DC, Northern Virginia May Reopen Friday If Coronavirus Data Trends Continue

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Life could inch closer to normal in D.C. and Northern Virginia starting Friday. 

The District has reached 13 days of sustained decrease in community spread of the coronavirus, city officials announced Tuesday morning. 

D.C. is on track to reopen, Mayor Muriel Bowser said at a press briefing Tuesday morning. Tuesday marked the first day in about eight weeks that D.C. recorded zero deaths from the virus in a single day. The mayor warned, though, that the heartbreak isn’t over yet. 

“We’re likely not done with fatalities related to COVID,” she said.

D.C. health officials tracked a setback on Saturday. Officials saw a one-day spike in cases after 12 straight days of decline. After a two-day delay, they announced they had reset the count marking a decline in community spread to Day 11, not back to Day 1. 

The mayor said Tuesday that she understood why some residents are confused by the numbers and even distrustful of them. 

“We have no interest in cooking the books,” she said by way of reassurance. 

Bowser will announce on Wednesday whether the District will be able to lift some coronavirus-related restrictions on Friday. 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. 

Businesses that will be allowed to reopen under phase one will have strict social distancing restrictions. Gathering will still be restricted. The mayor is expected to announce exact rules this week. 

An advisory group recommended 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. 

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser spoke to News4's Pat Lawson Muse about whether D.C. is on track to reopen on May 29 after hitting a new peak in coronavirus cases.

Leaders in Northern Virginia also said data suggests they’re almost ready to begin reopening. The region has met four out of six benchmarks for moving into phase one. Hospitalizations and the percent of positive tests have declined. Testing and the number of available intensive care beds are up. But contract tracing capabilities and the personal protective equipment supply still need to improve, officials said. 

Northern Virginia leaders sent a letter to Governor Northam today saying they're prepared to transition into Phase 1 on schedule this Friday. News4's Jackie Bensen reports they also have some requests for the governor.

Under phase one, restaurant and beverage businesses can operate with outdoor seating at 50% capacity, if they have permits for outdoor seating. Non-essential retail stores can operate at 50% occupancy. And places of worship can operate at 50% capacity. 

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

Nearly 93,000 people in D.C., Maryland and Virginia have been diagnosed with the virus. At least 3,802 people have died. Go here to see more data

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam was criticized after he visited Virginia Beach on Saturday without wearing a face mask and took selfies with people who recognized him. 

“Physician, heal thyself,” tweeted Todd Gilbert, a Republican who is Virginia’s House Minority Leader.

A spokeswoman for the governor said he was outdoors and did not expect to be within six feet of anyone. 

“This is an important reminder to always have face coverings in case situations change — we are all learning how to operate in this new normal, and it’s important to be prepared,” “He was outside yesterday and not expecting to be within six feet of anyone,” Alena Yarmosky said in a statement.

In Maryland, crowds flocked to Ocean City over Memorial Day weekend. Photos show many people on the boardwalk, with some wearing masks. 

Crowds Flock to Ocean City Boardwalk, Beach Area on Memorial Day Weekend

Activists in D.C. blocked nearly 30 neighborhood streets across the District to create more space to social distance outdoors. They called for Bowser to do so officially. 

“The mayor has failed us, so we don’t have a lot of options but to do what we need to do,” Keya Chatterjee said. 

District residents blocked off neighborhood streets to make more room for others to walk safely while social distancing. News4's Cory Smith reports.

And now something a little cheerful: Bike shops are still seeing a big surge in interest in cycling amid the pandemic

“Now that people are gonna be recognizing that bicycle is a viable means of transportation that is inexpensive and healthy, bicycles will start getting a little more respect,” one store owner said. 

As COVID-19 has forced people inside and changed the way they get around, bicycles have become a popular means of transportation and exercise. News4's Melissa Mollet has the details on the trend.
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