D.C. Mayor Muriel Bower said Thursday she will issue a directive for people ages 2 and older to wear masks indoors regardless of their vaccination status to curb rising COVID-19 infections.
The directive will go into effect at 5 a.m. Saturday, and complies with new guidance issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this week.
D.C. officials on Thursday also released an updated school guidance requiring all face coverings indoors for public, charter, private, parochial and independent schools.
Miss Bowser said the D.C.Department of Health has recommended indoor mask wearing, given the current COVID trends and cases
“We want to get ahead of it and nip it in the bud as best as we can, and we know that masks can be very effective in doing that,” she said.
Daily rates of new coronavirus cases have increased five-fold this month to 8.3 cases per 100,000 people, according to D.C. Health Director Dr. LaQuandra Nesbitt. The District has a 58.15 weekly case rate, data shows.
Higher number of new COVID cases and a greater proportion of infections are emerging among younger people, particularly youth ages 5 to 14 years and adults 20 to 34 years old, Dr. Nesbitt said.
“Now the pandemic, just as it has nationally, is skewing younger,” she said. “But I want people to be mindful that young people can get COVID-19. Children can get COVID-19 and children can be hospitalized for COVID-19. So it is not considered to be acceptable for us to take our foot off the gas because the pandemic is now skewing to the younger population.”
The COVID-19 test positivity rate has crept up to 3.6% and shifted from minimal transmission to moderate transmission.
Contact tracing data reveals that those who test positive for the coronavirus have engaged in domestic and international travel, dining out and social activities with larger gatherings, said Dr. Nesbitt.
To try and boost vaccination rates among youth, the District will offer incentives such as giveaways of $25,000 college scholarships, iPads, $51 VISA gift cards and AirPods to vaccinated D.C. residents ages 12 to 17 for a limited time.
All public schools that have students ages 12 to 17 will receive micro-grants to fund events and prizes for students who get vaccinated.
While the COVID vaccine is recommended for students 12 and older, it is not considered a required pediatric immunization for the upcoming school year, Miss Bowser said.
Dr. Nesbitt clarified officials are not requiring masks for large outdoor venues, but encourage any high risk individuals to wear face coverings in any crowded setting.