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D.C. Might Not Start Reopening for Another 3 Weeks

Mayor Muriel Bowser plans to start lifting restrictions by June 8

A sign outside the U.S. Captiol
SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser today extended the city’s emergency orders through Monday, June 8, giving the city an additional three weeks to contain COVID-19 cases before potentially entering the first phases of reopening businesses. Bowser’s previous orders were set to expire Friday, May 15.

Bowser stressed that she could revise the plan and start lifting restrictions — including a dine-in ban that limits restaurants to takeout and delivery — before June 8 if the city meets its benchmarks for evaluating the state of the public health crisis.

D.C. benchmarks for reopening include observing a 14-day downward trend in new coronavirus cases. Data the mayor shared Wednesday showed five straight days of consecutive decline, from 245 new cases on Thursday, May 7, to 99 new cases on Tuesday, May 12. As of Wednesday, May 13, D.C. reported 6,584 COVID-19 cases total and 350 deaths.

That said, Bowser said D.C. is already meeting its reopening standards for testing capacity and surge capacity at hospitals (under 80 percent). The city continues to hire contact tracers, who will reach out to people who tested positive and track people who came into contact with them. D.C. is aiming to onboard 200 people for its contact tracing program by the end of the month.

Meanwhile, Virginia plans to lift some restrictions on restaurants and nonessential businesses on May 15, and Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan has teased plans to enter the first phases of reopening this week (he’s scheduled to provide more details tonight). But Hogan and Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam have signaled that D.C. suburbs in both states can delay reopening targets, as they’re showing a higher prevalence of the virus. Northern Virginia expects to begin reopening Friday, May 29, as long as COVID-19 numbers decline.

Virginia’s first phase of reopening will allow restaurants to host diners again, but only using outdoor seating at limited capacity. Maryland’s plan calls for keeping dining rooms closed until the second phase.

In Washington, residents have already begun to show signs of quarantine fatigue. Last week, crowds ignored social distancing protocols while lining up for Cinco de Mayo specials. The previous weekend, sunny spring weather lured large swaths of people out on the National Mall and even onto the patio of a bar on 14th Street NW.