D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser 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 this week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
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-19 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 numbers of new COVID-19 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 college scholarships, iPads, gift cards and AirPods to vaccinated D.C. residents ages 12 to 17 for a limited time starting next month. All public schools who have students ages 12 to 17 will also receive microgrants to fund events and prizes for students who get vaccinated.
Starting Saturday, Aug. 7, onsite prizes will be available to youth at Brookland Middle School, Sousa Middle School and Johnson Middle School. The schools will run four days a week from Aug. 7 to Sept. 30.
All D.C. youth can get vaccinated at the sites no matter what school they attend. Youth can receive a $51 Visa gift card at these three schools, and the first 400 adolescents who get vaccinated at each site can choose to receive a pair of AirPods instead of a gift card.
D.C. residents who are 12 and older and get their first vaccine shot at the Anacostia High School or Benning Library walk-up vaccination sites can receive a $51 Visa gift card. “Vaccine buddies” who bring an unvaccinated person to get their shots at these sites can also receive a gift card.
Ida B. Wells Middle School also is serving as a walk-up vaccination site for residents 12 years and older.
All D.C. youth ages 12 to 17 who have been vaccinated will also have a chance to win an iPad or a $25,000 college scholarship. For four weeks starting Aug. 30, the District will draw student names for prizes, and award two $25,000 college scholarships and eight iPads each week.
Beginning Monday, families can book appointments for required pediatric immunizations at 37 sites across the District.
Next Saturday, immunization appointments will begin and youth COVID-19 vaccine sites will open. There will be 2,000 appointments for pediatric immunizations available each week, which will run through the end of September.
While the COVID-19 vaccine is strongly 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.
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam tweeted Thursday that all state residents should consider wearing a mask in public indoor settings where there is an increased risk of COVID-19 transmission as the CDC advises.
“This is not a requirement, but a recommendation,” he tweeted.