Capitol ditches mask requirement ahead of State of the Union

WASHINGTON (AP) – Face coverings are now optional for President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address, set for Tuesday.

Congress is lifting its mask requirement on the House floor after federal regulators eased guidelines last week in a reflection of a dramatic decline in cases of COVID-19.

Congress’ Office of the Attending Physician announced the policy change Sunday, lifting a requirement that has been in place for much of the past two years and had become a partisan flashpoint on Capitol Hill.

The change ahead of the speech will avoid a potential disruptive display of national tensions and frustration as Biden tries to nudge the country to move beyond the pandemic.