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D.C. Mayor Outlines Criteria for Reopening the City

Muriel Bowser wants to see two weeks of declining coronavirus cases before lifting emergency measures

Mayor Muriel Bowser - Washington, DC
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser at a daily briefing last week.
Matt McClain/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Speaking at daily briefing on Thursday, April 23, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser outlined preliminary criteria for lifting a “stay-at-home” order in place during the novel coronavirus outbreak that’s keeping nonessential businesses closed and restricting restaurants to takeout and delivery through at least May 15.

Bowser says the city needs to observe a consistent downward trend of COVID-19 cases for two weeks before it will consider reopening. The city’s healthcare must also demonstrate a capacity to handle an influx of patients without following crisis standards.

The mayor says the District will act in line with the White House’s three-phase reopening guidelines. To do so, the city is working to beef up a contact tracing team that identifies people who have been exposed to the virus. The city already employs 65 contact tracers and is hiring to more than triple that number. Bowser’s plan calls for a team of 900 contact tracers by the time D.C. is ready to move onto Phase 1 of the White House’s plan, which would keep bars closed but allow restaurants and other “large venues” to host customers with “strict” distancing protocols.

Bowser’s presentation says the city can run 3,700 tests a day and aims to double that capacity in the coming weeks.

Bowser says D.C. has to be “deliberate and strategic” with its reopening plans. “I don’t think we’re going to have a light switch and everything goes back,” she says. In addition to adding contact tracers, the city is forming a Reopen DC Advisory Group made up of 12 committees representing government and community leaders. That includes a committee for restaurant and food retailers.

The city’s reopening plan will follow priorities outlined by a HOPE acronym: Health, Opportunity, Prosperity, and Equity.

“We have a once in a generation opportunity to reopen our city in a way that builds a more equitable D.C.,” Bowser says.

Georgia is set to be the first state to reopen dining rooms next week, with Governor Brian Kemp making a controversial proclamation to start the process Monday. The guidelines there include limiting restaurants to 10 customers for every 500 square feet.

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