Feb 15, 2022 - COVID

D.C. lawmakers criticize lifting mask and vaccine mandate

KN95 face mask
Photo: Beata Zawrzel/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Several D.C. council members are criticizing the mayor's decision to drop the indoor vaccine and mask mandate in the coming days and weeks.

Driving the news: The indoor vaccine mandate, which required some venues to check vaccine status at the door, will end today, on the same day D.C. residents were initially required to be fully vaccinated to comply with the mandate. The indoor mask mandate will be lifted on March 1.

What they're saying: At-large council member Robert White told Axios that lawmakers were "completely blindsided" by the announcement to lift mandates. He criticized the move at a time when the city's youngest children still can't be protected by a vaccine, and said frontline workers enjoyed a level of "increased safety" because of the vaccine and mask mandates.

  • "The mayor blows off the council and residents as well who just want to understand how decisions are made," said White, who is running for mayor in the Democratic primary.

Ward 1 council member Brianne Nadeau said the vaccine mandate was meant to help residents resume their daily lives.

  • “Vaccines were supposed to be the way we got out of this. Why would we give up on vaccines?” she asks. She adds that this will cause more work for businesses that choose to keep their own mandates and may discourage people who'd felt comfortable going out from patronizing businesses.

Yes, but: Despite criticism, it did not appear council members would take action to reverse the end to the mandates. When the mayor moved to lift the mask mandate just before Thanksgiving, most council members in a letter urged her not to; the mandate was lifted anyway.

  • Council chair Phil Mendelson would prefer for community spread levels to drop lower before lifting mandates, spokesperson Lindsey Walton told Axios, but Mendelson does not currently have plans for any legislation.
  • White said he didn't believe "jurisdictions are wanting to start legislating public health guidance because we have to have some level of flexibility, and the public health officials work for the mayor." He called on the mayor to share more decision-making with lawmakers and have outreach to residents.

Meanwhile, Bowser said that private businesses can continue to keep their mandates.

  • Suns Cinema owner David Cabrera confirms to Axios it will continue to maintain its vaccine and mask mandates.
  • City-State Brewing tweeted that it will keep its mask and vaccine mandate in place this week as it figures out what's next. “We've had at least one staff member out with COVID almost every day in 2022,” it said.
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