The nation’s capital may begin a phased reopening on May 29, more than a week earlier than anticipated, after shutting down to get a handle on the novel coronavirus pandemic, Washington, DC, Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) announced on Thursday, citing a low transmission rate and a decline in community spread.
On May 13, Bowser extended the district’s stay-at-home measure to June 8, noting that she could “revise this order at any time.”
However, the outbreak of COVID-19, the coronavirus illness, appears to be on a downward trajectory in D.C., allowing officials to consider beginning a phased reopening on May 29, “barring any new peaks” in community spread and the transmission rate, Bowser said during a press conference.
Thank you to all who contributed their time and recommendations to the ReOpen DC Advisory Committee.
ReOpen DC brings us all together to reopen with a plan based on science and tailored to the needs of our community.
— Mayor Muriel Bowser #StayHomeDC (@MayorBowser) May 21, 2020
“It is not an on and off switch. We will not be able to go back to life as we enjoyed it in February,” she noted. “But we are incrementally adding activities back in our lives, which we all miss and are all eager to get back to. Staying open and being able to manage this virus means we all have to do our part.”
She urged D.C. residents to continue taking measures to prevent the spread of the virus, such as wearing masks, social distancing, practicing good hygiene, and getting tested if necessary.
“Reopening means that more people will be mixing, more activities will be opening, and there will be more infections in the city,” Bowser warned.
The mayor reported “11 days of a sustained decline in community spread,” adding that the transmission rate is now at “nine days below one.”
According to the D.C. reopening guidelines, there must be a 14-day decrease in community spread, and the transmission rate must be below one for three days to reopen.
“We’re also very focused on our testing capacity, and presently we have the ability to test all of our four priority groups,” Bowser said, later adding, “We are close to where we need to be with contact tracing to be able to meet the goals laid out by the [D.C.] Department of Health.”
Health experts consider the number of hospitalizations to be an essential measure of the severity of the ongoing outbreak.
According to the district’s data, the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations has declined in recent weeks. D.C. has hundreds of available beds to deal with the ongoing pandemic and a possible increase in cases.
As of Thursday afternoon, data compiled by the Harvard Global Health Institute placed the hospital bed occupancy rate at 0.72 and the Intensive Care Unit occupancy rate at 0.6.
The nation’s capital continues to see an increase in the cumulative number of cases and deaths.
Over 41,750 people have tested positive for COVID-19, and 412 others have reportedly perished from the virus in D.C.