A vial of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine
A vial of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. Credit: Darrow Montgomery

Mayor Muriel Bowser took a loss in D.C. Superior Court this week as a judge ruled her vaccine mandate for District employees unlawful. In a case brought by the D.C. Police Union, D.C. Superior Court Judge Maurice Ross’ order permanently prevents Bowser from requiring District employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 through executive order and regulations. Ross’ order also reverses any discipline imposed on employees who did not comply with the vaccine mandate.

“A vaccine mandate is not an everyday exercise of power,” Ross writes in his order. “It is instead a significant encroachment into the life—and health—of an employee. It is strikingly unlike other workplace regulations typically imposed, as it ‘cannot be undone at the end of the workday.’ Thus, there is an expectation that a vaccine mandate must come from a legislative body.”

Bowser first issued a vaccine mandate for D.C. government employees in August 2021, but allowed for religious and medical exemptions. The mandate also allowed employees to submit weekly negative COVID tests in lieu of showing proof of immunization. But later she issued another order allowing the city administrator to end the test-out provision, and in January D.C. announced that all employees who did not apply for exemptions had to show proof of vaccination by Feb. 15.

Ross rejected that scheme, noting that on multiple occasions, the D.C. Council rejected Bowser’s request to renew the mandate through legislation.

“The D.C. Council’s clear rejection of the Mayor’s request persuades this Court that the Mayor has not been conferred any authority to impose a vaccine mandate,” Ross writes.

DCist previously reported that less than two-thirds of MPD officers were vaccinated in May of 2021. And Chief Robert Contee has said that the mandate caused a “significant” number of recruits to leave the department. 

The mayor’s office released the following statement Friday morning:

“We are reviewing the Court’s ruling, and believe that the judge misunderstood the strength and diversity of the authorities we relied upon in issuing the employee vaccination mandate. Over the past year and a half, we have seen that COVID-19 vaccines work—they keep people out of the hospital and save lives. We are grateful for all residents and employees who stepped up and got vaccinated, whether they did so with no reservations or whether they did so nervously but because they knew it was the right thing to do. Because of our collective effort, countless lives have been saved. Going forward, we will comply with the Court’s orders as we continue encouraging our community to access life-saving vaccines.”

Mitch Ryals (tips? mryals@washingtoncitypaper.com)

  • To see today’s COVID-19 data, visit our coronavirus tracker.
  • The D.C. attorney general’s office says in court documents that Casa Ruby received $9.6 million in grants over the past five years. But dating back to 2012, the OAG says there are no records of a board of directors approving the use of those funds, including $500,000 to open a youth care home in El Salvador. According to OAG, some records indicate Casa Ruby’s former director, Ruby Corado, withdrew $60,000 to pay for meals, personal credit card debt, and trip to El Salvador, her home country. [DCist]
  • A D.C. police officer shot at a man suspected of a possible carjacking. Assistant Chief Wilfredo Manlapaz said the man also fired, but neither he nor the officer were injured. A police cruiser responding to the shooting from about two miles away crashed into another vehicle. Four officers and the occupants of the other vehicle were taken to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. [WJLA, Twitter]
  • If you missed panda cub Xiao Qi Ji’s birthday party last weekend, fear not: You can celebrate his dad Tian Tian’s 25th birthday in person and on the PandaCam this Saturday. [Washingtonian]
  • A Silver Spring retiree is fixing old bikes and donating them to families who’ve recently arrived from Afghanistan. [DCist]

By City Paper staff (tips? editor@washingtoncitypaper.com)

  • The D.C. Peace Academy has graduated its first class of violence interrupters. Some of the 23 graduates will work for city-backed programs, others will be with nonprofits. [WTOP]
  • The redevelopment of Howard University’s Bond Bread Factory and an adjoining warehouse is finally moving forward after many stops and starts over the years. Some big-name developers (EDENS, The Menkiti Group, and Fivesquares Development) are leading the project. [UrbanTurf]
  • DC Health is warning of a phishing phone scam where people are posing as officials at the department and asking for money. [Twitter]

By Alex Koma (tips? akoma@washingtoncitypaper.com)

Credit: Nevin Martell

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  • Another New York import has failed to thrive in D.C.: DBGB, acclaimed chef Daniel Boulud’s brasserie at CityCenterDC, has closed. [Washingtonian]
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By City Paper staff (tips? editor@washingtoncitypaper.com)

Sarah Marloff is away from her desk. Arts Links will return next week.

  • Can the Commanders break the Ravens’ 22-preseason game winning streak on Saturday? Well, fans can hope. [WTOP]
  • Did Carson Wentz just buy Jay Gruden’s old estate in Loudoun County? It certainly looks that way. [Inside NoVA]
  • If running the Commanders’ defensive line doesn’t work out, Jeff Zgonina can fall back on his dog-showing side hustle. [Post]

By City Paper staff (tips? editor@washingtoncitypaper.com)

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