Mayor Issues Mask Mandate Effective Immediately

Situational Update Report: July 22

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DC Health Director LaQuandra Nesbitt reported that COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are up among people under 40. Screenshot: Facebook Live/@Mayor Bowser

Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) issued an order requiring residents wear masks when leaving home. Under the order, residents are required to wear masks at all times outside of their homes, including while waiting for a bus, ordering food at a restaurant, or working in an open-air cubicle, among other activities. 

“Persons leaving their residences shall wear a mask when they are likely to come into contact with another person, such as being within six feet of another person for more than a fleeting time,” reads the order. “Fleeting” remains undefined, but Bowser said that even people walking their dogs should wear masks because they cannot be sure they will be able to maintain social distance.

Exceptions to the mask-wearing mandate include people under the age of 3, those “vigorously” exercising, people actively eating or drinking and those working alone in a closed office space. The new guidance comes amid “upward ticks” in cases and other COVID-19 metrics, Bowser said. The District reported 102 new cases as of July 21 and no new deaths.

The order was officially issued around 2 p.m. Wednesday, July 22 and is effective immediately. According to the text of the Mayor’s Order, persons found to be in violation of the order are subject to fines of up to $1,000) per violation.

The order provides for enforcement exceptions for on-duty employees of the judicial or legislative branches of the District government and for any on-duty employees of the federal government.

Responding to concerns that Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) officers are not wearing masks, Bowser said MPD Chief Peter Newsham is issuing guidance that will “emphasize” mask wearing among officers.

Bowser said she will issue a separate Mayor’s Order extending the state of emergency, which is set to expire this Friday.

Rise in Transmission

Based on contact tracing interviews, Bowser said a rise in transmission among younger residents is due in part to non-essential behavior among this demographic, including vacationing to COVID-19 hotspots, travelling to beaches along the Atlantic Coast and participating in sports tournaments outside the District. Regardless of age, Bowser said people who get tested should quarantine as they await their results. 

In line with national trends, COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations among people under 40 are rising. Between July 1 and July 20, 66 percent of cases were people under 40, as compared to 41 percent of cases prior to July 1. Additionally, the percentage of hospitalized cases in people under 40 has nearly doubled since July 1.

DC Health Director LaQuandra Nesbitt said a continuation of this increase would be a “concern.” The number of positive cases among staff at long-term and medium-term care facilities is also increasing.

Although death rates are not currently rising among younger residents as rapidly as positive cases, Nesbitt said a two week lag typically exists between hospitalizations and deaths. She added that the District is also observing an increase in positivity rates among people under 14. 

“We all want to get on the other side of this virus,” Bowser said. “It is important that we remain vigilant.” 

Bowser said the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA) now has the ability to immediately issue $1,000 on-the-spot fines to businesses that violate Phase 2 guidelines. During Phase 2, ABRA has so far issued 24 verbal warnings, six written warning citations and two fines.  

Policing Updates

Bowser was among several mayors who signed a letter asking the federal government to remove unmarked federal agents from Portland, Oregon. Asked about her reaction to the federal government’s potential deployment of these agents in the District, Bowser said doing so would aggravate conflict. 

“In a time when our country is embroiled in a policing discussion, it exacerbates the tension to have unidentified police forces in cities,” she said. “That combination makes me very concerned about public safety.”

Heat Emergency

Due to the District’s ongoing heat emergency, COVID-19 testing sites will run on a modified schedule. 

Today’s open sites include: 

  • Anacostia testing site, 2241 Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue SE (8-11 a.m.)
  • Judiciary Square testing site, F Street NW between 4th and 5th streets NW (8-11 a.m.)

Residents are encouraged to call their healthcare provider if they need a test. More information about the heat emergency, including a list of cooling sites, is available here

Eva Herscowitz is a journalism student at Northwestern University currently interning with the Hill Rag. She writes for Northwestern’s student newspaper, The Daily Northwestern. You can reach her at [email protected]