D.C. Mayor Lifts Stay-at-Home Order to Begin Phased Reopening on Friday

Muriel Bowser Press Conference
Twitter/@MayorBowser

The nation’s capital will begin a phased reopening on Friday, announced Washington, DC, Mayor Muriel Bowser on Wednesday, citing a 14-day decline in Chinese coronavirus community spread and sufficient hospital capacity, among other metrics the city must meet to reopen.

D.C. is basing its 14-day decline in community spread on a five-day average, given that the number of cases fluctuates day by day.

On Wednesday, Bowser told reporters:

Today, I will be signing a mayor’s order that will lift the stay-at-home order. Beginning Friday, May 29, we will move into Phase One of reopening. So I want to clarify this, COVID-19 [the disease produced by the coronavirus] is still in our community, and our region and our nation and the public health emergency will continue. Gatherings of more than ten people are still prohibited.

Starting Friday, the mayor will allow non-essential retail businesses to operate only with curbside and front-door or delivery; haircuts by appointments and with stations six feet apart; outdoor seating at restaurants in addition to takeout, delivery, and grab and go; the reopening of dog parks, golf courses, parks, tennis courts, as well as tracks and fields; and allow health care providers to continue or resume offering elective surgeries.

 

Dr. LaQuandra Nesbitt, director of the D.C. Department of Health (DOH), told reporters:

As the stay-at-home order … is being replaced with the mayor’s order today, we still want people to be judicious around the types of activities that they are participating in. It is still favorable for us as a city, if people focus on participating in the essential activities that they have previously been engaging in and using good judgment when utilizing the non-essential activities that have been highlighted today.

The health department director urged people to avoid contact with members of high-risk communities, like seniors, if they do go out and engage in non-essential activities.

Bowser cautioned that the number of COVID-19 infections would likely increase as the more people venture outside when the city reopens Friday.

“I want to make sure that we all understand that moving into Phase One means that more people can get infected because now more people will be moving around in the community,” the mayor warned.

However, Bowser noted that D.C. is ready to deal with a potential spike in cases after it reopens.

“We have put in place the hospital capacity, built up our PPE [Personal Protective Equipment] supply, and added new contact tracers,” she said.

Asked about returning to lockdown if the coronavirus conditions worsen after reopening, Bowser said she does not “anticipate going back.”

“DOH will continue to monitor the spread of the virus in the district, and this order [to reopen] can be turned up or turned down, or there could be [specific] activities that we know need to be changed, and we can change it by order,” she added.

According to data from the mayor’s office, there have been sufficient days of a low COVID-19 transmission rate to reopen the city. Moreover, D.C. can test all priority groups, as mandated by the district’s reopening guidelines.

Currently, the city can test 5,500 people per day, Bowser told reporters on Wednesday.

The district also has an adequate capacity to contact trace all new cases and their close contacts, information from the mayor’s office revealed.

Bowser urged people to continue wearing masks, social distancing, and practicing good hygiene as the city reopens.

“Every single one of us has a role to play in protecting ourselves and each other,” she noted, later adding, “We have a shared responsibility to stop the spread of the virus.”

The mayor also encouraged the federal government and private companies to allow people to continue teleworking when possible during Phase One.

Monday was D.C.’s first day with no new coronavirus deaths since March. The following day, there were five new COVID-19 deaths, bringing the cumulative total to 445 since the district confirmed its first case on March 7.

D.C. continues to see an increase in the cumulative number of new positive cases, which currently stands at 8,406, about 20 percent of the total 42,697 tested in the city, data from the mayor’s office showed.

.

Please let us know if you're having issues with commenting.