Another weekend on the National Mall — with a global pandemic in mind

Justin and Cody enjoy the National Mall on Saturday, March 20, while keeping their distance from other groups during the coronavirus pandemic. (WTOP/Liz Anderson)

Amid a national emergency and tightening restrictions on public gatherings, D.C.’s National Mall maintained a thin veneer of normalcy Saturday as visitors walked among the monuments while staying far apart from each other.

Joggers jogged. Folks walked their dogs. Others took strolls during the nippy weekend afternoon, while some rode bikes alone, in pairs or groups.

Blankets covered the grass beneath the Smithsonian Castle, as one would expect on a seasonable spring morning — but with a bit more space between them than usual.

One couple relaxed in lawn chairs while their children played.

“The more that we can do as a community to keep social distancing for the next two weeks to a month, I think the better off we’re all going to be,” Mark Magana told WTOP — at a distance, of course.

“This is our backyard, almost. Thank God, we have this open space,” Olga Mongelos said.

Olga said their 5 and 7-year-old children ask when they can see their friends, but as parents, they are open with their kids about the coronavirus and its profound impact on American society.

Along the way, Justin and Cody picked a spot to sit, then Cody searched the grass for a stick their dog Sam could gnaw on.

These days, they have lots of free time from one of their jobs at a bar.

“We’re lucky enough that we each have a salaried job that keeps us busy during the day, and we can rely on that, but we have a lot of co-workers who are just completely out of work right now,” Justin said.

Cody noted how rapid the shift was from concerns about hand washing and hand sanitizer supplies a couple of weeks ago to our current state of affairs.

“It’s just a complete life shift. I used to complain about my side hustle just taking up most of my life, and now it’s kind of gone,” Cody said.

It seems those out there were trying to “maintain some quality of life,” said a man who was unloading a bicycle from the back of an SUV along Madison Drive NW.

He told WTOP he was preparing to meet up with friends for a ride. Avoid the headlines, and it was a peaceful Saturday, set against a backdrop of tweeting birds, conversation and fun.

“The best case scenario is we all kind of look at this as we’re more connected globally than we ever thought we were, he said. “Hopefully we can also use that same kind of realization for good and also show that we have a responsibility — that we are part of a community to look out for one another.”

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