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Mask requirements eased at Newport News Shipbuilding, and for Department of Defense employees

Unvaccinated employees and those going through the vaccination process must still wear a face covering while at work.

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — After 14 long months, there's good news for local military personnel, civilian Department of Defense employees, and workers at Newport News Shipbuilding: if you are fully vaccinated for COVID-19, you no longer have to wear a mask at work.

Huntington Ingalls Industries announced that fully vaccinated employees no longer have to wear face masks unless they live in a state that requires it. This also includes fully vaccinated workers at Newport News Shipbuilding.

Last week, Gov. Ralph Northam lifted the indoor mask mandate to align with the recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines. 

President Jennifer Boykin said in a Facebook post it is a sign that COVID-19 safety protocols and lifestyle changes are working.

"We understand some people may be uncomfortable going mask-free, and employees who are fully vaccinated can continue to wear masks if they desire," she said.

Unvaccinated employees and those going through the vaccination process must still wear a face covering while at work and are subject to discipline -- including termination -- if found to be unvaccinated and not wearing a mask.

Unvaccinated employees can remove their masks only in the following instances at the shipyard:

  • If you are not moving from one place to another and if you are 6 feet from another person.
  • When requested by security for identity verification.
  • When wearing NNS-approved respirators to perform your job.
  • When performing hot work.

HII is requiring all employees to self-report their vaccination status.

Employees can receive the vaccine through the NNS Vaccination Site at the Old Apprentice School gym through May 28, and at the HII Family Health Center after that. 

Meanwhile, the Department of Defense is no longer requiring masks at DOD facilities for fully vaccinated personnel. 

The guidance applies to everyone who is at least two weeks past receiving their final dose and covers both indoor and outdoor activities.

In a memo, Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks wrote: "All DOD personnel should continue to comply with CDC guidance regarding areas where masks should be worn, including within airports. Personnel who are not fully vaccinated should continue to follow applicable DOD mask guidance, including continuing to wear masks indoors."

The updated rules come as the Pentagon continues to urge its uniformed members and civilian workers to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

"The best incentive of course is to know you're doing the right thing by your family and your friends and your teammates," said Pentagon spokesman John Kirby. "Of course we also want everyone to get informed and educated about the vaccines to make the best decisions in concert with their medical professionals.