DC Now Requires Face Masks When Leaving Home, With Few Exceptions

An increased number of D.C. residents under age 40, including children, are testing positive for the virus and being hospitalized

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Face masks must be worn in Washington, D.C., whenever one leaves home with few exceptions, the mayor announced. 

Mayor Muriel Bowser signed an order Wednesday that expands the city’s mask requirements to try to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Police are authorized to issue $1,000 fines to people and businesses that violate the rules. The mayor said she did not expect many such fines to be issued.

"If you leave home, you should wear a mask,” she said at a news conference Wednesday morning. 

There are exceptions for children under 2, when someone is actively eating or drinking, when someone is vigorously exercising and not close to anyone, when someone is alone in an enclosed office and when someone is speaking for broadcast or to an audience.

Masks must be worn in the common areas of apartments, condos and coops.

During reopening phase two, inspectors have issued two fines, six written warning citations and 24 verbal warnings. 

D.C. officials also said Wednesday that an increased number of residents under age 40, including children, are testing positive for the virus and being hospitalized. The rises are not limited to people in their 20s and 30s; officials are seeing an increase in children under 14 too. 

Health Director Dr. LaQuandra Nesbitt said officials think younger people are taking more risks now that summer is here.

Staff at long-term care facilities also are testing positive at a higher rate.

After saying they had successfully blunted the infection curve in the city earlier this summer, health officials say the infection numbers have slowly crept upward, reaching triple digits on Wednesday for the first time in weeks. 

More new cases of the virus were announced Wednesday than on any single day since June 4, nearly seven weeks ago, the data shows. The city announced 102 new cases but no additional deaths. 

Since the start of the pandemic, D.C. has recorded 11,529 cases of the virus. At least 580 people with the virus have died. 

Washington entered phase 1 of its reopening plan on May 29 and entered phase 2 on June 22. Bowser said she doesn't believe that the city entered phase 2 too early and the plan was built with flexibility in mind. She hinted that smaller targeted closures and rollbacks may be coming.

“We've always said this — that we can dial up activity or we can dial back activity” she said. “We will spend some time looking at all levels of activity and seeing what we need to dial back.”

At a press briefing Monday, Bowser urged residents to keep wearing face masks, keep their distance from people outside their households and choose their activities wisely. Be “obsessive” about washing your hands, she said. 

  • Anyone over the age of 2 should wear a mask or face covering. Keep it over your nose and mouth.
  • Wash your hands often. When you do, scrub with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. As a backup, use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
  • Avoid close contact with anyone who lives outside your home. That means staying six feet away from anyone outside your circle, even if you're wearing masks.
  • Always cover coughs and sneezes.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces.

Stay with NBC Washington for more details on this developing story. 

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