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Tipsheet

Mayor Bowser May Reinstate DC Mask Mandate Amid a Record Number of COVID Infections

AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File

Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said Friday that bringing back a mask mandate for the city is "on the table" amid a surge in cases caused by the omicron variant of the coronavirus.

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"I will be having very in-depth conversations with my team today to see if we need to make any changes in our response. But No one should be surprised that in the winter months, cases go up," Bowser told reporters. "They are going up across the country and they're going up in places in the world."

The city reported 844 new COVID-19 cases on Friday, the highest reported number since the start of the pandemic. Also on Friday, the district saw the seven-day average of new cases reach 360, the highest average since the pandemic began. Hospitalizations have also increased, with the seven-day average at 154 on Friday.

Bowser also urged residents to get vaccinated, get their kids vaccinated and to consider canceling plans to attend social events in the coming weeks.

"If you feel sick, you need to stay home," Bowser said. "If you're going to social events, you might want to think about if you need to go or not. Limit those events. Stay in a closed bubble. Wear a mask indoors that includes in public spaces and that includes in private homes and other settings where you're not sure. Figure out how you can get tested before you can go to social events."

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The mayor said everyone should already be wearing masks under the city's Department of Health guidance, which advises masks when there is a rate of high transmission. 

This comes after Bowser announced just last month that she was lifting the city's mask mandate. The indoor mask requirement for most public places ended on Nov. 22.

But after the district's mandate was lifted, the World Health Organization announced a new COVID variant, omicron, which was initially discovered in South Africa but has since spread to the U.S.

Four cases of omicron were reported in D.C. on Dec. 12. And while it is reported to be more infectious than previous coronavirus variants, scientists and public health experts have said that the new variant produces mild cases of COVID-19.

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