USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) on Tuesday updated its mask policy, no longer requiring establishments to mandate the use of masks in accordance with broader mask-related policy from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

CDC last week issued new guidance on when masks should be worn indoors. This was done through an update to CDC’s framework for determining COVID-19 transmission at a community (county) level. CDC is now classifying counties in “high,” “medium,” or “low” categories using metrics such as new COVID-19 admissions per 100,000 population in the previous seven days, the percentage of staffed inpatient beds occupied by COVID-19 patients, and the total new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 population in the previous seven days.

In terms of masking, CDC now recommends that only individuals in “high” transmission counties wear a mask indoors in public, regardless of vaccination status.

In turn, FSIS updated its policy to conform to CDC’s guidance and formally rescinded an order issued last August that stated establishments were subject to suspension or withdrawal of inspection services if employees failed to wear masks.

“As of the issuance of this notice,” FSIS said this week of the policy change, “inspection program personnel (IPP) are to be aware that official establishments are no longer subject to suspension or withdrawal of inspection services for failure to require employees to wear masks when IPP are present in the facility.”

That said, FSIS personnel are to continue to follow previous mask requirements if located in parts of the facility where additional personal protective equipment is required.

USDA’s notice on the mask policy change can be found here. County transmission levels can be found here and information is updated weekly. USDA’s COVID-19 Workplace Safety Plan can be found here.