DC lifts some COVID restrictions, enters Phase One; city speed limit to be cut

An employee at Cafe Milano in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, cleans and prepares for reopening, Friday, May 29, 2020, as the District of Columbia gradually loosens stay-at-home rules that have been in place since March 25 because of the pandemic and allows restaurants to resume outdoor dining. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)(AP/J. Scott Applewhite)
An employee at Cafe Milano in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, cleans and prepares for reopening, Friday, May 29, 2020. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
D.C. marked the first day of Phase One in its reopening plan Friday, lifting restrictions on residents and businesses.

For the District, it is a pivot away from three months of being told to stay home.

Among the biggest change is that restaurants can seat customers outdoors — albeit 6 feet apart and in a limited capacity, with no more than six people at a table. D.C. is, however, developing a plan to expand available outdoor space, including ways to use streets as public areas.

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser discussed “how we can re-imagine our roadways to support restaurants and retail, especially during our pandemic response, and how we can support DDOT’s idea of ‘streeteries’ — these are eateries on in public space, for example.”


“DDOT is a launching an application site where restaurants can apply to expand their outdoor space, or if they don’t, if they’re not currently permitted for outdoor space, they can apply for outdoor space, and retailers may also apply to ensure that there is a curbside pickup location near their business,” she said.

Nonessential businesses such as retail shops, which have been closed since March, can offer curbside pickup.

Barbershops and salons can also reopen by appointment only and with work stations 6 feet apart.

Gatherings of 10 or more people are still prohibited, as is waxing, threading and nail care.

“Also, starting today, residents are able to drop off and reserve books to be picked up curbside at two D.C. Public Library locations: Cleveland Park library and Anacostia library,” Bowser said.

Residents can reserve books using the chat function on the library website or by calling the library. The District plans to expand the list of libraries to include one in each ward and over the next two weeks.

The Fort Totten transfer station is also opening Friday for residents who need to drop off trash and bulk items.

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. 

But even as the District took small steps to return to how things were before the coronavirus pandemic, Bowser warned that it’s “not a day of celebration.”

“It’s a day of being able to do some things slowly and on a limited basis that we haven’t been able to do for 10 weeks,” she said. “But it’s not a party, and we shouldn’t treat it like a party, or else we’ll be back to square one.”

More information is available on D.C.’s Phase One website.

DC speed limit cut to 20 mph June 1

Bowser announced a bold initiative Friday as part of an effort to curb pedestrian deaths in the District: cutting the city speed limit from 25 mph to 20 mph starting June 1.

“One thing that we have for sure learned with less traffic on the street is that people are driving faster, and we see it all over,” Bowser said. “So, we are making the default speed limit on local roads 20 mph, and that is down from 25 mph.”

“While it may seem like a small change, we know that surviving accidents is strongly correlated to speed, and lowering the speed limit will help us keep people safe,” she said.

The move comes after lowering the speed limit to 15 mph near schools and recreation centers last year.

“Additionally, DDOT is working on launching an initiative called ‘Slow Streets,’ and through this effort, DDOT will identify areas of our city where more space is needed to move around and social distance,” Bowser said.

She added that the District Department of Transportation has identified existing bikeways that can be part of the “Slow Streets” initiative network.

“They will restrict those rows to local traffic only and reduce the speed limits on those roads to 15 mph,” Bowser said. “While these roads will not be completely close to traffic, barriers and signage about the restrictions will be posted so that drivers know that these are local roads only.”

DC’s coronavirus numbers

The District reported 46 new coronavirus cases Friday, bringing the total to 8,538.

There were also seven deaths, for a total of 460 District residents who have lost their lives.

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

See all the data at D.C.’s coronavirus website.

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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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