US capital issues sweeping mask mandate

Washington DC Mayor Muriel Bowser has announced an indoors mask mandate for everyone over age two.
Washington DC Mayor Muriel Bowser has announced an indoors mask mandate for everyone over age two.

Masks will be required indoors in Washington DC for everyone two years and older, Mayor Muriel Bowser says, regardless of whether they have been vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus.

The mandate, set to come into force on Saturday, will put the US capital in line with updated guidance that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released this week in an effort to contain the rapid spread of the Delta variant of the coronavirus.

Many federal government institutions in Washington DC and its suburbs have already implemented similar mask requirements and President Joe Biden is expected to announce additional measures for the federal workforce later on Thursday.

In addition, the Smithsonian said it would reimpose mask requirements at its museums that line the National Mall and other indoor venues for visitors two years and older beginning on Friday "regardless of vaccination status".

Face coverings may be removed while eating or drinking in designated areas, it said in a statement on Thursday.

By the beginning of July, Washington DC had hit its lowest rate of community spread of COVID-19 since the global pandemic began a year and a half ago.

Over the course of the month, the daily case rate has increased fivefold at the same time that the test positivity rate rose, LaQuandra Nesbitt, director of the city's health department, said at a public briefing before Bowser announced the new mandate.

Current estimates indicate more than half the city's residents have been fully vaccinated, according to public health agency data.

Australian Associated Press