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WASHINGTON, DC — Mayor Muriel Bowser said she will be signing a new mayor's order Wednesday that would require all District residents wear face masks when they are out in public.
"Basically, what it says is if you leave home, you should wear a mask," Bowser said, during a Wednesday morning press briefing about the city's response to the coronavirus pandemic.
The mayor's order lays out some common exceptions, including:
children under the age of 3
a person who is vigorously exercising
a person who is actively eating or drinking
a person who is working in an enclosed office alone and no one else will be entering.
"But in most cases, if you're outside of your house, you should have a mask on," Bowser said. "This means if you're waiting for a bus, you should have on a mask on. If you're 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. We know that masks are effective and are an effective tool in helping us stop the spread of the virus."
Bowser also confirmed that she would also be signing a mayor order's Wednesday to extend the coronavirus public health emergency that was due to expire on Friday to Oct. 9, which she had said she was going to do last week.
During the briefing, Bowser and Dr. LaQuandra Nesbitt, the director of the D.C. Department of Health, revealed recents trends in the spread of COVID-19, the virus associated with the new coronavirus, that prompted the latest mayor's order.
On Wednesday, D.C. Health reported 102 new COVID-19 cases in the District and no new deaths from the disease.
Nesbitt noted that between July 1 and July 20, 60 percent of the cases reported in the District were people under age 40. This is an increase from the 41 percent reported prior to July 1 for this age group. Also, the positivity rate among District residents under 40 is 3.4 percent compared to 2.5 percent for residents 40 and older. In addition, the percent of hospitalized cases for District residents under 40 has nearly doubled — from 16 percent to 29 percent — compared to hospitalizations prior to July 1.
These figures have prompted D.C. Health to look at what type of behaviors and activities are common for people in these age groups, as well as locations they are going to, in order to decrease the risk of transmission.
"We need to emphasize for increased social distancing or changes or modifications in behavior," she said.
According to Bowser, the District has already taken steps to reduce transmission risks at some businesses, including food service establishments.
Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration inspectors have been out in force, according to the mayor, keeping business owners informed about how to operate safely, as well as issuing warnings to businesses that have failed to comply with the rules governing Phase 2 of the city's reopening. She said that two $1,000 fines had already been issued and 15 other cases would be decided on Wednesday night.
"Moving forward, however, inspectors will be able to issue fines on the spot when the observe violations," Bowser said. "Obviously, this is not something that we want to do and we need to ensure that everyone is doing their part to keep the community healthy."
Residents will also be able to file complaints against businesses on the ABRA website or by calling 202-442-4423.
"We know that without a vaccine or cure for COVID, we have to continue to take precautions," Bowser said. "But in other parts of the world, they have been able to significantly reduce transmission and get the virus under control. Ideally, we would have more coordination at the national level and we're going to continue to demand that. But we're also going to do everything we can locally."