Washington DC will reinstate an indoor mask mandate from Tuesday, December 21 to January 31, mayor Muriel Bowser said on Monday. This announcement comes a month after the capital loosened its mask rules. COVID-19 cases, especially the contagious omicron, have been on a rise in the United States. 

Bowser added that all employees, contractors and grantees of the District of Columbia government must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and must have a booster shot.

Also read: Booster significantly increases antibodies against Omicron: Moderna

“There will be no test-out option”, the mayor said. 

On Friday, Washington DC reported 844 new coronavirus cases, the highest number in a single day since the pandemic began.

In addition to the mask mandate, the mayor said that the government plans to expand testing and vaccine requirement for all city employees, contractors, and grantees to include a booster shot.

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The DC Public Schools Chancellor Lewis Ferebee said that all schools will be closed for instruction on January 3 and 4 to distribute COVID-19 tests to students, teachers, and staff. 

Bowser’s move to get rid of the indoor mask mandate on November 22 faced backlash by a majority of DC councilmembers. They had written a letter to her urging to reverse her decision. 

Asked if she regretted dropping the indoor mask mandate in the first place, Bowser said, “I don’t regret evolving with the virus, which is exactly what we’ve done throughout the virus. As conditions warranted, we’ve changed our interventions, and we’re changing them again.”

Also read: No new normal: Five regions that have reported zero COVID cases

Washington DC has added nine additional public libraries and rec centers where residents can pick up and drop off free at-home PCR testing kits. 

“We have enough tests available in the community to serve everyone who wants a test. Patrick Ashley of DC Health said, as per Washingtonian reports. He added that the city has ordered over 1 million rapid antigen tests and so far, 42,000 of those tests are on-hand and 200,000 are in transit. 

“At this time, our health officials have not indicated that there’s a need to discontinue operations at our schools, but we will do assessments case by case at each school,” Ferebee said.