D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser has extended the city's stay-at-home order through June 8, saying the District needs more time to slow the spread of coronavirus.
The orders were set to expire Friday, May 15, but the mayor said the city needs to make progress on two measures in particular: getting people to take tests and slowing community transmission.
"Rushing to reopen can have tragic results," Bowser said. "We are eager to turn our economy on... but we know a second outbreak could be even worse."
The stay-at-home order can be revised at any time if the city decides to start a phased reopening, Bowser said.
There are just over 6,500 diagnosed coronavirus cases in the city. Bowser said that D.C.'s continued problem is that coronavirus continues to spread through communities.
The city says it is able to test everyone in four key categories: symptomatic patients, at-risk health care workers, essential workers and close contacts of all new positive cases.
"We still, however, don't think we're testing all of the people who need to be tested in those four groups," Bowser said. Residents need to be informed of when and how they should get free tests.
Another benchmark is the number of new cases reported each day, which indicates how the virus spreads through the community.
Since a recent high of 245 new infections reported on Friday, D.C. saw a trend toward lower numbers of new cases reported each day. Then, on Tuesday, 96 new cases were reported and 99 positive new cases were counted Wednesday.
Coronavirus Testing Sites in DC, Maryland & Virginia
Credit: Anisa Holmes / NBC Washington
Community virus transmission is still ongoing and must decline, D.C. Health Department Director LaQuandra Nesbitt said. The transmission rate must remain below a certain level for three days. On Tuesday, D.C. had met the mark for two days.
The health care system capacity has been at an acceptable use level for more than two weeks.
Contact tracing efforts are also ramping up.
Bowser has said that the city will follow the science in deciding when to reopen, rather than economic pressure or the leads of nearby states. She says she's not under any pressure to reopen from other politicians.
D.C. will launch a pilot program that will allow some locally owned educational and academic retailers to start some curbside and front door pick-up. These include small book stores.
These stores could be open by Monday. They have to go through an application process, which starts Friday. They will be required to share data with the city about what they're doing and how it's working.
Still, no customers will be allowed inside stores.
Residents who receive SNAP food benefits will also soon be able to use their EBT card to buy groceries from Amazon. They should use the link www.amazon.com/snap-ebt to shop.
Bowser has also said a bill in the House of Representatives would give D.C. $755 million in coronavirus aid. The money would address complaints that D.C. was treated shamefully by an earlier relief bill that classified the District as a territory and cut it out of some funding. Bowser said the bill would make D.C. whole and urged the Senate to pass it.
Under the stay-at-home order, people are allowed to pick up groceries or food, exercise outdoors, visit the pharmacy and get medical care. But leaving to socialize is not allowed. Gyms, clothing boutiques and other nonessential businesses are also closed.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan is expected to detail when the state could start reopening in a press conference Wednesday. Gov. Ralph Northam will allow areas to begin reopening Friday.
But the capital region is expected to be closed longer than other areas. On Tuesday, Northam extended the restrictions in Northern Virginia. Leaders of Prince George's and Montgomery counties in Maryland expect they will be able to set the pace at which they lift restrictions.