Mayor Muriel Bowser announced today that masks will be required indoors starting on Saturday for both vaccinated and unvaccinated people. The order includes the city’s bars and restaurants, where customers will have to don a mask when they are not actively eating or drinking. Face coverings were first taken off the menu on May 21, when the city lifted mask requirements for vaccinated individuals.
Although the mayor instituted the order, enforcement is left to the restaurants themselves. Members of the hospitality industry have reported noncompliance from customers throughout the pandemic—sometimes, asking diners to put on a mask can elicit aggressive or even violent responses. Case in point: a patron last summer at the Greek Spot off U Street threw a tip jar, plexiglass, and dessert at an employee who instructed them to put on a mask. That same week, the owner of Abyssinia Market & Coffee House in Old Town asked a man to wear a mask inside the restaurant. In response, the man spit on her. Needless to say, if a restaurant employee asks you to put on a mask, there’s no need to do anything other than… put on a mask.
DC’s latest order comes days after the CDC released updated guidelines on masks. The center now recommends wearing a mask “if you are in an area of substantial or high transmission,” regardless of vaccination status. (DC is currently experiencing “substantial” transmission, according to the CDC.) In today’s press conference, director of DC Health LaQuandra Nesbitt noted an exponential rise in local cases during July. The new mask rules kick off at 5 AM on Saturday and apply to everyone over the age of two.