A mask mandate is in effect again in D.C. amid a troubling rise in COVID-19 cases and new information on the spread of the delta variant.
Masks must be worn indoors, even by people who are fully vaccinated, as of early Saturday, July 31. The rule applies to everyone over age 2.
But there are some exceptions, a D.C. health department official explained to News4 on Monday. Here’s a rundown of guidance from Senior Deputy Director Patrick Ashley:
Office: If you’re in the office alone, you don’t need a mask. But if you’re with others, you do — even if you’re socially distanced.
Gym: You have to wear a mask, even when exercising.
Restaurants: Masks must be worn except when eating or drinking.
While Performing or Speaking Before a Crowd: Singers can take off their masks at live concerts if they are six feet from others, as can members of clergy who are speaking at services.
Enforcement by Businesses: Businesses can refuse to serve customers who violate the mask mandate. But many businesses, including big box stores, refused to make employees enforce the prior mask mandate because of concerns about confrontations and worker safety.
There’s no timeline yet on how long the restrictions will last or if more could be added.
Ashley said the rules are necessary and hopefully will encourage more people to get vaccinated.
“It’s important for us to take this aggressive action to control the spike in cases,” he said.
The more people that are vaccinated against the virus, the sooner we can hopefully get rid of masks, Ashley added. About 1,000 people a day are getting vaccinated in D.C.
D.C. health officials are aiming to get out ahead of the delta variant. While D.C.’s vaccination rate is relatively high, the number of new cases has spiked five-fold in a month and the number of breakthrough cases is rising. Virus rates have particularly increased for children age 5 to 14, young adults age 20 to 34 and African Americans, Health Director Dr. LaQuandra Nesbitt said last week.
Many new cases have been linked to travel, dining out and social activities in large groups, Nesbitt said.
Bowser and local health officials announced the changes in D.C. a day after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention flagged “substantial” community transmission in the District and recommended masks indoors regardless of vaccination status.