DC mayor orders mandatory masks as infections rise again

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District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser wears a face mask to protect against the spread of the coronavirus outbreak, as she speaks at a news conference on the coronavirus and the District's response, Monday, July 20, 2020 in Washington. In the face of newly rising infection numbers, Bowser says she'll issue an executive order making face masks mandatory outside the home. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

WASHINGTON – With coronavirus cases rising, Mayor Muriel Bowser issued an executive order Wednesday making face masks mandatory outside homes — an unprecedented step in the nation's capital.

Bowser said the order would include “enforcement language” detailing possible fines for violations.

After saying they had successfully blunted the infection curve in the city earlier this summer, health officials say the infection numbers have slowly crept upward, reaching triple digits on Wednesday for the first time in weeks.

Limited exceptions to the order, according to material distributed by Bowser's office, include children under age 3, people “actively eating or drinking” and people “vigorously exercising outdoors” while not close to anyone else.

The order does not apply to “any employees of the federal government while they are on duty." That description would appear to exclude President Donald Trump and members of Congress from the mask requirement while working.

D.C. officials said the mask requirement can't be enforced on federal property. Trump, when asked at a Wednesday afternoon news conference if he would compel federal employees to comply with the mask order, said, "We’re going to make a decision over the next 24 hours.”

Bowser has advised residents for months to wear masks outdoors when social distancing was not possible. But Wednesday's announcement formalizes that advice into an actual executive order for the first time.

“In most cases, if you’re outside your home. you should have a mask on,” Bowser said. “We’re four months in, people are tired and in some cases are letting down their guards."