- The Washington Times - Monday, February 14, 2022

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said Monday she will no longer require businesses to check patrons’ vaccination status at the door, effective Tuesday.

Miss Bowser also said she will drop a city indoor mask mandate at the end of the month for businesses, stores, gyms and restaurants. The mask rule will remain in place for schools, public transportation, nursing homes, medical facilities and city government offices that deal with the public.

The mayor said businesses may choose to keep vaccination and mask rules in place at their sites with appropriate signage.

“Since the height of the omicron wave entered the District in December, cases have dropped more than 90% and there has been a 95% reduction in hospitalization,” the Democratic mayor said. “We are in a much better place now to announce adjustments to that winter action plan.”

Miss Bowser rejected the idea her move was premature or that she might get burned again after lifting a city mask rule shortly before the winter surge began last year.

The mayor did not outline a specific threshold that triggered the change but pointed to the increase in vaccinations and decrease in case numbers while the requirement was in effect.

“We’ve seen a precipitous drop in case levels for omicron and this is where we’ve landed,” she said.

She said the amount of virus around the city is higher than officials would like it to be but said the vaccines made the disease less deadly.

Miss Bowser announced the change as her limited public health emergency order expires and leaders across the country take stock of divisive COVID-19 policies because the omicron surge is easing and people are eager for normalcy.

Some businesses had flouted Miss Bowser’s vaccination rule, which mimicked similar rules in New York City and California that required people to present their vaccine cards at the door of public venues.

Critics said it was easy for unvaccinated persons to cross the Potomac and patronize businesses in Virginia instead.

Others said the D.C. rule provided a level of comfort and shouldn’t be lifted just yet.

“Cases are just starting to go down and ending it now is premature. The vaccine mandate made it possible for many families, including mine, to feel a little comfort, and calmed the anxiety of frontline workers and immunocompromised folks,” tweeted Robert C. White Jr., an at-large member of the D.C. Council. “We need responsible leadership that centers the needs of our most vulnerable residents instead of trying to score political points.”

In neighboring Maryland, Gov. Larry Hogan on Monday said masks would no longer be required in state buildings as of Feb. 22, though coverings would still be recommended for unvaccinated employees and visitors.

The Republican governor pointed to the improving picture, with hospitalizations down 78% from the winter peak, and the availability of vaccines.

“Given the dramatic declines in our health metrics, we are now able to take another step toward normalcy in state operations,” Mr. Hogan said. “In addition, we continue to offer paid leave for state employees to get their booster shots, which provide critical protection against the virus and its variants.”

Mr. Hogan last week called on the State Board of Education to rescind its mask requirement on schools.

For more information, visit The Washington Times COVID-19 resource page.

• Tom Howell Jr. can be reached at thowell@washingtontimes.com.

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