Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) announced that everyone over the age of 2 will be required to wear a mask indoors starting 5 a.m. Saturday, July 31 regardless of vaccination status.
Bowser made the announcement together with DC Health Director LaQuandra Nesbitt at a press conference Thursday, July 29th.
Masks will be required in all public indoor spaces.Masks will be required in gyms and retail outlets. Indoor dining will still be permitted, but diners should only remove their masks while eating or drinking.
Nesbitt said masks are not required at outdoor sites such as Audi Field or National Stadium because they are outdoor venues, but masks are encouraged in crowded settings, even those in open air.
The reimposition of the mask mandate comes in response to a five-fold increase in the District’s COVID-19 case rates, which have risen from 1.5 cases per 100,000 in early July daily rates over 8 per 100,000. Nesbitt said greatest increase in cases is attributable to young people, in particular those aged 5 to 14 and those aged 20 to 34.
Bowser said that the requirement is designed to stop the increase now before it goes too far. There are no social distancing requirements as of yet, Bowser said, but did not rule additional rollbacks out. “We feel very good about what we’ve been able to accomplish here incrushing the virus and getting people vaccinated, but we’re not a bubble in the world and so we have to we have to be prepared,” Bowser said.
Nesbitt said that one of the key drivers in the indoor mass mandate is that fully vaccinated individuals who are exposed to the Delta variant have the ability to spread the disease to other people.
Nesbitt said that the Delta variant appears to account for about 5 percent of cases in DC, but cautioned that not all samples can be sequenced for the variant. Next week labratories will begin to sequence 10 percent of all cases, which should provide more robust data, Nesbitt added.