The Corner

Politics & Policy

The D.C. City Council Is Wrong to Oppose Mayor Bowser’s Decision to End City Mask Mandate

Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., March 22, 2021. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)

Earlier this week, Washington, D.C., mayor Muriel Bowser announced that the city’s indoor mask mandate, one of the strictest in the nation, would end this coming Tuesday, November 22. The mandate has applied in stores, offices, houses of worship, and restaurants, in addition to government buildings. It was so strict, in fact, that the mayor herself had trouble following it.

A previous masking mandate had been lifted in May but was reimposed in July, based on metrics that weren’t entirely clear to me at the time. And because the reasons for reimposing it were unclear, it was impossible to figure out when it would be, uh . . . un-reimposed. And though it comes far later than I would have liked (and still leaves mandates in place in some environments), Bowser’s decision had a pretty appealing logic to it, one that could be palatable for other deep-blue jurisdictions still mired in masktopia. Per NBC Washington:

“What you’ll hear discussed across the nation is, we’re moving from a pandemic to an endemic,” the mayor said. […] the mayor said. “I anticipate that’s where we’ll be moving too. Rather than the government telling you what you need to do to keep safe, you will evaluate risk and act accordingly.”

However, Bowser’s decision faces resistance from the D.C. city council. Yesterday, Councilmember Robert C. White Jr. shared a letter he wrote with a majority of his fellow members protesting Bowser’s decision. Announcing it, White said: “We have to center public health and minimize risk- especially for our youngest children who still aren’t vaccinated.” The letter itself isn’t much better:

Yesterday, alongside the Director of the Department of Health, you announced that the District would drop its indoor mask mandate. We are concerned that this decision would place the District ahead of the science, including continuing guidance from the Centers for Disease Control that still recommends that masking indoors is the safest way to protect everyone from COVID-19 exposure. Even the White House will maintain its mandate. We urge you to reverse your decision to drop the mask mandate.

The D.C. city council would, apparently, forever subject the nation’s capital to the neuroses of those in charge of our government’s public-health apparatus, ignore the data that have revealed the minimal risk COVID-19 poses to children (even as vaccines are now available), and continue to deprive D.C. residents of the ability to make their own decisions and manage their own risks. I’m no fan of Bowser’s, but as a D.C. resident with, shall we say, less than ideal representation, I am fully on her side in this.

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