D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser has received pushback from members of the D.C. Council over her decision to drop the city's mask mandate.
D.C. Health Director LaQuandra Nesbitt issued a stern recommendation Thursday that people wear face masks indoors in public settings regardless of their vaccination status, as scientists race to understand what the Omicron variant of the coronavirus could mean for the pandemic.
Still Nesbitt stopped short of reinstituting the mask mandate that Mayor Muriel Bowser lifted last month.
"Our recommendation is the same as it was two weeks ago," Nesbitt said during a news conference. "But we want people to be abundantly clear what we intend them to do."
The health director said the mask advisory aligns with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which says people should wear masks in public settings in areas where COVID-19 transmission is substantial or high.
At 68 cases per 100,000 people, the District's transmission level is considered substantial.
Bowser stopped requiring face masks at most businesses — including bars, restaurants, and gyms — on Nov. 22.
Masks are still required on public transportation, in schools, and congregate settings such as nursing homes and hospitals. Businesses may also choose to enforce their own mask requirements.
At the time, Bowser said lifting the mandate was part of a new approach the city is taking to the pandemic, where residents must assess their own vulnerability to the virus based on their vaccination status and other risk factors.
Most members of the D.C. Council co-signed a letter urging the mayor to reverse her decision. The lawmakers felt the choice to lift the mandate was premature, especially heading into the winter months and because many children only recently became eligible for the coronavirus vaccine.
Also on Thursday, Nesbitt announced the city would expand a service that allows unvaccinated residents to receive a COVID vaccine at home. Children ages 5 and older will become eligible on Dec. 6.
D.C. will also start administering vaccines for children and adults at the same locations on Monday. The city is currently operating separate vaccination clinics for children between 5 and 11-years-old.
This story is from DCist.com, the local news website of WAMU.