All members of Congress will receive invitations to President Biden's first State of the Union address, during which the House chamber will be full for the first time since outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday put out a set of guidelines for pandemic-conscious behavior during the speech that include social distancing and mask wearing. All attendees will also be required to be virus-tested ahead of time and no guests will be invited.
"I think people are looking forward to the State of the Union," said Biden's chief of staff, Ron Klain, as he left a Senate Democrat lunch on Thursday.
Biden's first State of the Union address will take place as even Democrat-run states and local governments begin to lift COVID restrictions. Last April, during an address Biden delivered to a joint session of Congress, attendance was capped at about 200 people – just one-fifth of the typical number for such an event.
Though the rules at the Capitol are a little different, the State of the Union is set to occur on the same day that Washington, D.C.'s indoor mask mandate expires.
On Wednesday, however, Centers for Disease Control and Preventions Director Rochelle Walensky said that a revised guidance on mask usage should be expected by the end of this month – just in time for Biden's speech.
Some Republicans, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, say the latest wave of actions by Democrats in scaling back or lifting pandemic-related restrictions are transparently politically motivated.
"The only science that’s changed in the last two weeks is the political science. The only data that’s changed in the last two weeks is Democrats' polling data," he said.