Mayor Muriel Bowser and city leaders speak at a press conference on Dec. 20, 2021.
Mayor Muriel Bowser and city leaders at the Dec. 20, 2021 press conference. Credit: Laura Hayes

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Omicron is getting realer in the District. At a press conference this morning, Mayor Muriel Bowser announced the reinstatement of the mask mandate in DC, effective at 6 a.m. tomorrow, Tuesday, Dec. 21. It will remain in place until at least Jan. 31.

Yesterday, DC Public Schools Chancellor Lewis Ferebee announced that three DCPS schools—McKinley Technology High School in Eckington, Turner Elementary School in Congress Heights, and Bard Early College High School on H Street SE— will join the growing number of public schools moving instruction online due to a recent surge in COVID-19 cases. The three schools will hold virtual classes through Dec. 22, when winter break begins. The decision comes after 11 COVID cases were reported at McKinley and 3 cases were reported at Turner since Dec. 13. An update from Ferebee late last night on the Bard decision didn’t give any explanation beyond “the impact of COVID-19 on school operations.”

The varied number of cases that prompted these three schools to close is one thing. The discrepancy between the decision for these schools to go virtual while schools with similar or higher case numbers remain open is another. Families and school advocates criticized the District for a perceived lack of transparency and clear metrics in the decision-making process for online instruction. Ferebee issued a statement on Dec. 16 about DCPS’ individualized approach to determining which schools can remain open while monitoring COVID-19 cases at each school, but has not divulged any specifics about decision making. 

The Congress Heights Christmas Tree Lane

As some restaurants closed and sports and entertainment events were cancelled after D.C. released a record-breaking number of COVID cases Friday, some holiday festivities this weekend (including a “Make GoGo Forever DC” Santa concert) went virtual. Others, like the Christmas Tree Lane the Congress Heights Community Training and Development Corporation hosted on Saturday, still proceeded with social distancing and other protective measures in place. 

The Christmas Tree Lane event brought together Congress Heights community members to appraise and vote on the best-dressed trees for the second consecutive year. It also allows folks in and outside the community to get to know community organizations doing good work and providing varied services. The exhibit, which will be up until New Year’s Day at the R.I.S.E. Demonstration Center at St. Elizabeths, features 30 trees that are sponsored and decorated by a different community organization or individual. 

“It means everything … to be here, to be able to share some joy, when we don’t have a lot to be happy about a lot of times,” Monica Ray, president of the CHCTDC, told City Paper

A walking tour with Santa, Mrs. Claus, and an elf drew praise for trees like one with handmade decorations from elementary school students at Cedar Tree Academy, or an underdog “Charlie Brown” Christmas tree with unapologetically bare branches. The crowd also oohed over creative contestants like a tree clad in caution tape and topped with an orange cone (from the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development) and a bee-themed tree from the IndyB Mentoring and Modeling program

The winner, chosen in an “Apollo-style” vote by applause, was “Harriet’s Wildest Dreams.” Its namesake, a Black-led abolitionist community defense hub founded by three activists for Black Lives Matter DC, incorporated the theme of Harriet Tubman’s tradition of “how we reach back, and pull each other out and up … The tree represents the plight of communities like ours all over the country,” according to Ray. Harriet’s Wildest Dreams hoped to “bring Black joy but also political education” with its tree, said Joy Masha, a lead for Harriet’s Wildest Dreams. 

“We know this is a wonderful season to celebrate each other, to bring families together, to bring communities together,” she said. “Let’s also remember our why, that we are here to free our people as well as celebrate.”

—Ambar Castillo (tips?

  • To see today’s COVID-19 data, visit our coronavirus tracker.
  • DCPS is investigating a staff librarian after they made third graders at a Capitol Hill elementary school re-enact stories from the Holocaust [Post, Fox5, New York Times]
  • Union Station faces foreclosure sale after the operating company failed to make payments on its $330 million mortgage for more than a year. [Bloomberg]
  • D.C. police say they arrested a man who assaulted another man and his baby with a brick. [WTOP]

By Ambar Castillo and Bailey Vogt (tips? and

Mitch Ryals is away from his desk. Loose Lips Links will return in January.

By Mitch Ryals (tips?

Credit: Laura Hayes

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By Kelyn Soong (tips?

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