The nation’s capital will lift its mandate for the indoor mask in many public spaces from 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 has been on the plateau since mid-October.
DC had implemented its original mask mandate in July 2020, and then slackened on it in most places in May last year, as cases subsided, only to reinstate it again in July in the midst of the Delta rise.
During the recent move, masks will still be required regardless of a person’s vaccination status in environments such as schools, libraries and childcare facilities and in public transport. Masks will also be needed in nursing homes, dormitories, the penitentiary and some local government agencies.
Private companies may order their employees to disguise themselves while on the job, but this will not be mandatory. Boswer said gyms and places of worship can take that approach, too.
“I want to be very clear, it does not mean that people have to stop, that everyone has to stop wearing their mask, but it does mean that we are moving the government’s reaction,” Bowser said at a news conference, according to NBC Washington.
In terms of vaccinations, all health care professionals, adults working in school buildings and student-athletes ages 12 and up in DC should get their shots – with no option for test-outs, according to the DC Department of Health.
Meanwhile, all government employees in DC must be fully vaccinated or subjected to weekly testing.
Officials said that as of now, 98.5 percent of all district residents age 65 and older have received at least one dose compared to 88.6 percent of those 18 and older.
“We’re learning to live with COVID,” said DC Health Director Dr. LaQuandra Nesbitt, adding that city officials are now predicting that the virus will become endemic, meaning it will continue to spread at low levels just like the flu.
“We want to be able to help people understand a kind of long-term strategies for monitoring infectious diseases that we extract are likely to be endemic, always present in our community in the same way that the flu is,” Nesbitt said. “We are not quite back to how our behavior was before COVID.”
The mask mandate could be reinstated if case numbers develop in the wrong direction, but Bowser said no specific threshold has been set, NBC Washington reported.