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20 Dec, 2021 18:55

Washington, DC reimposes Covid emergency

Washington, DC reimposes Covid emergency

Citing a “surge” in Covid-19 cases, the US capital has declared a public health emergency, reimposed the indoor masking mandate, and ordered all city employees to get both jabs and the booster as well.

The indoor masking mandate in Washington, DC will come back into effect on December 21, Mayor Muriel Bowser announced on Monday. Originally imposed in July, it was lifted on November 22 – just days before the World Health Organization designated Omicron a variant of concern.

All city employees, contractors, and grant recipients are now mandated to get fully vaccinated, as well as receive a booster shot, Bowser also announced. She did not name a specific deadline. The measure may well be the first time a US city has mandated boosters, as well as ruled out an option to remain unvaccinated while being subject to weekly tests.

Bowser also said the district was dramatically expanding testing, including providing a rapid antigen test for every student, teacher, and staff member in DC public schools. Schools will remain closed on January 3 and 4 so everyone can pick up their test and return “safely,” she added.

“It is critical that all eligible people are getting vaccinated and boosted,” the mayor said.

Bowser called on DC residents to make sure everyone aged five and older is vaccinated, and stays home if they “feel sick.” She urged people to get tested and to self-isolate if they test positive.

“Choose your activities wisely and reconsider social events,” Bowser’s guidelines said, just days before the Christmas holidays. “Consider your own risk, the risk of people you’ll be around, or those you might see in the coming days.”

Fewer than 1% of the Covid-19 infections in DC have been attributed to the Omicron variant so far, but the authorities expect that number to rise, said Dr. Anjali Talwalkar, of the DC Department of Health. She added that hospitalizations are “holding steady” at 5% of cases, which she attributed to vaccines. 

President Joe Biden is also expected to announce new restrictions on Tuesday. The White House has warned unvaccinated Americans that they are “looking at a winter of severe illness and death for yourselves, your families, and the hospitals you may soon overwhelm.”