Bowser: DC could begin phased reopening next Friday

Signs reading “No Job No Rent” and “Food Not Rent” hang from the windows of an apartment building in Northwest Washington, Wednesday, May 20, 2020. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

D.C. could begin a phased reopening May 29, if data continues to show improvements, Mayor Muriel Bowser announced Thursday.

“We are going to monitor throughout the weekend, the trends that we see,” Bowser said. “And if those trends hold next week, by the end of next week, we will be able to communicate the start of our phased reopening.”

Bowser made the announcement following a presentation from the “Reopen DC Advisory Committee” with its recommendations for different businesses that can reopen safely.

“We will be in a posture to begin a phased reopening next Friday, May the 29th, in Washington, D.C. Let me be clear about what this is and what it isn’t,” she added. “It is not an on and off switch. We will not be able to go back to life as we enjoyed it in February. But we are incrementally adding activities back in our lives, which we all miss and are all eager to get back to.”

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.

Reopen DC Advisory Committee recommendations

The “Reopen DC Advisory Committee” — headed by Susan Rice and Michael Chertoff — presented its recommendations during Thursday’s news conference.

“Now, let’s be clear, we acknowledge that with reopening come some incremental risk,” Chertoff said. “This is about risk management, not risk elimination. But we’re using the whole framework to help guide our planning and inform us how we can reduce risks while moving D.C. to a new and better norm.”

According to Chertoff, the committee looked at metrics such as community spread, testing capacity, health care system capacity and public health system capacity — including contact tracing.

“These gating criteria are gauged to determine the right time to proceed. And to recognize whether we need to dial back if it turns out that things take a turn for the worse,” he said.

This is what the committee’s four-stage phased reopening looks like:

Click to enlarge. (Courtesy D.C. government)

Businesses and activities that would be allowed to reopen with restricted capacity or safeguards in Stage 1 include:

  • Child care — limited child care open (e.g. for children of site-critical workers), limited to 10 people per room (children and adults)
  • Libraries — select libraries to provide limited curbside service
  • Places of worship — continued virtual worship services or groups up to 10 people
  • Parks and recreation — parks, fields, tennis courts, tracks and golf courses reopen with safeguards, while playgrounds remain closed
  • Hotels and accommodations — open with safeguards
  • Construction sites — open with safeguards
  • Restaurants and food — restaurants open outdoor seating with physical distancing and safeguards
  • Retail — nonessential retailers can provide curbside and delivery service
  • Personal services — barbershops and hair salons reopen by appointment with strong safeguards and physical distancing (five people per 1,000 square feet)
  • D.C. government — D.C. opens additional in-person services with safeguards and expands virtual service delivery
  • Shared transit — nonessential shared transit discouraged
  • Public transit — meet demand and allow for physical distancing.

The committee said it heard directly from thousands of residents, businesses and stakeholders.

A survey it put out received over 17,000 responses, and a town hall reached over 10,000 participants. It said it also held hundreds of focus groups and interviews.

The committee’s recommendations to Bowser can be read online.

DC considering how to reopen schools safely

Leaders are also taking into account how schools and camps could begin to reopen when the time is right.

The Reopen DC Advisory Committee briefed Bowser about the challenges and changes ahead when it comes to education after the pandemic wanes.

Director of Planning for the District Andrew Trueblood said the group recommends K-12 education not reopen until the city moves into Phase 2 of its reopening.

“As more students return to the classroom, there is the rec that schools consider an A/B schedule wherein only half of the students are at school at a given time,” Trueblood said.

There is not yet a projected date for when the city might move beyond Phase 1.

The mayor is deciding which of the recommendations to adopt as policies going forward and is offering more guidance as the weeks go on.

It is unlikely the city will make any decisions about schools until more is known about how the virus grows or diminishes.

Dr. LaQuandra Nesbitt with D.C. Health said new CDC guidelines about modified learning environments will be weighed into the District’s decisions.

Cases jump in DC; community transmission declines

The District reported a spike in new coronavirus cases Thursday, even as the city said it sees an 11-day downward trend in community spread, one of the metrics being looked at to plan reopening.

The jump in COVID-19 infections — 237 new cases, making Washington’s total 7,788 — marks the highest single-day increase since May 8, when D.C. added 203 cases.

Nesbitt said part of the reason for the spike in cases Thursday was clearing a backlog at a D.C. lab.

D.C. also reported five new COVID-19-related deaths, for a total of 412.

Black/African American residents continue to be hit hard by the virus. They make up 46% of all District coronavirus cases, and 77% of the city’s deaths.

Below are maps of coronavirus infections by ward and neighborhood.

Number of positive results: 7,788 (+237)

COVID-19-related deaths: 412 (+5)
Currently hospitalized*: 342 (+6)
Recoveries: 1,061 (+2)
Total number of tests: 41,756 (+1,337)

*D.C. began reporting hospitalizations May 11

WTOP’s Megan Cloherty contributed to this report. 

Will Vitka

William Vitka is a Digital Writer/Editor for 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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