DC to begin reopening Friday; Bowser lifting stay-at-home order

An image of Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Dr. Anthony Fauci with the word “Hope” hangs from the window of a row house in Washington, Friday, May 22, 2020. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Phase One reopening around the region: Prince George’s CountyNorthern Virginia — Montgomery County — Frederick, Anne Arundel and Charles counties

It’s official. D.C. will start the Phase 1 reopening process Friday after hitting a key benchmark in the fight against coronavirus: a 14-day decline in community spread.

During a briefing Wednesday, Mayor Muriel Bowser also said she will sign a mayoral order lifting her previous stay-at-home order, though gatherings of more than 10 people are still prohibited, and social distancing and face coverings remain recommended.

Click to enlarge.

Bowser urged caution.

“I want to clarify that COVID-19 is still in our community, in our region, in our nation, and the public health emergency will continue,” she said, and warned of new infections without a cure or vaccine.

On Wednesday night during a teletown hall, Bowser repeated her warning and said that moving into Phase One “doesn’t mean that we’re never going to see any new cases.”

What it does mean, she said is that the District is able to accommodate, localize and isolate cases in order to stop the spread.

“As we begin reopening, it cannot be said enough that every single one of us has a role to play in protecting ourselves and each other,” Bowser said. “We have a shared responsibility to stop the spread of the virus.”

She referred to the process of Phase 1 as “stay-at-home ‘light.'”

“It means that the stay-at-home restriction has been lifted. And some activities have been added back to what we can do, but they’re minimal,” Bowser said

She also noted that telework is encouraged through Phase 1.

“By taking these responsibilities seriously, we can continue to make progress and move toward getting our kids back to school and people back to work. If we don’t take them seriously, we risk losing the progress we’ve made by our shared sacrifice.”

See interactive maps and the data at coronavirus.dc.gov/data.

More Coronavirus News

Looking for more information? D.C., Maryland and Virginia are each releasing more data every day. Visit their official sites here: Virginia | Maryland | D.C.

What reopens in Phase 1

Bowser said nonessential businesses, such as retail, can start reopening in Phase 1 with curbside or front-door pickup.

“Customers can call these retailers, and order online or over the phone, and pick up their items curbside or at the front door,” Bowser said. “You may continue to deliver items ordered online or on the phone. But no customers may enter your building. No customers may enter your establishment.”

She added that barbershops and salons will be able to open by appointment only, with workstations 6 feet apart.

“I know that many people are eager to get their hair done, but we want you to remember also to do your part to keep yourself and your stylist or barber safe, and certainly do not go to your appointment if you are sick,” Bowser said.

Waxing, threading and nail care are still prohibited.

For restaurants, in addition to takeout and delivery, outdoor dining will be allowed.

“Diners may be seated outside, and customers must place their orders and be served while seated,” Bowser said. “All tables must be at least 6 feet apart. And no more than six people can sit at a table for restaurants that are not currently permitted for outdoor seating.”

Outdoor space may also expand for D.C. eateries, according to Bowser.

“We’re launching a process to re-imagine sidewalks, roads and other spaces for restaurants, retail and recreation,” she said.

Metro and transit

One of the questions asked of Bowser during the Wednesday night teletown hall was about Metro.

Bowser said Metro already has its own reopening plan.

“We are also working with them [Metro] on supplemental service, especially for essential workers and late night workers,” Bowser said.

Parks and rec, gyms

Under the Phase 1 reopening, some outdoor recreation spaces will be allowed to open while others remain shuttered.

Spaces such as parks, dog parks, golf courses, tennis courts, and track and fields areas can reopen.

However, “We are not able to open, at this time, playgrounds, public schools, recreation centers, or other indoor facilities at D.C. Parks and Recreation,” Bowser said.

Contact sports are also taking a hit.

“We are also not able to permit or allow contact sports like soccer, basketball and football. Of course, inherent in them is a level of contact that makes it much easier for the virus to spread,” Bowser said.

She again added that D.C. is working to identify places around the city where streets, alleys and sidewalks can be used to create more space for restaurants, retail and recreation.

David Magida, founder and owner of Elevate Internal Fitness, asked during the town hall Wednesday night whether or not gyms can now hold outdoor classes with 10 or fewer people.

Bowser said that might be something that requires more clarifying guidance but did keep the door open for that possibility.

“I don’t think we have anything that would prevent that, as long as it’s not a contact sport,” Bowser said.

DC’s coronavirus numbers

The District reported 72 new positive coronavirus cases Wednesday, bringing the total to 8,406.

The city also reported five new deaths, bringing the total number of D.C. residents who have lost their lives to 445.

Below are maps of cases by ward, neighborhood and community transmission.

WTOP’s Ken Duffy contributed to this report.

Will Vitka

William Vitka is a Digital Writer/Editor for WTOP.com. He's been in the news industry for over a decade. Before joining WTOP, he worked for CBS News, Stuff Magazine, The New York Post and wrote a variety of books—about a dozen of them, with more to come.

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