“What we’re really focused on now is using peers to really influence the behavior of the workforce and looking at incentives that we can use,” Donahue said. “We’re eager to understand if there are particular types of incentives or if there’s incentives that message a certain way that would motivate.”
He said the Bowser administration is studying ideas from other cities and businesses to induce people to get vaccinated, including cash payments.
Last month, D.C. police said in a memorandum to the council that 56 percent of their 3,641 officers, who have been eligible for vaccines since January, have gotten vaccinated so far.
Donahue said nearly 60 percent of the city’s workforce, including law enforcement officers, has been working in person during the pandemic. Starting in May, other public employees will be offered the chance to come back to their desks if they choose, he said, though each office space will be limited to no more than 25 percent capacity and workers will be provided with masks and other protective equipment to wear while they work.
Ankoor Shah, the head of the city’s vaccine program, said the health department has not yet suggested to any D.C. institution — such as schools or businesses — that they mandate vaccination for all their workers or patrons. But Donahue said he has asked for legal opinions on the idea.
“Our legal staff believes that there is a legal authority to” require public safety workers to get vaccinated, Donahue said. “But I suspect nationally this question is going to get debated, if not litigated.”
Cases across the region have been declining in recent days. On Friday, the District reported 83 new cases; Maryland reported 942 cases and 26 deaths; and Virginia reported 1,249 cases and 19 deaths.
Prince George’s County and Baltimore City officials on Friday announced that people who are outside will not have to wear masks in many circumstances, following the state’s move to drop its outdoor masking requirement after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said fully vaccinated people should feel comfortable going outdoors without a mask.
Prince George’s County said it will no longer require vaccinated residents to wear masks while engaging in most outdoor activities.
“While this is exciting news for those fully vaccinated, we still urge caution and we encourage those who are not vaccinated, to take the vaccine and join the growing number of Prince Georgians who are proud to be protected from COVID-19,” County Executive Angela D. Alsobrooks (D) said in a statement.
All residents will still be required to wear face coverings indoors at retail businesses, while riding public transportation or at large outdoor ticketed events.
In Baltimore, those who are at events in outdoor venues still must wear face coverings, and those who aren’t vaccinated are “strongly encouraged” to continue to wear masks outdoors, according to the city.
“Although we are still in the midst of a global pandemic, today’s announcement marks the beginning of a new chapter in Baltimore’s response, and increasing our vaccination rate will be the key to lifting further restrictions,” Baltimore City Health Commissioner Letitia Dzirasa said in a statement.
The city also announced new rules to allow colleges and universities there to hold in-person commencement ceremonies, with outdoor venues permitted to have up to 25 percent capacity.
Ovetta Wiggins contributed to this report.