DC Mayor Muriel Bowser Decides to Drop One of Country's Most Restrictive Mask Mandates

District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser announced Tuesday that the capital city would be dropping its indoor mask mandate, one of the most restrictive in the country, the Associated Press reported. The new guidelines, set to take effect Nov. 22, come as COVID-19 infections continue on a downward trend for the capital city.

While many indoor spaces will no longer have mask mandates, protective wear will still be required in certain settings. This includes government facilities where employees and the public directly interact, schools, libraries, public transportation, ride-share vehicles and facilities where people live in groups, such as nursing homes, dorms and jails, according to a press release from the D.C. Health Department.

Private businesses are also permitted to enact their own mask mandates, the AP reported.

"Now, I want to be very clear," Bowser said during a briefing Tuesday. "This does not mean that ... everyone needs to stop wearing their mask, but it does mean that 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."

Bowser explained during the briefing that the city would be continually monitoring the virus situation and would be prepared to reinstate the mask mandate if necessary.

"So if we need to come back to the public and say, 'We think that we need to blunt transmission,' or we see hospitalizations, or we see some other activity in the public health system, then we will come back to the public with that information. But hopefully that won't happen," Bowser said.

The D.C. Health Department said in the press release that "instead of following a blanket mandate," the updated rules would include risk-based guidance that takes current health metrics and vaccination statuses into consideration. The updated guidance will be posted on the D.C. government's coronavirus website in the coming days, the release said.

The D.C. Health Department also urged residents to get vaccinated against the virus and encouraged "all people, regardless of vaccination status, to consider their risk factors and surroundings carefully when choosing layered mitigations strategies" like wearing masks and social distancing.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

D.C. Dropping Indoor Mask Mandate
The District of Columbia will lift its indoor mask requirement starting next week as local COVID infection cases continue to trend downward. Starting Monday, November 22, masks will no longer be required in many indoor spaces. Above, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser speaks at a news conference March 15, 2021, in Washington. Andrew Harnik/AP Photo

The nation's capital originally lifted its indoor mask requirement for fully vaccinated individuals in May, but reinstated it in late July as cases began to rise again. According to Health Department statistics, the current seven-day average of new cases—the department's preferred metric—is higher than it was in May when the first mask requirement was lifted, but still well below the late-summer delta-variant peak in August and September.

Mayor Muriel Bowser has repeatedly described such requirements as a sort of thermostat-style dial that can be turned up or down based on shifting conditions.

D.C. Mask Mandate
District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser announced November 16 that the capital city would be dropping its indoor mask mandate, one of the most restrictive in the country. Above, a sign urging people to wear masks is seen in front of the U.S. Capitol as protesters rallied to demand protection for voting rights in Washington, DC, on August 28, 2021. Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images