By Micha Green
AFRO D.C. Editor
It’s been over two months since D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser urged District residents to stay at home and enacted an emergency shutdown of non-essential businesses due to COVID-19. Although she said D.C. would begin reopening on June 8, late last week, statistics showed tremendous improvement and Bowser hinted that a potential phased reopening could begin on May 29. Despite a brief mix-up with metrics discovered over the weekend, as of May 26, D.C. reached day 13 of sustained decline- with the target being 14 days- thus statistics are leaning towards an imminent phased reopening for the nation’s capital.
“Over the weekend we had a setback on our community spread metric,” Bowser said, May 26, after the long Memorial Day weekend. “The data showed an increase outside of the expected ups and downs, so we had to reset day 11,” she said before explaining that the District is continuing to see lower numbers.
As of May 25, 8,334 District of Columbia residents tested positive for COVID-19, 440 lost their lives and 76 percent of those who died were Black Washingtonians. These bleak statistics have prevented D.C.’s phased reopening up to this point; however the Mayor reported that no Washingtonians had passed due to COVID-19 the night before, and statistics show 109 residents had been diagnosed with the virus the previous day, which is considered a decrease safe enough to add to the District’s reopening metrics. The goal is to reach a 14-day sustained decline.
“This morning, as we did yesterday, we were able to report decreases again. So this morning we reported that we are now at 13 days of sustained decline, which means that if the trend holds, we will be able to report 14 days tomorrow.”
The Mayor explained that tracking community spread is a key factor in deciding how and when to reopen the District because it allows leaders to assess if D.C. would be prepared for further spread of the novel coronavirus.
“We track community spread to be able to understand if we are able to manage and rapidly respond to any new increases,” Bowser said.
The Mayor’s actions for the future show that the District is moving towards more lenient restrictions.
“We look ahead to next steps in Phase One. Last week we asked our businesses to get ready for a phased reopening. Phase One for restaurants would mean outside dining and Phase One for retailers and non essential retailers would include grab and go options. So we continue to ask them to look at coronavirus.dc.gov for a checklist on phased reopening,” Bowser said.
With reopening, Bowser said tracking, testing and contact tracing is key.
“We also continue to track how we’re doing with healthcare capacity, our ability to test people and our ability to trace the contact of those who have tested positive, Bowser said. “In fact today we are onboarding approximately 50 new contract tracers.”
In addition, the mayor said that two new testing sites are due to open on June 1.
The new Southeast testing site was created as a replacement for United Medical Center, in hopes that it is a more accessible location for residents.
“The drive through and walk through will be established at 2241 Martin Luther King Avenue [S.E.],” Bowser said. “This new location was chosen as a more accessible alternative.”
Bowser also announced a new testing site for downtown, D.C.
“A new downtown walkup testing site- and that will be established on 5th Street N.W between F and G Streets, near The Building Museum.”