Washington, D.C.’s stay-at-home-order was lifted today, signaling a start to the ReOpen DC plan that was released on May 21.
Mayor Muriel Bowser’s order to begin Phase One of reopening, which was made public on May 27, allows limited opening of non-essential retail businesses and restaurants, in addition to repealing the stay-at-home order. This was the first relaxation of guidelines since the stay-at-home order was put in place on March 30, almost exactly two months ago. The public health emergency and public emergency declarations remain in place through July 24.
According to the D.C. Department of Health, 8,538 citizens in the District have tested positive for COVID-19 and 460 have died. Positive rates of tests are still fairly high, with the DMV area clocking in the highest rate of positive tests just last week. As of May 27, the total percent of tests that were positive was just under 20 percent, and the percent of positive tests from May 24 to May 28 was just over 10 percent. The World Health Organization has asked cities to aim for a positivity rate of 10 percent but said that five would be ideal.
The order lays out new guidelines for Phase One of reopening. Individuals can now leave their homes, provided they maintain a distance of six feet from others at all possible times. Residents are also encouraged to wear masks. Gatherings of more than ten people continue to be prohibited.
The order also allows for businesses, many of whom have been struggling to pay rent and maintain employees on payroll, to open in a limited capacity. Non-essential retail businesses may open for curbside pick-up or delivery of items ordered by customers over the phone, though indoor shopping remains prohibited. These non-essential businesses include gyms, entertainment providers, most stores, museums, and bars. The complete list can be found in the order.
Barbershops and hair salons can open for appointments only and limited services, provided open stations are at least six feet away from each other.
Healthcare providers may resume offering non-essential outpatient surgeries as long as they do not burden hospital capacity or resources.
Restaurants may open for in-person outdoor dining, as long as parties are no more than six people and are not sat within six feet of each other. Restaurants are encouraged by the city to use reservations and keep customer logs for contact tracing.
The order also allowed the re-opening of city parks, dog parks, tennis courts, tracks, and fields. Some libraries will begin opening for curbside check-out services.
The ReOpen DC advisory group has recommended that the District open in four stages, based on four criteria: a decline in COVID-19 cases, sufficient capacity in testing, health care, and contact tracing.
In the Mayor’s order, she wrote that her decision to begin loosening restrictions stems from the fact that all four criteria to move to the first stage have been met. These include a 14-day decline in the number of cases, an ability to test all individuals who are symptomatic, have had close contact with confirmed cases, or serve in essential or at-risk roles, a hospital occupancy under 80 percent for over seven days, and a contact-tracing system for confirmed cases within one day.
Moving to Phase Two will require the virus to only be transmitted locally, meaning all cases originated in the D.C. region.
According to the order, while current rates of infection are below projections, residents should still use caution. “We have a special responsibility to protect vulnerable populations and those who are subject to pre-COVID-19 health challenges and disparities, namely the elderly, African American and Latinx populations,” it reads.
The same day Mayor Bowser announced the start of Phase One, Provost Robert Groves sent a university-wide email stating the start of reopening would not change regulations on campus. Employees continue to work from home, and masks are required for all those on campus. The university also said it would be working with the city government to determine what reopening will look like for Georgetown. According to the order, the city aims to have a plan for campuses in place by July 1. An update on the fall semester is expected in the coming weeks.
More information about Phase One opening can be found here.