Washington D.C. reinstates indoor mask mandate

People in Washington, D.C. will again have to wear masks indoors no matter whether they have been vaccinated against Covid-19 or not, the US capital city’s Mayor Muriel Bowser announced as cases were surging across the country.

Starting at 5 a.m. on Saturday, all D.C. residents over the age of two, regardless of their vaccination status, will be required to wear masks while in indoor public spaces, according to the new mandate.

“Things have changed throughout the course of (the pandemic), and we have to adapt, too,” Xinhua news agency quoted Bowser as saying at a news conference on Thursday.

“I think it won’t be a big lift for a lot of folks,” she added, noting some people in the District, which had one of the most strict mask mandates during the pandemic, had never stopped wearing a mask indoors.

Additionally, officials are working to create a vaccination requirement for D.C. government employees.

Providing an update to the District’s virus data at the news conference, D.C. Health Director LaQuandra Nesbitt cited a five-fold increase in July thus far in D.C.’s daily case rate.

Virus rates have particularly increased for children aged five to 14 and young adults age 20 to 34, according to the director, who added that many new cases have been linked to travel, dining out and social activities in large groups.

The new mask requirement came a day after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) classified the nation’s capital into the category of “substantial” Covid-19 transmission localities, up from the “medium” category.

For areas with “substantial” transmission possibilities, the CDC recommends the indoor mask mandate regardless of vaccination status.

As per the CDC metrics, “substantial” transmission occurs in any locality that reported 50 to 100 new cases per 100,000 residents over the past week, or is reporting a test positivity rate between 8 per cent and 10 per cent.

According to the CDC, D.C.’s seven-day case rate per 100,000 residents was 58.09, and the seven-day test positivity rate was 2.59 per cent.