WASHINGTON – The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that establishments are no longer subject to suspension or withdrawal of inspection services for failure to require their employees to wear masks when FSIS inspectors are present. 

The agency cited recent COVID-19 changes in Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines on a community level.  

“The framework expands beyond cases and test positivity rates to include hospitalizations and hospital capacity as metrics to determine whether the level of COVID-19 and severe disease are low, medium, or high in a community,” the agency said. “The framework directs efforts toward protecting people at high risk for severe illness and preventing COVID-19 from overwhelming US hospitals and healthcare systems. The updated guidance recommends wearing a well-fitting mask indoors, regardless of vaccination status, only in areas experiencing a high level of COVID-19 and severe disease.” 

FSIS said it would reinstate inspection services immediately for any FSIS regulated establishment that is currently the subject of a suspension action pursuant to FSIS Notice 34-21.

“FSIS continues to recommend that FSIS-regulated establishments follow CDC guidance on the use of masks to reduce the risk of infection with COVID-19,” the agency said. “In particular, CDC recommends use of masks indoors in areas with high COVID-19 community levels.”

Employees of FSIS must continue to wear masks since there has not been a change in the USDA workplace safety plan.