The nation’s capital will lift its indoor mask mandate in many public spaces beginning next week, city officials said Tuesday.
Washington, DC, Mayor Muriel Bowser announced the easing of the restriction as the district’s daily COVID-19 case counts have been plateauing since mid-October.
DC had implemented its initial mask mandate in July 2020, then relaxed it for most places this past May as cases waned, only to reinstate it again in July amid the Delta surge.
Under the latest move, masks will still continue to be required regardless of a person’s vaccination status in settings such as schools, libraries and childcare facilities and on public transportation. Masks also will be needed in nursing homes, dorms, correctional facilities and some local government agencies.
Private businesses can mandate that their employees mask up while on the job, but this won’t be legally required. Boswer said gyms and places of worship can take that approach as well.
“I want to be very clear, this does not mean that people should stop, that everyone needs to stop wearing their mask, but it does mean that we’re shifting the government’s response,” Bowser said at a press conference, according to NBC Washington.
In terms of vaccinations, all health care staffers, adults who work in school buildings and student-athletes ages 12 and up in DC must get their shots — with no test-out option available, according to the DC Department of Health.
Meanwhile, all DC government employees must be fully vaccinated or submit to weekly testing.
Officials said that as of now, 98.5 percent of all district residents 65 and older have gotten at least one dose, compared to 88.6 percent of those 18 and older.
“We’re learning to live with COVID,” DC Health Director Dr. LaQuandra Nesbitt said, adding that city officials predict the virus will become endemic, meaning it will keep spreading at low levels much like the flu.
“We want to be able to help people understand sort of the long-term strategies for monitoring infectious disease that we extract will likely be endemic, always present in our community sort of the same way that influenza is,” Nesbitt said. “We’re not completely back to how our behavior was pre-COVID.”
The mask mandate could be reinstated if case numbers trend in the wrong direction, but Bowser said there hasn’t been a specific threshold set, NBC Washington reported.