DC Mayor Reinstates Mask Requirement and Requires Proof of Vaccination to Enter Certain Spaces

ArentFox Schiff

Arent Fox

In November, with the pandemic apparently subsiding in DC, Mayor Muriel Bowser eased the City’s indoor mask mandate. On December 20, with COVID-19 cases again on the rise, Mayor Bowser declared a new state of emergency and reinstated the mask requirement.  

A link to the Order can be found here. The requirement applies, without regard to vaccination status to:

  • public, public charter, private, parochial, and independent schools;
  • childcare facilities; congregate facilities; 
  • health care facilities; 
  • libraries; 
  • public transit and rideshare vehicles; 
  • restaurants and taverns when individuals are not actively eating or drinking;
  • sports and entertainment venues; 
  • gyms, recreation centers, and other indoor athletic facilities; 
  • houses of worship; 
  • businesses except for enclosed offices in which no one else may enter;
  • grocery stores and pharmacies; 
  • big box stores; retail establishments; and 
  • hotel common areas.

The Order authorizes employers to take “appropriate employment actions” against employees who endanger themselves or others by violating the Order or its implementing regulations. It also authorizes D.C. agencies to enforce the mask mandate by revoking, suspending, or limiting licenses, permits, certificates, endorsements, and other authorizations issued to those who fail to comply. Violators also face fines of up to $1,000.

That’s not all. Two days after issuing the indoor mask mandate, Mayor Bowser ordered that beginning on January 15, 2022, the following establishments and facilities may not permit guests, visitors, or customers over 12 years old to enter their indoor premises without displaying proof that they’ve been vaccinated against COVID-19:

  • restaurants, bars, and nightclubs;
  • entertainment establishments;
  • exercise and recreational establishments; and
  • event and meeting establishments.

The Order exempts certain indoor facilities:

  • houses of worship;
  • grocery stores, farmer’s markets, and food service establishments that provide charitable food services;
  • pharmacies, medical offices, urgent care centers, and hospitals; 
  • big box stores and retail establishments in which people tend to be in motion and not standing or seated in close proximity to others for long periods of time;
  • private meeting places in residences and office buildings;
  • facilities relating to governmental regulation, licensing, administrative law hearings, judicial proceedings, law enforcement, the, provision of legal services, and the Department of Motor Vehicles;
  • facilities relating to essential human services, such as warming and cooling centers, day service facilities for homeless people, shelters serving homeless people or domestic violence victims; and
  • polling places during elections;

But, the vaccination requirement applies if an exempt facility conducts a non-exempt activity. For example, the requirement applies when a house of worship rents its indoor facility for a non-religious purpose. Likewise, if a big box store hosts a seated event, proof of vaccination is required to enter the area in which people will be closely congregated for a prolonged time.
In addition to exempting certain indoor facilities, the Order exempts certain individuals from the vaccination requirement:

  • individuals who enter a covered establishment for a quick and limited purpose, such as to place a takeout order, pick up an order, or make a delivery; and
  • individuals who are legally entitled to a reasonable accommodation due to a medical condition or sincerely held religious belief.

Under the Order, covered facilities must prominently post signs at their entrance, notifying the public of the vaccination entry requirement.

The vaccination Order, like the mask mandate, contains robust enforcement provisions. It authorizes businesses and other entities to exclude individuals and take appropriate employment actions against their employees who endanger themselves or others by violating the Order. DC agencies may enforce the vaccination mandate by revoking, suspending, or limiting licenses, permits, certificates, endorsements, and other authorizations issued to those who fail to comply. And, violators face fines of up to $1,000.

The vaccination Order shall remain in effect until repealed.

[View source.]

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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