New COVID-19 cases are on a downward trend in Washington, D.C., and city officials say they're hopeful an indoor mask mandate won't have to be extended past February.
On Wednesday, Mayor Muriel Bowser extended the mask requirement to last through Feb. 28.
All of the city's COVID-19 metrics have improved, according to data from DC Health, and health officials expressed optimism Thursday that the mask mandate could be lifted by March.
"Our surge right now has come down rapidly. That’s a really good thing. But we're not as low as we have been at other parts of time and we're still slightly higher than where we were during our highest point of time last winter," D.C. Department of Health Director Dr. Laquandra Nesbitt said.
Nesbitt and Bowser renewed their pleas for everyone to get vaccinated and to keep wearing masks for now.
Beginning Friday, D.C. residents can pick up two free KN95 masks at any of the new COVID centers across the city.
D.C. reported 371 new confirmed coronavirus cases for Wednesday, bringing the city's overall confirmed positive case total to 129,479. Two more residents, a 99-year-old woman and a 68-year-old man, died from COVID-19. So far, 1,282 people have died due to the virus in D.C.
Bowser announced Thursday $40 million in new grants was available for restaurants, entertainment venues and retail stores that are having trouble
paying rent, payroll or other operating expenses.
"The program will prioritize businesses that have not received federal relief funds and micro-businesses with less than $2.5 million in revenue," Bowser said.