DC mayor’s mask explanation still coming up short

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser fell short when she was asked about mask guidelines on Monday.

Over the weekend, the administration walked back guidelines suggesting that mask requirements would be loosened for fully vaccinated people, clarifying that you will still need to wear a mask, or be prepared to produce proof of vaccination.

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The mayor fielded a number of questions regarding the order on Monday.

"Okay, I’m going to tell everybody, got the mayor’s order to read it for themselves. That’s number one. Number two, there was an error out of my office. That’s just plain and simple. So what is correct, was posted on Saturday," she said to questions asking for further clarification.

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Monday afternoon, D.C. Health held a question and answer session over the phone for local media to provide them with that requested clarification.

On Friday, the Twitter account "Barred in DC" noted a mask mandate change that was not publically announced by the mayor’s office. 

The order said establishments "should exclude or attempt to eject" people not wearing masks except in cases where the person is fully vaccinated. Already struggling business owners voiced frustrations right away, not wanting to be put in that position of now having to potentially police whether a person is vaccinated or not. 

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The mayor’s order was changed on Friday. A D.C. health official confirmed on Monday that while the previous order required vaccination records to be checked. The corrected version just makes it an option. 

According to the order, masks are not required when people are doing things like actively eating, drinking, smoking, maintaining social distance while exercising, in the water, if you have a medial or religious exemption, or if you’re in an enclosed space where no one else is allowed inside. 

Any public transit worker or driver has to wear a mask unless it’s a fully vaccinated person working alone. Passengers have to have masks.

There are special rules for fully vaccinated DC Health is still hashing out. But one rule posted online says fully vaccinated people can resume activities after travel, without having to quarantine. 

On Monday, D.C. also announced a web portal launching where residents can access their COVID-19 records, leading to questions on whether D.C. might require vaccinations in the future – or base reopening off of vaccine metrics. 

"I think the best planning metric that we have for them is our case count, as we have said repeatedly. But we are of course following vaccination trends as well. So let me just give you a situation: I just set a metric for vaccination. That’s, you know, let’s facing, we’re creeping towards getting up to that metric. And that could be far off, I can’t really predict that. Or what if we were out there with this far-out vaccination metric and we have— you know, we’re in the green for our transmission rates? What makes the most sense? And what our public health experts say to us is regardless of if we get up to the numbers that we want to achieve heard immunity: if the transmission rates are low, then an individual’s risk of getting the virus is also low. So that is why we focus on the transmission metrics," the mayor said.