News & Politics

DC Mayor Bowser Finally Lifts Indoor Mask Mandate

(AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)

Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser surveyed her realm and decided her subjects could safely walk about and go indoors without a piece of cloth covering their faces.

This decision was not arrived at by using any science known to humans.

Other nearby towns had lifted the requirement for cloth face coverings months earlier. They had developed carefully considered benchmarks that needed to be achieved before getting rid of the masks; the number of new infections, vaccinated citizens, serious illness cases, etc.

But not Madame Bowser. Through some secretive, opaque process of decision-making, she at last decided to grant her subjects’ desire to be free of the strangling, uncomfortable coverings and lifted the mandate.

Perhaps she read the entrails of a newt. Whatever.

Reason.Com:

Bowser previously rescinded the mask mandate, then brought it back in July when COVID-19 cases began to increase due to the delta variant taking hold. Unlike the actions of local officials in nearby counties, including in Montgomery County, Maryland, who linked the mandate to a certain case threshold, Bowser never gave any indication what metrics would be used to determine when to relax the mandate. And while the delta wave did cause an increase in COVID-19 cases in Washington, it had no effect whatsoever on D.C.’s death rate. The city’s seven-day death average has hovered at one or below the entire time that delta has been a serious issue. (It was last above one on May 24, 2021.)

It would be hard to argue that the mask mandate was what kept delta deaths at bay, since all those masks failed to prevent cases from increasing. Widespread vaccination—which dramatically reduces severe disease and death—is the public health initiative that’s working well, not the mask mandate.

Actually, it’s not hard to argue that the mask mandate saved lives. Politicians and public health officials do it all the time—even if, as in this case, the proof is lacking.

But the poor school kids still can’t get a break.

Bowser’s decision to keep the mask mandate in place for schools is a perfect example of the government’s incoherent thinking about COVID-19 risks. While many school-aged children remain unvaccinated, they are at very low risk of a negative coronavirus health outcome—whether they are vaccinated or not. Elderly Americans who are vaccinated have much more to fear from COVID-19 than kids do, so it makes little sense to link the withdrawal of mask mandates to the degree of vaccination among the kinds of people who congregate in a given location.

It probably wouldn’t help Bowser’s subjects, even if the government did develop coherent policies that reflected the reality of the situation.

The mayor had a classic “do as I say, not as I do” moment of mask hypocrisy last summer when she was caught maskless at a wedding reception. Her office blamed “conservative media” for taking the photos of her violating her own rules and added that she only removed the mask when eating and drinking.

That’s an outright, brazen lie.

Robby Soave points out that there will always be some level of COVID-19 risk that Americans are going to have to face. People can choose to lessen the risk by getting vaccinated, or by practicing common sense behaviors if someone is particularly vulnerable.

“It is not the government’s responsibility to assign the correct level of risk to each individual American, and local officials like Bowser should not get to reimpose mask mandates just because they feel like it,” writes Soave.

Indeed, that smacks of authoritarianism.