniform change to face mask requirements for all FSIS field and headquarters employees. Said Todd Reed, Chief Operating Officer, “All FSIS employees are now required to wear a mask in Federal buildings, regulated establishments, retail facilities for official business, and government owned or leased vehicles regardless of location of the office and vaccination status of the employee. Face masks may only be removed while eating or if employees are alone in an FSIS office or vehicle.”
FSIS is also issued guidance to all USDA-regulated establishments yesterday, August 4, notifying them that the following measures are effective August 9:
- Federally regulated establishments are expected to follow the latest CDC guidance. Establishment employees and contractors are expected to wear masks, regardless of vaccination status, when IPP are present, if located in an area of “substantial” or “high” community COVID-19 transmission. Managers and employees are to use the CDC COVID Data Tracker, which is updated daily, to determine whether they are located in one of these areas.
- Establishments are expected to follow the CDC guidance by August 9, 2021. If the establishment does not meet these expectations, FSIS may take additional measures to reduce COVID-19 exposure to FSIS personnel.
These measures come as a response to a national increase in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations due to the highly transmissible Delta variant and align with FSIS Directive 4791.5 Hazard Communication Program. For FSIS employees working in privately owned establishments, the Agency does not have authority to abate hazardous conditions directly. However, the Agency is required to provide employees with safe and healthy working conditions as part of the overall inspection process. Means used by the Agency to reduce exposure to hazardous work conditions include administrative controls and removing employees (including withdrawing inspection program personnel (IPP)) from unsafe conditions as necessary for protection.
Please remember that all three of the COVID-19 vaccines available in the U.S. remain effective against serious infection or death from COVID-19. We encourage you to promote vaccination among your employees and associates. It is the best way to protect yourself, your loved ones, and your community from the Delta variant of COVID-19.
Given the Delta variant’s high levels of transmission, vaccination is going to become even more important to combat it and make sure that we don’t slide backwards in our efforts to end this pandemic. “If you have not yet been vaccinated against COVID-19, now is the time to take action to protect yourself and your community!” said Robertson Hale. “I can’t stress enough: getting the COVID-19 vaccine is the most important thing you can do to help stop the spread of the virus and end this pandemic.