Apple ends corporate COVID mask mandate

Now will you all please return to our $5b headquarters?

Apple's corporate mask mandate has essentially ended, as the company said in an internal memo that masks will no longer be required in most locations. 

Apple's COVID response team wrote in an email to employees saying they should stay abreast of specific site requirements from Apple and local authorities, but otherwise won't be required to mask up at work. 

"We recognize that everyone's personal circumstances are different. Don't hesitate to continue wearing a face mask if you feel more comfortable doing so. Also, please respect every individual's decision to wear a mask or not," the memo said

Apple's decision to drop its mask mandate for corporate employees comes at an odd time, as coronavirus cases have been spiking in much of the US thanks to the highly-contagious, but milder in effect, BA.5 variant. 

Californians are already seeing relief from this latest wave, as numbers in the state have leveled out, data from NBC News shows. Bay Area authorities have still decided to reinstate mask mandates on public transport, beginning last week and running through the beginning of October. 

Despite public transport fears, the Bay Area is actually faring better than other regions of California, having recently dropped below the state's average for COVID infection rates after spending four months on top of charts. From late February to early July, the Mercury News reported, Bay Area infection rates were up to 50 percent higher than the rest of the state, placing the region among the most infected in the US.

Apple hasn't been immune to COVID fears either, pausing its three days a week return plan in mid-May with no plans to bring it back. Apple employees didn't take well to news that they were being told to return to the office, writing an open letter to leadership urging them to adopt more employee-friendly remote work policies.  

As of early last month it appears Apple's return-to-office plans are still on hold, but the few people working in the $5 billion Apple Park can do so a bit more comfortably until everyone else shows up. ®

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