DC to Lift Stay-at-Home Order on Friday; Here's What Can Reopen

Restaurants can use outdoor seating, salons can reopen and playgrounds will stay shut down

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The stay-at-home order that’s been in effect in Washington, D.C., for nearly two months will be lifted on Friday, though many restrictions on businesses and daily life will remain as the coronavirus continues to spread. 

Mayor Muriel Bowser announced Wednesday what will be allowed under phase one, which she said she thinks of as “stay-at-home light.” 

Restaurants will be allowed to serve people at outdoor seating. Tables must be at least 6 feet apart and no more than six people can be seated at one table. Customers must be seated when they place orders and when they are served.

Friday will be far from business as usual for D.C. business owners who are allowed to reopen. News4's Shomari Stone spoke to some of them who say they're excited, but also nervous about what's coming.

For restaurants that don’t have outdoor seating areas, the city is working on “a process to reimagine sidewalks and roads,” the mayor said. 

D.C. asked, but did not require, restaurants to keep a log with the name and phone number of every customer so that if someone tests positive, others can be informed of their exposure. Restaurants are encouraged to use disposable items and one-time-use menus. Go here to see guidance provided to restaurants.

Barbershops and salons can serve customers by appointment only. Stations must be at least 6 feet apart. “No waiting inside the shop” is allowed, the mayor said.

Why will you be able to get a haircut but not be able to get your nails done? The mayor said haircuts were more of a necessity after two months and that nail service requires closer contact. 

Parks, dog parks, golf courses, tennis courts, and track and field spaces will reopen. Contact sports including basketball, football and soccer will not be allowed. Playgrounds, public pools and recreation centers will remain closed.

Groups of 10 or more people will still be prohibited. Anytime anyone is in public in D.C., they still are required to stay at least 6 feet from people not in their households, except when such distance is impossible to maintain, such as when getting a haircut. 

Houses of worship can only allow groups of 10 people or fewer.

Non-essential retail stores will be able to offer curbside or front-door pickup. No customers will be allowed inside. The following non-essential businesses, among others, must remain closed except for “minimum business operations, curbside pickup or delivery, or home-based services:” gyms; spas; massage parlors; tattoo parlors; nail salons; yoga studios; jewelry stores; clothing stores; florists; theaters; museums and toy stores. 

“Bars, nightclubs, mixed-use facilities and private social clubs” will “remain closed except for minimum business operations, curbside pickup or delivery, or home-based services,” the mayor’s order says. Those that are already approved by ABRA to provide food and outdoor service may do so.

The stay-at-home order that went into effect April 1 will be lifted and phase one will begin at 12:01 a.m. Friday. Go here to see the mayor's full executive order.

Bowser and Department of Health Director LaQuandra Nesbitt urged residents and visitors to continue to avoid groups of people and wear a face mask. The less careful you are, the more you put others at risk, including those who are particularly vulnerable, Nesbitt said. 

“The number of non-essential activities and types of non-essential activities that you participate in may pose a risk to someone else who is part of a vulnerable population. The number of exposures that you create for yourself may put that other person at risk,” she said. 

Bowser provided answers after saying for days that the District would be ready to reopen after reaching 14 days of reduced transmission of the coronavirus. D.C. has now hit that milestone, data released Wednesday shows. 

Community spread of the virus is on the decline, and D.C.’s testing capacity, health care system capacity and contact tracing capacity have all increased, city data says. 

An advisory group led by former Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff and former National Security Advisor Susan Rice issued a 79-page report with recommendations for the city. But it's still unclear whether D.C. will follow them to the letter.

The recommendations included allowing outdoor restaurant seating with physical distancing; opening parks, golf courses and tennis courts; allowing barbershops and hair salons to reopen by appointment only; and allowing groups of 10 people to meet at places of worship. 

Restaurant and bar owners were particularly eager to learn which new rules they would have to follow as they struggle to stay in business. 

"Does the city have our back?" a restaurant manager told Washington City Paper

D.C. says more than 8,400 people have been diagnosed with the virus and at least 445 people have died. 

Here’s where we are Wednesday in the fight against the coronavirus in the D.C. area, and how the virus continues to change our lives. 

More than 95,000 people in D.C., Maryland and Virginia have been diagnosed with the virus. At least 3,917 people have died. Go here to see more data

The White House says there will still be an Independence Day celebration in D.C. this year, despite the pandemic. The event “will have a different look than 2019 to ensure the health and safety of those attending," a statement from a spokesman said. 

Congressional Democrats in the D.C. area said "such an event would needlessly risk the health and safety of thousands of Americans."

A group of Prince George’s County parents asked school district leaders to hold an in-person graduation ceremony at FedExField

“We’ve planned for six-foot social distancing,” one mother said. 

Some parents in Prince George's County are proposing that high school grads have their graduation ceremony at FedEx Field in July. The idea is to keep it safe by social distancing at the larger venue. News4's Shomari Stone explains how the proposal has been received.

And now something a little upbeat: Therapists are hosting free, hourlong video sessions to help people cope with the pandemic

"We're all in this together, but yet so many people are feeling very much alone in it," a licensed counselor said. 

Many people may be more aware of their mental health than ever before during this pandemic. Medical and financial uncertainty are fueling a level of anxiety some have never experienced. News4’s Jodie Fleischer reports on how a group of local therapists is helping ease that stress free of charge.

D.C.’s mayor is scheduled to speak at 11 a.m. Maryland’s governor is set to speak at 5 p.m. You can watch live on or in the NBC Washington app. 

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