DC Health Director Answers Mask Questions

July 1: COVID-19 Telephone Townhall Report

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DC Health Director LaQuandra Nesbitt (L) is pictured with Mayor Muriel Bowser at the April 27 Coronavirus Situational Update in this screenshot. Screenshot: DC Granicus

Is the District considering mandating wearing masks in public?

DC Health Director LaQuandra Nesbitt said the District Department of Health continues to review guidance on mandatory versus recommended mask wearing. Citing guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), she added that residents should ensure they wear masks in places where social distancing cannot occur and people are in close proximity, including in businesses and on public transportation.

While face masks are not currently mandatory for use in public spaces, Nesbitt urged residents to wear masks in public, saying doing so “protects yourself and protects others.

Nesbitt answered questions from residents during the weekly COVID-19 Community Leader Telephone Townhall. Below are Nesbitt’s answers to several questions residents asked during the Wednesday, July 1 call. 

Should you wear a mask at the gym?

Under Phase 2, gyms are allowed to operate with strict social distancing requirements. According to the guidelines for gyms, employees and clients must wear masks while entering, exiting, or walking around the facility and when within 6 feet of other people. When exercising, clients and instructors are encouraged to wear masks, but they are not required. 

Nesbitt said individuals doing “extreme cardio” should not wear masks. She added that sweat-soaked masks may become unsafe, but emphasized that mask wearing is safe during low-impact activity.

Facilities must also accommodate space for social distancing, as well as supplies for frequent hand washing and disinfecting of equipment.

Will cooling centers remain open during heat emergencies?

Cooling centers are open, although COVID-19 has affected which sites are available. Sites used for summer meal distribution are currently unavailable for cooling, and pools and spray parks remain closed until further notice. Agencies will continue to activate available cooling centers when temperatures reach 92 degrees. A complete map of cooling centers, including locations and facility type, can be accessed here.

Nesbitt said social distancing will be enforced at the centers. Residents will be offered a mask, which they must wear. More information on cooling centers amid COVID-19 is available here

With students returning to District colleges and universities, how will DC keep cases down?

Nesbitt said DC Health has consulted with colleges and universities in the area to develop guidelines for reopening. These guidelines include types of programs and offerings, testing for students and university community members, and practices for athletics. 

The data for Wednesday, July 1, includes 25 new positive coronavirus (COVID-19) cases, bringing the District’s overall positive case total to 10,390. The District reported one additional COVID-19 related death. 554 District residents have lost their lives due to COVID-19.

Visit coronavirus.dc.gov/data for interactive data dashboards or to download COVID-19 data.

Complete and up-to-date information on Phase 2 guidelines can be found at https://coronavirus.dc.gov/page/coronavirus-data