DC to Enter Phase I Reopening Friday

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The Stay-at-Home Order will be lifted as of Friday, May 29, Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) said Wednesday, May 27. The Mayor is expected to sign the order later Wednesday, moving the District into Phase 1 of a gradual reopening.

The order comes after some discussion about the data used to determine when the District had met requirement for a 14-day decline. DC is using symptom onset to monitor the spread of the virus, rather than positive test results to determine decline. DC saw a spike in new cases on May 13 and treated it as an anomoly, reseting the count to 11 days rather than going back to zero.

Phase 1 permits gatherings of less than ten people. DC will reopen parks, fields, tennis courts and dog parks, although contact sports such as football and basketball are still forbidden. Playgrounds, pools and recreation centers will stay closed.

Non-essential businesses can now reopen for front door and curbside pickup as well as delivery, but no customers will be permitted in shops. Restaurants can begin using outdoor seating, but patrons must order and be served at tables which must be spaced 6 feet apart. Bowser said that a process is being launched to identify public space and streets to close for restaurants, retail and recreation purposes. More information should be available Friday, she added.

“If they are a food-seller that can serve food to patrons while seated, they are allowed to serve food while patrons are seated,” Bowser said.

Hairdressers and barbers can reopen for ‘hair-related’ services, including haircuts and coloring, but not services such as threading and waxing.

DC Health Director Laquandra Nesbitt does not outright recommend that people avoid socializing outside of their household unit, but does ask people to exercise caution saying it would be better for the District overall if people stick to the essential activities, noting that the larger the number of different people and places you go, the higher the risk not only to yourself, but to those you come in contact with.

“Some of those individuals may be members of high-risk groups,” she said, “and so the kind of activities and the number of activities you engage in can put them in danger.”

Bowser acknowledged that Phase 1 could lead to increased infection as more peole move around in the community, but said that there is now sufficient capacity to test and trace COVID-19 cases, as well as hospital capacity. DC can test those who ‘need’ it, she said, with capacity of up to 5,500 tests daily.

Still, the Mayor encouraged residents to exercise caution. “What you should be thinking about is, in my mind, I actually call it ‘stay-at-home light’,” Bowser said. The Mayor recommended that people continue to practice social distancing, wear masks, stay home when sick and wash hands regularly.

If the District’s progress in meeting the gated criteria deteriorates, the District can order more stringent measures to contain the spread of COVID-19 and to address
the changing circumstances of the public health emergency.

Guidance on Phase I can be found at coronavirus.dc.gov/phaseone. The full Mayor’s Order can be seen at coronavirus.dc.gov/sites/default/files