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Washington DC Mayor Muriel Bowser Win McNamee/Getty Images

WASHINGTON (LifeSiteNews) — The nation’s capital dropped a vaccine mandate for businesses Tuesday, once again allowing people to enter restaurants and other public venues without proof of COVID-19 vaccination, though the jabs will remain compulsory for students.

Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser announced Monday that the citywide business mandate, which took effect mid-January, would end February 15.

The move lifts a requirement for gyms, restaurants, bars, and entertainment venues to check that patrons age 12 and older have had one shot or risk losing their licenses. Businesses can continue to demand COVID vaccine cards of their own accord.

Bowser had originally set February 15 as the date for businesses to begin verifying that customers were “fully vaccinated.”

A vaccine mandate for D.C. government and healthcare workers remains in force, and a city bill requiring eligible K-12 students to get vaccinated will still come into effect in March, according to The Washington Post. Enforcement of the jab mandate for public and private schools will start in the next academic year.

Bowser also announced Monday that an indoor mask order would expire March 1 for places of worship and most businesses, including gyms and grocery stores. The district will continue to enforce masks in schools, daycares, healthcare facilities, and government sites, including prisons and shelters. And masks will still be compulsory for public transit, taxis, and ride share vehicles, according to NBC4 Washington.

Bowser, who is running for a third term in November, additionally said that the city will shut down testing locations at firehouses starting February 26. “Since the height of the Omicron wave in DC, COVID-19 cases have dropped by more than 90% and there’s been a 95% reduction in hospitalizations,” Bowser’s office said Monday.

D.C. business groups welcomed the end of the mandate. “We are pleased with the Mayor’s decision to lift the mandate recognizing that in doing so it will allow more flexibility for local businesses,” said Kathy Hollinger, president of the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington.

“We have seen that having the vaccine requirement really affected some of our businesses, so I think this is going to help them increase sales and really get people out,” said Angela Franco, president of DC Chamber of Commerce.

The Democratic mayor’s reversal on the short-lived vaccine mandate comes after pressure from Republicans to drop the rule, which disproportionately impacted African-Americans. Black residents have the lowest vaccination rate of any racial group in D.C., with just 44.4 percent deemed “fully vaccinated” as of February 7.

Republicans in Congress repeatedly blasted the city’s jab requirements. In a scathing letter to Bowser last month, 19 GOP House members said that the measure “locks Americans out of their capital city.”

“The spread of the omicron variant among the vaccinated population indicates the Order will be ineffective at stopping viral spread while imposing significant costs to the District, its residents, its economy, and Americans across the nation who wish to visit their capital,” wrote the congressmen, led by Rep. James Comer, the ranking member of the House Oversight Committee.

“By requiring anyone over the age of twelve to present proof of vaccination to enter most indoor establishments in the District, students who are not vaccinated will be prohibited from eating at restaurants, meeting indoors for conferences, enjoying entertainment venues, and more,” they wrote. “All Americans, especially our youth, should be welcomed to the District, but your sweeping mandate locks them out of their capital city.”

In recent days, Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul and other congressional Republicans have publicly supported The Big Board, a D.C. restaurant that was ordered to close for refusing to check customers’ vaccine status.

The D.C. mayor’s office also sparked outrage earlier this month when Bowser’s director for veterans affairs said that it was a “necessary evil” to allow “Darwinism to kill off” the unvaccinated, Breitbart reported.

Mayor Bowser joins several other Democratic leaders across the countries who have loosened COVID restrictions in the past week with November elections looming. Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak abruptly ended a statewide mask mandate Thursday, one day after businesses pressured him to do so, LifeSiteNews reported.

Polling shows that voters are increasingly souring on COVID-19 mandates. A survey by Echelon Insights last month found that 55 percent of voters believe that the virus should be “treated as an endemic disease that will never fully go away,” rather than “a public health emergency.”

The COVID vaccines have repeatedly been linked to serious side effects, including the immune disorder Guillain Barré Syndrome and potentially fatal heart issues, like myocarditis. A British study published in December found that the risk of myocarditis in men under 40 is several times higher than average after Pfizer or Moderna vaccination and that post-vaccine myocarditis may be more lethal than other forms of the condition.

At the same time, the vaccines are unable to stop transmission of coronavirus. Recent data has shown that vaccinated people have higher infection rates than the unvaccinated and have driven record COVID-19 spikes around the world since the emergence of omicron.

COVID remains a treatable illness for most people who contract it, with an estimated survival rate of 99.7 percent or higher for those under age 60, according to Stanford University medical professor Dr. John Ioannidis.

LifeSiteNews has produced an extensive COVID-19 vaccines resources page. View it here.