Mayor Mellows Mask Mandate

Some call the new sometimes-off, sometimes-on District mask mandate ordered by Mayor Muriel Bowser beginning today Monday Nov. 22 a “dropping.” Others call it “on the way out.” Others call it a “mellowing.” Still others say: “finally! “What took so long!?” And, some describe the situation as “a catastrophe waiting to happen,” “too soon,” “too late,” or the mayor as a “control freak,” and the move “irresponsible.” A WTOP headline on Monday stated “DC ‘dials back’ indoor masking, largely ending its mandate.”

No one wants to call the whole thing off. But it seems people are confused. 

During the past summer and fall, the mask regulations mandated by Mayor Bowser were among the strictest in the nation: required masks indoors – even in homes with non-family members, and outdoors at crowded events. Children over the age of 3 were to wear them, always in school as well as on the playground and (supposedly) sports fields. Fines of up to $1000 were threatened. But the Mayor was adamant that no uniformed law enforcement officials would be giving out tickets or detaining anyone. Enforcement was up to the stores’ employees, schools and public establishment officials whose customers and beneficiaries might choose not to wear masks. 

Now on the week before Thanksgiving and the holiday dining and shopping season, the mask mandate is lifted. At least in stores and eateries and some public offices where there is no direct official/client contact. But masks are still required in public transportation vehicles and public offices like the DMV – no matter what the individual’s vaccination status.

“The new mandate signals a shift to risk-based guidance from current community health metrics and a person’s individual risk and vaccination status,” one DC Health Department directive announced. “I want to be very clear,” Bowser said on Friday. “The updated guidance doesn’t mean people in the District can stop wearing masks altogether. We’re shifting the government’s response to providing you this risk-based information and recommending layering strategies as the best way to protect yourself and the community.”

Fines could be imposed but by whom is unclear as are what exactly the matrixes driving the mandates may be. Businesses in D.C. have been complaining for months that the data and benchmarks are not revealed, according to a Washington Post article on Nov. 17. While D.C.’s weekly new case rate is above the 50-a-week stated by the health department as the benchmark, hospitalizations have flattened below the danger level, especially for vaccinated people and children.

Reactions to the new mandate are mixed: “My kids are used to it. I don’t think it does them any harm. They don’t complain,” Topher Matthews a Georgetown blogger told the Georgetowner.

“I hate masks. I take them off whenever I’m not directly dealing with gym customers,” said one D.C. manager who did not want to be identified. His/her customers will be free to go unmasked as of Monday however.

“I feel safe … and warm in my masks,” admitted one particularly friendly and always elegantly masked Georgetown food retailer checker. “I don’t mind either way.”


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