Mayor Bowser issues new mask order for DC

District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser wears a face mask to protect against the spread of the coronavirus outbreak, as she speaks at a news conference on the coronavirus and the District's response, Monday, July 20, 2020 in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)(AP/Andrew Harnik)
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser issued a new mask order Wednesday as officials voiced concern over an upswing in new coronavirus cases.

“Basically it says, if you leave home, you should wear a mask,” Bowser said.

“This means, if you’re waiting for a bus, you must have on a mask,” she added. “If you are ordering food at a restaurant, you must have on a mask. If you’re sitting in a cubicle in an open office, you must have on a mask.”

Bowser said masks are an effective tool in helping to stop the spread of coronavirus.

According to the order, which runs through October, exceptions include:

  • a. A person is a resident or guest in a private home or apartment;
  • b. A person is actually eating, drinking, or legally smoking;
  • c. A person is engaged in vigorous outdoor exercise and is maintaining social distance of at least six (6) feet from each other person;
  • d. A person is in the water at a swimming pool;
  • e. A person is in an enclosed office that no one else is permitted to enter;
  • f. A person is aged two (2) years old or younger;
  • g. A person is unable to wear a mask due to a medical condition or disability, or is physically unable to remove a mask;
  • h. A person is giving a speech for broadcast or an audience, provided no one is within six feet of the speaker;
  • i. A deaf or hard of hearing person needs to read the lips of a speaker;
  • j. The equipment required for a job precludes the wearing of a mask and the person is wearing that equipment, or when wearing a mask would endanger public safety;
  • k. A person has been lawfully asked to remove the mask for facial recognition purposes.

The order lists a variety of ways mask-wearing will be enforced — and warns of $1,000 fines:

1. The Department of Health shall issue rules pursuant to the Communicable and Preventable Diseases Act, approved August 11, 1939, 53 Stat. 1408, D.C. Official Code §§ 7-131 et seq., to provide for the imposition of penalties upon any individual or entity that knowingly violates this Order, and the Metropolitan Police Department is authorized to enforce those rules, except no youth under eighteen (18) years of age shall be charged with a violation.

2. All District government agencies that issue licenses, permits, certificates, endorsements, or other authorizations including the Department of Consumer Regulatory Affairs (DCRA), the District Department of Transportation (DDOT), the Alcohol Beverage Regulatory Administration (ABRA), the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE), the Department of For Hire Vehicles (DFHV), and the Department of Health may issue rules consistent with or take enforcement action directly under this Order to provide for the revocation, suspension, or limitation of a license, permit, certificate, endorsement, or other authorization of a person or entity that violates this Order.

3. For the purpose of this section, a violation of a rule, order, or other issuance (including a guidance) issued under the authority of a prior Order addressing the COVID-19 public health emergency shall constitute a violation of this Order.

4. Charges of violations of this Order may be referred to the Office of the Attorney General for possible prosecution in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, in the name of the District of Columbia, and persons found to be in violation of this Order or other rules promulgated pursuant to the Order are subject to fines of up to one thousand dollars ($1,000) per violation.

“We’re all pretty sick of dealing with the pandemic. We’re four months in, people are tired and, in some cases, are letting down their guards,” Bowser said.

“But we all want to get on the other side of this virus. So, it is important that we remain vigilant.”

She also said she will extend the District’s state of emergency.

Read the order online.

More Coronavirus News

Looking for more information? D.C., Maryland and Virginia are each releasing more data every day. Visit their official sites here: Virginia | Maryland | D.C.

The mayor’s order comes as D.C. records an uptick in new coronavirus cases. The city reported 102 new cases Wednesday — the most added in a single day since June 4.

“And that is, of course, a concern for us,” D.C. Health Director Dr. LaQuandra Nesbitt said.

“We also have, again, a number of cases that are not connected, or cases that are not coming from people who were previously in quarantine,” she added.

Nesbitt said the number of new cases in people under 40 is also on the rise. “So, 66% of cases in the District between July 1 and July 20 happened in individuals under 40. Where, before July 1, it was 41% of cases,” she said.

“The other things that kind of go along with this is that the test positivity rate of individuals under 40 is 3.4%, compared to individuals 40 and older … we also have seen these same trends reflected in our hospitalizations.”

She added that D.C. has seen increases in the number of cases in people 14 and under.

“I know there’s a lot of conversations nationally that occur as to whether or not children are immune, children can spread” the virus, Nesbitt said.

“There’s still a lot we need to know about the risk and ability of children to spread COVID-19, SARS-COV-2, but we are seeing an increased percentage of our cases happening even in the age group of individuals less than 14.”

DC coronavirus numbers

The District reported 102 new coronavirus cases Wednesday, bringing the District’s total to 11,529.

No additional COVID-19 deaths were reported. D.C.’s current death toll currently stands at 580.

Track the District’s coronavirus data online with WTOP.

Below are maps of coronavirus cases by ward, neighborhood and community spread as of Wednesday morning (click to enlarge). Since D.C. does not officially designate boundaries for them, neighborhoods are based on U.S. Census tracts.

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Will Vitka

William Vitka is a Digital Writer/Editor for He's been in the news industry for over a decade. Before joining WTOP, he worked for CBS News, Stuff Magazine, The New York Post and wrote a variety of books—about a dozen of them, with more to come.

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