DC Bar Exam Will Require All Test-Takers To Wear Masks For 12-Hour Exam

Mandate comes in the wake of findings that masks harm concentration, mental performance

A masked Chief Justice John Roberts / Getty Images
May 18, 2023

The Washington, D.C., bar will require all applicants to wear masks when they sit for the city’s 12-hour bar exam in July, according to test instructions reviewed by the Washington Free Beacon.

"At this time applicants will be required to wear a mask fully covering their mouth and nose during the exam," the District of Columbia Court of Appeals, which administers the test, told registered test-takers in a Thursday memo. "Any additional COVID-19 safety and health procedures will be announced closer to the exam."

The requirement comes on the heels of a German study that found masks expose users to toxic levels of carbon dioxide, which can cause "difficulty concentrating," "reduced cognitive performance, impaired decision-making and reduced speed of cognitive solutions." It also follows a study by the Cochrane Review—long considered the Bible for evidence-based medicine—that found masking "probably makes little or no difference" in the spread of COVID-19.

Though the D.C. court system dropped its mask mandate in April, face coverings are still required at the D.C. Court of Appeals, according to an announcement for the 2023 bar exam. The mandate makes D.C. a regional outlier: Neither Maryland nor Virginia are requiring masks at their respective bar exams, and the city of Washington, D.C., no longer requires masks in most government buildings.

The Court of Appeals did not respond to a request for comment.

Coming just days after the COVID national emergency expired, the mask requirements are a symptom of the bureaucratic inertia that has characterized the district’s pandemic response.

D.C. public schools required students and staff to test negative before returning from spring break this April, and, until March 2022, even required masks outdoors, long after scientists concluded the risk of outdoor spread was negligible. Last winter, the city also required proof of vaccination to enter bars and restaurants—just as a new strain of the virus decimated the shot’s ability to block infection.

Such restrictions proved sticky throughout blue states: When COVID cases spiked in January, public schools in Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania reimposed mask mandates.

There is now mounting evidence that those mandates were harmful, especially in educational settings. The German study, which reviewed the literature on face coverings and carbon dioxide, found that masks were associated with a litany of bad health outcomes, from anxiety and "testicular toxicity" to "irreversible neuron damage."

The longer masks are worn, the more likely they are to affect cognitive performance, the study said. Taking place over the course of two days, the D.C. bar exam is 12 hours long.