Bowser announces vaccine eligibility expansion, relaxation of more COVID-19 safety rules

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser announced the expansion of vaccine eligibility on Twitter and the relaxation of some COVID-19 safety restrictions in the District at a news conference Monday.

Beginning April 19, D.C. residents 16 and older will be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine.

Starting May 1:

  • Seated live entertainment venues will reopen, both indoors and outdoors, with a capacity limit of 25% or 500 people, whichever is less;
  • Movie theaters can reopen at 25% capacity;
  • Live music will be allowed near outdoor restaurant seating;
  • Weddings and special events, business meetings and conventions can operate at 25% capacity or 250 people, whichever is less;
  • Graduations will be allowed, with limits — specifics on those limits will be coming soon, Bowser said;
  • Non-essential retail will operate at 50% capacity indoors and outdoors;
  • Libraries, museums and galleries can reopen at 50% indoors and outdoors;
  • Indoor and outdoor public pools, as well as indoor recreation centers, can reopen at 50%;
  • Outdoor races such as 5K races can resume at 50% capacity;
  • Outdoor splash pads can reopen at full capacity.

The move comes as vaccination numbers continue to rise in the District. The mayor said there was an expectation that there will be some increases in cases, but with vaccines and continued safeguards, officials are optimistic that the numbers will eventually come down.

D.C. Health Director Dr. LaQuandra Nesbitt also announced a vaccination center at Arena Stage, in Southwest, which will open April 9 and operate Thursday through Sunday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

She added that the vaccination center at the convention center is expanding through a partnership with Safeway.

To set up an appointment through D.C. Health, go to vaccinate.dc.gov or call 855-363-0333.

D.C. Council Member Charles Allen pointed out Monday that D.C. residents age 16 and up can preregister for the Federal Emergency Management Agency vaccine site opening Wednesday at the Greenbelt Metro.

The link is https://onestop.md.gov/preregistration, and after creating an account, you can pick Greenbelt as your site, then wait for a call from the 240 area code.

Sports

Bowser said the city “will continue to consider waivers” of capacity limits for professional sports teams in the District to play in front of fans, and later Monday, the owners of the Capitals and Wizards said the lack of such a waiver for them likely means they won’t play in front of fans this season.

Monumental Sports and Entertainment said Monday that they had asked for a waiver to play at Capital One Arena with a 10% capacity limit. Bowser’s administration has not granted that request, and, given that the Capitals’ home season ends May 11 and the Wizards’ May 16, “it appears we will complete the 20-21 season with no fans in attendance,” the company said.

Monumental said it was “very disappointed,” adding that D.C. was “on track to be one of the last American cities to host fans at indoor sporting events.”

Asked at Monday’s news conference about waiver requests in general, Bowser said, “I expect we will be coming to those decisions soon.”

Pharmacies

Asked about reports that Walgreens and the independent Kalorama Pharmacy are offering vaccination appointments through their own systems, Nesbitt said that the District government engaged all pharmacies early on so they would all be working off the same list of preregistrations.

“That’s the theory,” Nesbitt said, and CVS is doing just that. But “they are not bound to” those agreements legally, since their doses come directly from the federal government, she added.

“It is not impossible that a site has been activated without our knowledge and is recruiting individuals separately from what is happening in the [D.C. government] portal.”

Bowser also reminded residents to “take your name off the list” if you’ve gotten your vaccine elsewhere, by emailing vaccinatedc@dc.gov.

Council business

D.C. Council Chair Phil Mendelson preceded Bowser with a rundown of some of the bills to be discussed in a legislative meeting on Tuesday.

The most important measures include an exception to the ban on evictions in the District when residents are causing a public-safety problem, such as criminal activity. “It’s pretty hard to argue” against the idea, Mendelson said, adding that the council adopted the blanket ban on evictions a year ago as the pandemic was ramping up, and said at the time that if there was a need for nuance later, they’d address it.

They will also take up a bill that would give Bowser authority to use eminent domain over the site of a proposed 300-bed halfway house in Ward 7 in order to change it to a planned park.

“I haven’t sought the authority,” Bowser said, adding that “eminent domain is a high bar to achieve.”

The point is that she wants a halfway house to be smaller; both she and Mendelson cited the breakup of the D.C. General shelter into smaller buildings throughout the District as a model.

Mendelson added that an “isolated,” “arrogant” federal Bureau of Prisons has not been working with the DC government, and “seems to just do what it wants.”

Mendelson added that there would be no vote Tuesday on whether to make Acting Police Chief Robert Contee permanent; that vote would more likely come at meetings set for April 20 or May 4.

‘Devastated’

The news conference began with a moment of silence to honor the passing of Elizabeth Davis, head of the Washington Teachers’ Union, in a car crash in Prince George’s County.

“I am so devastated,” Bowser said of the death of Davis, a 40-year teacher in the D.C. Public Schools.

“I’m in shock,” said D.C. Council Chair Phil Mendelson. “Liz was a fierce advocate for education, and for teachers. … There’s definitely going to be a vacuum here.”

Hannah Parker contributed to this report. 


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.

Rick Massimo

Rick Massimo came to WTOP, and to Washington, in 2012 after having lived in Providence, R.I., since he was a child. He went to George Washington University as an undergraduate and is regularly surprised at the changes to the city since that faraway time.

Like WTOP on Facebook and follow @WTOP on Twitter to engage in conversation about this article and others.

Get breaking news and daily headlines delivered to your email inbox by signing up here.

© 2021 WTOP. All Rights Reserved. This website is not intended for users located within the European Economic Area.

More from WTOP

Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up