The Washington, DC Indoor Mask Mandate

GW Student, Faculty & Staff Testing Center, The George Washington University in Washington, DC

The mayors of Washington, DC and San Francisco have supposedly violated indoor mask mandates in recent months. In August, Muriel Bowser was photographed without a mask at a wedding. This week, London Breed was photographed at an indoor lounge without a mask.

Twenty four states have joined together to send an open letter to the White House about the vaccine mandates and mask mandates. The letter is requesting that the mandates are eased or halted. The first page of the letter describes a burden for the workforce if the employees have to wear a mask. Public services, according to the letter, are strained if the employees have to wear a mask.

Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, West Virginia, and Wyoming are the states listed at the top of the letter. The letter begins with, “We, the Attorneys General of 24 states, write in opposition to your attempt to mandate the vaccination of private citizens.” The letter is dated September 16, 2021.

Here in Washington, DC the indoor mask mandate has been in effect since August 1. It has been more than six weeks and the mayor has been silent about when the mandate will be lifted. At the gyms everyone has to wear a mask while they exercise. At retail stores the customers and the employees wear the masks the entire time they are indoors. Masks are required on the train and in grocery stores. In real terms, some people might wear a mask for eight or ten hours a day. If they work for eight hours and then take the train then they will wear a mask for nine hours that day.

In Maryland, there was a report that a teacher was excused for the school term because she didn’t want to wear a mask. Conceptually, it’s not clear if employees are able to stand and work wearing the masks for long hours. Teachers might not be understood by the students if they are talking through a mask, but they might not be able physically to teach all day wearing the masks.

If people do not want to wear a mask, they have to wear a mask anyway. They have to wear a mask every day and they have to wear a mask for several hours every day. There hasn’t been any announcement about how long we will continue to wear these masks here in Washington, DC. In Texas, the governor issued an executive order which banned mask mandates. Executive order GA-38 states no government entity, including school districts, can require or mandate masks. Farther west, people have been describing the mask mandates as government mandated mask-wearing.

Testing is also controversial because people are tested even if they have no symptoms. Employees at the George Washington University, for example, are required to be tested every fifteen days. This is true if they have no symptoms and if they do not want to be tested. Tents are set up in Foggy Bottom that are filled with people administering the tests. They are paid to administer these tests and so there are concerns about the budget.

Holistically, the complaints are that people have to wear the masks every day and for several hours every day. Lawmakers haven’t said how long the mask mandates will continue. If someone wears a mask for eight and ten hours a day, then most of the time they are awake they are wearing a mask.  

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