As virus cases rise and fall, some DC restaurants are keeping COVID restrictions in place

COVID-19 may be entering a more manageable phase, but some DC businesses are keeping their pandemic-era protocols alive for the foreseeable future.

COVID-19 may be entering a more manageable phase, but some DC businesses are keeping their pandemic-era protocols alive for the foreseeable future.

“As long as (hospitalizations and cases) continue to go up and down, and up and down, I’m comfortable maintaining the policies we have in place,” said Cathy Nagy, chief executive of Mr. Henry’s , in the southeast.

Proof of vaccination is still required at the Capitol Hill pub along Pennsylvania Avenue, a policy Mr. Henry has maintained for indoor dining since August last year, Nagy said.

Just around the corner from Southeast 8th Street, Crazy Aunt Helen’s also maintained its vaccine requirement and recently dropped its mask requirement for guests and employees.

The American comfort food restaurant only opened last July, and owner Shane Mayson implemented both policies when he said his business had plummeted a month into its existence due to concerns over the Delta variant.

Since then, Mayson has maintained its vaccination policy for customers.

The state of COVID

By any measure, coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths are at some of their lowest levels in the district.

As of May 7 — the last date recorded in DC’s COVID dashboard — even though the city has seen a slight increase in cases over the past month, the percentage of people hospitalized due to their COVID-19 infection does not is only 0.4%.

(Screenshot via DC Health)

From Feb. 20 to April 22, the seven-day average of COVID deaths rounded to 0 in the district, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. From April 26 to April 29, the seven-day average of deaths briefly rose to 1 before falling back to 0, where it has remained since.

Cases fluctuated during this time. In early April, for a two-week period, DC’s case positivity rate exceeded the 2% threshold set by the CDC, moving DC from a “low” level of community transmission to a “medium” level. but it went down later in the month.

In its May 5 COVID Weekly Report, the CDC said that while cases and hospitalizations are on the rise nationwide, deaths continue to decline.

End in sight?

DC’s most recent pandemic restrictions seemed to come and go as quickly as omicron.

The District brought back its indoor mask mandate for a third time in late December and required proof of vaccination for certain businesses by mid-January. A month later, Mayor Muriel Bowser announced the end of the vaccination requirement and by March 1 had dropped the indoor mask mandate.

But the companies OMCP spoke to were in no rush to set their own end date.

“It’s certainly not a set schedule,” Nagy said of how often she plans to pursue Mr Henry’s vaccine demand. “It really has a lot to do with what’s going on in the news.”

For Mayson, the owner of Crazy Aunt Helen’s, he said, “I don’t really have a barometer of what (normal) looks like yet.”

Mayson said if DC returned to a medium level of community transmission, its staff would resume wearing masks, but would not require customers to do so.

Inside Crazy Aunt Helen’s in Southeast DC (Courtesy of Abdul Rahman Majeedi)

Although their general attitude is, what is the rush? It didn’t hurt their bottom line.

“I would say we had a little uptick as soon as we put this vaccination proof requirement in place,” Mayson said.

He mentioned that the overwhelming response from customers is that they appreciate it, especially those with children who are not yet eligible to be vaccinated.

Nagy said separately that generally anyone over 30 was in favor of his vaccine requirement.

She pointed out that they got new regulars from their requirement. Nagy said a regular now hangs out with Mr Henry because his old watering hole didn’t do vaccine checks.

“We also have a live music program, and it’s a bit difficult for a musician to sing with a mask or play with other instruments,” Nagy said. “So we adopted it at that time, and we got nothing but great responses.”

Crazy Aunt Helen’s had a COVID outbreak among its employees, which caused the restaurant to close for a week last December. All staff were fully vaccinated and masked at work, but that was still not enough to curb the spread of omicron.

But Mayson said the variant’s ability to evade its mitigations doesn’t mean there’s less reason to drop the requirement for customers.

“It’s really about safety and health, and being a little too cautious. But I’d rather be overcautious than underestimate,” Mayson said.

Richard Dement

The author Richard Dement