More Whiplash — DC Brings Back Mask Mandate and Encourages Vaccine Mandates
Effective December 21, 2021, through at least January 31, 2022, DC law requires that all individuals wear masks in indoor public spaces, regardless of vaccination status. As we previously reported, just last month DC Mayor Muriel Bowser significantly scaled back the District’s indoor mask mandate, which had required masks in all indoor public places since the end of July.
According to the latest order, “[s]ection II of Mayor’s Order 2021-097, dated July 29, 2021, is reinstated, to the extent that it requires all persons to wear masks indoors.” This requirement applies in the following locations, among others: (i) businesses, except for enclosed offices where no other persons may enter; (ii) restaurants and taverns when persons are not actively eating or drinking; (iii) sports and entertainment venues; (iv) gyms, recreation centers, and other indoor athletic facilities; (v) grocery stores and pharmacies; (vi) big box stores; (vii) retail establishments; and (viii) common areas of hotels. The order authorizes the DC Department of Health to promulgate further regulations and guidance on the scope and implementation of the mandate.
In addition, the order “strongly encourages” businesses and other private establishments to require their employees and visitors be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 consistent with federal and District law and to have “robust procedures in place for verifying documentation of such vaccination.” DC employers must also comply with the COVID-19 Vaccination Leave Emergency Amendment Act of 2021 which, as we previously reported, requires employers to provide paid leave to employees and their children for time spent obtaining and, if needed, recovering from side effects of a COVID-19 vaccine, and unpaid leave for other COVID-19 related absences.
We will continue to monitor and report on further developments from DC, including the forthcoming guidance from DC Health.