Before Washington, D.C., can reopen in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, officials need to see a drop in the number of new cases, an increase in the medical system’s capacity and an increase in the District’s contact tracing ability.
Mayor Muriel Bowser spoke Thursday about what it will take for normal life to resume in D.C. as the number of virus cases and deaths continues to climb.
Officials need to see the number of new virus cases consistently drop over a two-week period. The health care system needs to be able to treat everyone who needs care, without the need to work at a crisis level. And D.C. will need a team of 900 contact tracers, up for about 200. These employees track people with whom virus patients had contact.
Bowser said work to reopen the District will be done deliberately and strategically.
“We all know that our community has made too many sacrifices to move forward too quickly or in a way that doesn’t prioritize the health and safety of our residents,” she said.
The reopening of the District will give officials and residents a chance to better address inequalities exposed by the virus crisis, the mayor said. A majority of people to die in D.C. from the virus thus far have been African American, though African Americans make up about 46 percent of the population.
We have a “once-in-a-generation opportunity to reopen our city in a way that builds a more equitable D.C.,” Bowser said.
Government and community leaders will make up a newly formed Reopen DC advisory group, with committees focusing on education and child care, faith and restaurants, among other priorities. The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health will advise the leaders.
The mayor pushed back against the notion that saving lives is not worth the cost the stay-at-home order is having on the economy.
“This is what I would say to folks who say, ‘You know, those people are old, they are going to die anyway.’ That’s just not the America that I believe in,” she said. “… We have what it takes to respond and we have to not only live up to our values but to the ingenuity and spirit of America in responding to this crisis.”
In a joint letter with Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, Bowser urged the Trump administration on Thursday to continue letting federal workers telecommute.
And after pressure from News4, the mayor’s office released the locations of hotels the city has leased to house hundreds of people, mostly who are homeless, who tested positive for the virus or are awaiting results.
The hotels are the Days Inn on Connecticut Avenue NW, the Ivy City Hotel on New York Avenue NE, the Hotel Arboretum on Bladensburg Road NE, the Capitol Skyline Hotel on I Street SW and the Fairfield Inn & Suites on New York Avenue SE.