Last week, Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser reinstated a citywide mask mandate for all indoor spaces, even though the city’s recent uptick in COVID-19 cases has not yet produced a rash of deaths or hospitalizations—and even though the vaccines are proving to be the most remarkably effective tool at preventing severe disease and death.
Masks, unlike getting the vaccine, are a perpetual irritation, especially in certain circumstances like conversing, eating, and exercising. On that last front, a coalition of Washington, D.C., gym owners decided to approach the city with a bargain: They would require customers to be vaccinated if the city would grant them a waiver from the mask mandate.
This deal was a win-win and should have been a no-brainer for the city. The vaccines are a much, much more effective and enduring anti-coronavirus measure than the masks are. Getting people vaccinated is the whole point: No one should want to wear masks forever. If business owners would rather require vaccination than masks, then the government should absolutely let them do that.
So of course, the city said no.
“I asked about the fitness coalition’s request for a waiver from mask mandate if they go vaccine only,” Christina Henderson, a member of the city council, said in a tweet. “DC Health is not granting waivers at the moment. I asked what metrics we need to meet to rescind the mask mandate. They are hesitant to tie to any particular metric.”
One would be forgiven for thinking that the city’s government likes masks better than it likes vaccines. The city is certainly failing to do everything in its power to encourage vaccination, and it’s unwilling to spell out the conditions under which it would even considering lifting the mask mandate.
But requiring masks in all indoor public spaces indefinitely is impractical. Bowser certainly knows that this is impractical, since she isn’t bothering to follow it herself: Indeed, she officiated an indoor maskless wedding mere hours after implementing the mandate. Given her penchant for rank hypocrisy on this front, I’m surprised she did not personally decline gym owners’ offer while teaching a maskless yoga class.