D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser urged residents and visitors to the nation’s capital to stay home this Independence Day during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
“We want to send a message to our residents to enjoy the Fourth of July, to celebrate, according to our guidance, and to do it at home,” Bowser said during a Thursday news conference.
She said she hopes residents stay home or near their home in small groups. Restrictions on the number of people who can gather were loosened under Phase Two of the reopening plan, but mass gatherings of more than 50 are still prohibited.
“It’s also critical that we remember that, not just on the Fourth of July, but as we move through our Phase Two reopening, that the virus has not disappeared. It is still in our community,” Bowser said.
“We of course know that the White House has already announced its plans, and the National Park Service will conduct the fireworks to celebrate the nation’s birthday. We will continue to support those activities in the way that we have traditionally. But we hope that the crowds that come in non-pandemic years won’t materialize this year.”
- Sign up for WTOP alerts
- Latest coronavirus test results in DC, Maryland and Virginia
- Where the pandemic is exacerbated by a housing crisis — and vice versa
- Coronavirus crisis amplified in Northern Va.’s immigrant communities
- Fairfax County moves coronavirus testing event after backlash
- DC area must remain vigilant as coronavirus numbers fall, expert says
- Coronavirus resources: Get and give help in DC, Maryland and Virginia
Separately, President Donald Trump is moving ahead with a “Salute to America” celebration from the White House’s South Lawn and the Ellipse this year.
D.C. Health Director Dr. LaQuandra Nesbitt cautioned that the city is not ready to talk about plans for Phase Three of reopening because the criteria have no been met.
“If you recall in the Reopen DC recommendation, we had informed the public that a Phase Three needs to be where we have sporadic cases in the District of Columbia and or clusters of cases,” Nesbitt said.
“We still may only have 30 cases and have plateaued in that area. But the cases are not yet connected to each other, which means that we still have moderate community transmission. We still have quite a bit of virus that is circulating in the city,” she said.
A key concern is causing a second wave of infections, not through any connection to fall or winter sickness, but by reopening too fast, Nesbitt added.
“It’s difficult to predict when (Phase Three) would occur from a time frame perspective,” she said. “I am not in a position to advise the mayor to say our community should expect to within one week, two week, three weeks have that be our experience here in the District of Columbia.”
On the eve of a historic vote in Congress on D.C. statehood, Bowser pointed out the District’s unique position — especially when dealing with the pandemic and the federal government.
“This White House has framed the corona response as the governors’ response, that they will do this, but it’s really up to the governors,” Bowser said. “Well, there is no governor of Washington, D.C.”
Not being a state has hampered D.C.’s response to the coronavirus crisis in other ways as well, according to Bowser.
“I think our lack of having two senators has impacted our level of funding,” she said.
Bowser added that while she hasn’t always been in favor of switching the title of D.C.’s chief executive from “mayor” to “governor,” the pandemic changed her mind.
“My recent experience with COVID has changed my thinking about that. We should make sure that people know that we are just like them. But, we still have to continue our fight for statehood,” she said.
The House is slated to hold its historic vote on D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton’s bill, HR 51, Friday at 1:30 p.m.
Discussion, not ‘mob rule,’ on DC statues
A day after it was announced that the D.C. National Guard would be providing security for monuments in the District as Confederate statues are being toppled nationwide, Bowser said she wants a discussion.
“This is what I think we all need to do with statues is … have a reasonable conversation on statues and other references to historical figures, not have a mob decide that they want to pull it down and certainly not destroy anything in the District or set anything on fire.”
DC coronavirus numbers
D.C. reported 31 new cases of coronavirus Thursday. D.C.’s total number of known cases is 10,159.
Two more District residents have died, bringing the total deaths to 543.
Track the District’s coronavirus data online.
Below are maps of coronavirus cases by ward, neighborhood and community spread.