Washington, DC, will lift its mandate for interior masks for most venues effective November 22, Mayor Muriel bowserMuriel BowserGreene Granted Permission to Enter the ‘Patriot Wing’ of DC Jail to Visit the Jan 6 Defendants Bowser Running for a Third Term as Mayor of DC Equilibrium / Sustainability – Presented by Southern Company – How the Martian biofuel could carry MORE humans (D) announced on Tuesday.
The mask mandate in most indoor locations, which was one of the strictest left in the country, has been in place since July, when the delta variant of the coronavirus began to spread rapidly across the US.
“This does not mean that … everyone should stop wearing their mask, but it does mean that we are changing the government’s response to provide you with this risk-based information and recommend layering strategies as the best way to protect yourself and the community. community, ”Bowser said during a press conference.
Masks will continue to be required in schools and on public transportation, as well as in group housing facilities and DC government facilities with public-facing functions, Bowser said. Private companies may also establish their own mandates.
Bowser said vaccines work to prevent serious illness and hospitalizations, and DC residents will be able to assess their own risks and make their own decisions about wearing masks.
City officials did not indicate whether there were specific metrics that led to the decision to lift the mask’s mandate, saying only that vaccination efforts have been successful. Officials also did not provide a direct answer on whether it would ever be necessary to reinstate the mandate.
DC Health Department Director LaQuandra Nesbitt said the agency is tracking changes in the virus and will keep the public informed if changes to mitigation strategies are necessary.
Neighboring Montgomery County in Maryland, which has a higher vaccination rate than DC, recently lifted its indoor mask mandate, based on case metrics and a lower level of community transmission. But the levels rose almost immediately, reactivating the mandate.
The number of cases in DC has been stagnant for at least a week, remaining between 80 and 90 cases per week for every 100,000 residents. But Bowser said the vaccines keep these infections relatively mild, meaning those vaccinated will not be hospitalized.
“Despite the increase that we are seeing in emerging infections … we have not seen an increase in the number or proportion of fully vaccinated people who are hospitalized,” Nesbitt said. “Nearly 100 percent of COVID-19 related hospitalizations have occurred in unvaccinated people.”
Nesbitt said DC is moving toward viewing COVID-19 as endemic, where it looks more like the flu; a virus that exists, but with a risk that is managed and with which people live every day.
The city is changing its public reporting and tracking metrics so that people can better understand their own risks and community risks, as well as the long-term strategy for COVID-19, Nesbitt said. That means that some of the panels will change to better reflect that view.
For example, testability and test response times haven’t changed in months, so it’s not helpful for people to “notice” that, Nesbitt said. The idea is to help the public separate the metrics that are important and influence city policies from those that are not.
Nesbitt said it’s also more helpful at this stage to report the percentage of new cases that are hospitalized, rather than the percentage of all hospitalizations that have COVID-19. That can help people better assess their own individual risk.
The public largely doesn’t track the day-to-day minutiae of how the city deals with the flu, and Nesbitt said he wants to start moving in that direction with COVID-19.
Bowser acknowledged that cases are likely to increase in DC during the winter, as in other parts of the country. But the vaccines help and will keep hospitalizations low, he said.
Updated at 1:20 pm