DOD outlines new mask guidance

  • Published
  • By Christopher Warner
  • 88th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio - The Office of the Secretary of Defense issued a memorandum Feb. 4 that updates mask-use policy on military installations or while performing official duties off the installation.

The Defense Department memo is effective immediately and follows a Jan. 20 presidential executive order, “Protecting the Federal Workforce and Requiring Mask-Wearing,” which provides updated guidance on the use of face coverings and masks, physical distancing and full compliance with health directives from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“In the ever-evolving fight against COVID, the health and safety of our teammates is my No. 1 priority,” said Col. Patrick Miller, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base installation and 88th Air Base Wing commander. “As quickly as we receive vaccines, we put shots in arms based on the established Department of Defense prioritization schema. Until we reach herd immunity, though, our complementary mitigating measures are vital to sustain the health of the force.

“We are taking ground back every day. Stay in the fight, arm up and wear your mask in accordance with the new guidance.”

This new order ratchets up the base’s fight against COVID-19 to ensure military preparedness is maintained, he said.  The secretary of defense’s memorandum supersedes all previously issued guidance.

The memorandum states that all individuals on military installations and those performing official duties on behalf of DOD from any location other than home, including outdoor shared spaces, will wear masks. Masks must be in accordance with current CDC guidelines.

The memo outlines four exceptions with waiver authority residing at a level no lower than a general or flag officer, senior executive service member (or equivalent), or, for installations that do not have officials at these levels, installation commanders at the rank of colonel.

Order exceptions

Individuals must wear masks continuously while on military installations while performing official duties, except:

  1. When an individual is alone in an office with floor-to-ceiling walls with a closed door. Open-floorplan office spaces, cubicle embankments and conference rooms do not meet this exception. If you are the sole occupant or with immediate family, you do not require a mask. However, if others are in the vehicle with you on the installation, then a mask is required.
  2. For brief periods of time when eating and drinking while maintaining physical 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. This change requires mask wear upon entry to the installation. When you drive up to the gate, you should have your mask on and be prepared to lower it upon interacting with Security Forces so they can validate your face against the presented ID card.
  4. When necessary to reasonably accommodate an individual with a disability.

“Novelty or non-protective masks, masks with ventilation valves or face shields are not authorized as a substitute for masks,” the memo states. “Masks must fit properly (i.e., snugly around the nose and chin with no large gaps around the sides of the face).”

Added Miller: “I cannot wait for the day when we get to host in-person events again, and I get to see your smiling face in person. Together, we can keep gaining ground in this fight. Mask up and stay safe.”

All individuals on military installations are to continue practicing CDC-approved protective measures, such as physically distancing 6 feet apart, wearing masks at all times, washing hands with soap and water frequently throughout the day for at least 20 seconds, and not touching your face with unwashed hands, DOD officials stated.

Wright-Patterson AFB is waiting on additional guidance from higher headquarters. When that information is available, it will be shared.

The full memorandum is available at