D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser voiced concern Thursday that residents aren’t being “vigilant” in small gatherings, and said there could be new restrictions put in place.
“We have to all be reminded of all the advice that we have been providing over the last several weeks … don’t get tired of being vigilant about COVID,” Bowser said at the dedication ceremony for the Marion Barry Building at One Judiciary Square.
“Wear your mask, limit your trips. Don’t try to do everything all in the same day, from shopping, to dining, to getting your hair done. Be mindful of small gatherings. People who are in their home or in the home of a family member, around people that they know — they are letting their guards down.”
Asked if D.C. might impose new restrictions as the region moves toward winter, Bowser said, “We may.”
New COVID-19 cases have been on the rise throughout the D.C. area and across the U.S.
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D.C. Health Director Dr. LaQuandra Nesbitt had the same worries as Bowser.
“As the mayor has said, it’s this notion that when people are with their friends and family, that are not members of their immediate household, that interact with every day, they have less vigilance about wearing masks and practicing those everyday cautions,” Nesbitt said.
“It’s those things that, when you go to a friend’s house, and you’re sharing utensils and condiments and not washing your hands in between, or having a mask off for extended periods of time to consume food and beverages, those are prime opportunities for transmission of the virus.”
Nesbitt said it was too early to tie the rise in cases to election celebrations over the weekend. But Halloween events could be responsible.
“Some people may have been celebrating in a traditional sense, having small gatherings or going to certain venues or social activities where they are doing what is common across the U.S., spending time in households and indoor gatherings,” she said.
She added that roughly half of the people who are reporting a social activity are saying that they’re in groups of five to 10.
“But 60% of people who are reporting a social activity are saying that social distancing or mask wearing wasn’t adhered to, so people aren’t wearing a mask, they’re letting their guard down,” Nesbitt said.
“So this really is a concept or construct where folks who are out in these social environments, or attending a social-related event, are more in these smaller intimate settings, where social distancing and mask wearing is not adhered to consistently.”
Fresh concerns over small gatherings comes after D.C.’s new travel restrictions took effect Monday.
The new guidance states that visitors to the District must get tested beforehand, but removes the requirement for D.C. residents who have traveled to self-quarantine, instead asking them to limit daily activities and self-monitor for 14 days.
On Tuesday, Bowser defended her own recent trip to Delaware to congratulate Joe Biden and Kamala Harris on their election victory, despite District health officials considering it a high-risk state for coronavirus exposure.
Bowser dedicates Marion Barry Building
Bowser dedicated the One Judiciary Square building as the “Marion S. Barry Jr. Building” on Thursday, honoring D.C.’s former mayor.
“Certainly, the District of Columbia is a complicated animal, city, county, state, capital city. All of those things wrapped up in one, and always with the eyes of the world right here,” she said. “And Marion Barry was unapologetic in his leadership. He certainly put Washington, D.C. on the map.”
Bowser said it’s been her “honor to carry on the tradition of making everybody recognize and honor who we are as the city, and what we mean to this country and to the whole world.”
D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson helped lead the effort to rename the building.
Cora Masters Barry, Marion Barry’s wife, spoke at the ceremony. “We just want to continue to promote Marion’s legacy,” she said.
“This is a significant, historic event that is the beginning, not only of telling the story of the contributions of Marion S. Barry Jr., but also of the city. My husband loved Washington, D.C., and its residents. He would be so honored to know that Mayor Muriel Bowser and D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson have honored his legacy in this wonderful way. I want to thank them,” she said in a release.
DC coronavirus numbers
D.C. reported 128 new coronavirus cases Thursday. The total is now at 18,507.
No new deaths were reported. So far, 657 District residents have lost their lives to the virus.
Track the District’s data online. Below are maps of cases by ward and neighborhood.