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D.C. Restaurants Can Scratch Masks Starting Next Week

The city’s indoor mask-wearing mandate will be lifted for certain businesses on Monday, November 22

House Oversight Committee Hearing On Making D.C. The 51st State
Mayor Muriel Bowser lifts a mask-wearing mandate for restaurants, gyms, and other businesses next week.
Tierney Plumb is the editor of Eater DC, covering all things food and drink around the nation's capital.

Mayor Muriel Bowser will lift D.C.’s indoor mask mandate on Monday, November 22, which means restaurants and bars won’t have to make its customers or staff wear face coverings for the first time in nearly four months.

Bowser announced the reversal during a press conference on Tuesday, November 15, pointing to promising vaccination data from the D.C. Department of Health. Almost 80 percent of D.C. residents have received at least one shot, and 63.1-percent of the city is currently fully vaccinated.

Any restaurant or private business that still wants to impose a mask requirement can do so, however, regardless of vaccination status. They’re also free to implement a vaccine mandate.

D.C. diners were previously allowed to go mask-less as of Friday, May 21, on the same day restaurants returned to full capacity across the city. The mask-wearing mandate was reinstated for all indoor establishments on Saturday, July 31, as D.C. Health data pointed to “moderate transmission” of COVID-19 across the city. Diners have been required to wear a mask at all times, except when eating and drinking.

Masks are still required, regardless of vaccination status, on public transportation; inside schools, childcare facilities, and libraries; at places where large groups of people congregate; and in city government buildings where there’s direct interaction between employees and the public.

Groups required to be vaccinated in D.C. include healthcare workers, adults who regularly work in a school or with students, and student athletes 12 and up.

Almost all coronavirus-related hospitalizations in the city last week occurred in unvaccinated people, per D.C. Health.

“Hopefully none of us get to where we need to a reinstate a mask mandate but our health care system has to be able to perform and we will be looking closely at that,” says Bowser.

Meanwhile, Montgomery County will require its residents to mask up all over again starting Saturday, November 20. The reinstated mandate was triggered in response to seven straight days of “substantial” COVID-19 transmission (or over 50 cases per 100,000 residents, as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).