D.C. May Go Back to Vaccine Mandate Just One Day After Mayor's Announcement

A Democratic councilmember in Washington, D.C., has drafted a bill to reinstate a COVID-19 vaccine requirement for indoor businesses just one day after Mayor Muriel Bowser announced that the nation's capitol will no longer enforce the rule.

Bowser's decision has gotten some criticism from both parties. Councilmember Brianne Nadeau said Tuesday that she drafted an emergency bill to reapply the vaccine requirement, and that she is seeking to call a special session in order to vote on reinstating the requirements as soon as possible.

"I plan on asking @ChmnMendelson to call a special session of the Council this week so we don't have to wait two weeks to act," Nadeau wrote on Twitter.

Nadeau's announcement comes just 24 hours after Bowser said D.C. would no longer require businesses to verify vaccination status starting on February 15.

In that announcement, the mayor noted that virus cases have dropped by more than 90 percent since the height of the latest Omicron surge, with hospitalizations falling by 95 percent.

"We are in a much better place now," Bowser said. "DC Health will maintain its advisories according to the level of spread."

Bowser also said that the district would soon be dropping its indoor mask on March 1, leaving private businesses to decide whether or not they would still like to enforce the rule. In areas that pose a greater risk for spreading the virus, such as schools, medical facilities, and public transit, masking will still be required.

The decision followed in the footsteps of several other Democratic cities including Chicago, Minneapolis, and Denver, who have moved to ease up on COVID-19 policies as virus cases continue to fall across the nation.

However, some D.C. leaders have criticized Bowser's decision for possibly coming too soon.

"As a CM, and a parent of 2 kids under 5, I am flabbergasted and angry. Why would we give up on vaccines when we have come this far? Why are we not protecting the workers in these industries? Why are we telling parents we don't care if they participate in society? I'm so F-ing mad," Nadeau wrote in response to the announcement on Monday.

Democratic Councilmember Robert C. White Jr., who is challenging Bowser in an upcoming mayoral primary, also took to Twitter to express his disappointment in ending the mandate.

"The vaccine mandate is working," he wrote. "Cases are just starting to go down and ending it now is premature. The vaccine mandate made it possible for many families, including mine, to feel a little comfort and calmed the anxiety of frontline workers and immunocompromised folks. We need responsible leadership that centers the needs of our most vulnerable residents instead of trying to score political points."

Meanwhile, some Republican members of Congress criticized Bowser's decision for being politically motivated.

"Bowser shut down & fined businesses for a vax mandate that didn't even last a month. The science didn't change, politics did," Arizona Rep. Andy Biggs tweeted Monday.

As of Tuesday, it is unclear whether or not Nadeau's emergency bill will successfully pass in the city council. Newsweek contacted Bowser's office for additional comment, but did not hear back in time for publication.

When asked by reporters whether it was premature to end the vaccine mandate and other restrictions, Bowser simply said Monday: "It's not."

"What we know is we have to be nimble," the mayor added. "I don't think any of us can say here there won't be other variants that would require us to do something different."

Washington D.C. Proof of Vaccine
On Monday, Mayor Muriel Bowser said businesses would no longer be required to check for vaccine status starting February 15, but Councilmember Brianne Nadeau is fighting that. Above, a sign requiring proof of vaccination for guests is posted outside a restaurant in downtown Washington, D.C., January 19. DANIEL SLIM/AFP/Getty Images