By Micha Green
AFRO D.C. Editor
It’s been over eight weeks since D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser issued a stay-at-home order for District residents and more than ten weeks since most of the city has been shutdown and in quarantine, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the fact that the novel coronavirus is still very much a factor in the nation’s capital, with positive cases on the decline and having met other testing, hospital and personal protective equipment (PPE) metrics, Mayor Bowser confidently proclaimed that D.C. would begin its first phase of reopening on May 29.
“So today I will be signing a mayor’s order that will lift the stay-at-home order, and beginning Friday, May 29, we will move into Phase One of reopening,” Bowser said in a press conference on May 27.
Phase One Permissions Include:
- Retailers can do curbside or front door pickup for customers who placed online and over-the phone orders, as well as delivery options.
- Barbershops and hair salons can have clients by appointment only and can only have stations six feet apart. (Does not include waxing, electrolysis, threading and nail care.)
- Restaurants are available for takeout, delivery and outdoor dining, but tables must be six feet apart.
- Dog parks, golf courses, parks, tennis courts and tracks and fields will reopen. (Does not include public pools, playgrounds, recreation centers and indoor Department of Recreation facilities, and residents are still not allowed to play basketball, football and soccer.)
- Elective surgeries are now permitted, allowing for healthcare providers to offer outpatient or other surgical procedures that won’t burden hospital capacities or get in the way of COVID-19 care.
However, with COVID still around, phase one isn’t a free-for-all.
“So I want to clarify this, COVID-19 is still in our community, in our region and our nation and the Public Health Emergency will continue,” Bowser said, before explaining some restrictions. “Gatherings of more than 10 people are still prohibited.”
As of May 27, 8,406 D.C. residents tested positive for COVID-19 and 445 Washingtonians lost their lives, with 72 of those positives and five of those deaths occurring just the day before. Notwithstanding these bleak metrics, D.C. is moving in an optimistic direction, based off of achieving a 14-day sustained decline in community transmission.
“Of course this 14-day sustained decline in community spread is one of the metrics that we established for moving into Phase One, and now we have reached it along with other metrics for testing capacity, healthcare system capacity and public system capacity related to testing and tracing,” Bowser said.
In a press conference on May 26, Bowser announced that the District was onboarding approximately 50 new contact tracers and opening two new testing sites on Monday, June 1.
With the city reopening, more testing sites, hospitals and PPE will be necessary as the mayor foresees a rise in positive cases.
“I want to make sure that we all understand that moving into Phase One, that more people can be get infected as more people will be moving around in the community. We have put in place the hospital capacity, have more PPE, added new contact tracers so that we are ready to overcome what lies ahead,” Bowser said.
With more people out and about contact tracing and heightened testing capacity is key.
“We still need to be very focused on identifying who has COVID-19, who has been exposed to COVID-19 and making sure those people isolate so that we can stop the spread of the virus in our city. Testing is how we do that and that we know that more people will be moving around and we want to emphasize to everyone, if you need a test, get a test,” Bowser said. “As we begin to move people around the city, I want to emphasize that we can test anyone who needs a test. So if you need a test because you are sick or because you have been exposed to COVID 19, we’re asking you to call your doctor, or to call our citywide testing line if you need a test.”