DC to Reinstate Mask Mandate, Require Boosters for District Employees

Mayor Muriel Bowser will declare a state of emergency, she said at a news conference. A number of measures will be taken in D.C. to prevent illnesses, hospitalizations and deaths.

The indoor mask mandate will go into effect Tuesday, Dec. 21 at 6 a.m. and remain in effect at least through Jan. 31, the mayor said. 

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The mayor also will institute a vaccine mandate for D.C. government employees, to include booster shots. There no longer will be a test-out option.

DC Health officials tallied 844 positive cases of the virus for Thursday, the latest day for which data was available. A week ago, only about 125 people tested positive.

The entire D.C. area is seeing an uptick in COVID cases, as the omicron variant and previous variants of the virus spread.

In remarks Friday, Bowser hinted at the possible return of the District’s indoor mask mandate, saying all options were on the table to prevent illnesses and deaths.

"As we have always said through this pandemic … as it evolves, we evolve," Bowser said.

She acknowledged the omicron variant is spreading much faster than earlier variants.

"I expect that’s going to warrant some changes in course for us, around our emergency response," the mayor said.

While Bowser has previously resisted reinstating the District's mask mandate, she said it is being considered.

"Let me be clear about masks ... it is the position of the District of Columbia [that] we have a mask advisory in place from the Department of Health that says everyone should wear a mask indoors during rates of high transmission; we are in a rate of high transmission, so everyone should be wearing a mask indoors," she said.

"But that is on the table, as well as other interventions or other administrative responses that we need to be prepared for this phase of the pandemic," she said.

The District was under a mask advisory, which officials compared to a boil water advisory. 

More than 71,000 people have tested positive for COVID-19 in D.C. since the start of the pandemic, and 1,206 D.C. residents have died. 

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