The coronavirus outbreak is upending life in the D.C. area.
School officials, employers, event planners and government officials in D.C., Maryland and Virginia told people to stay home and isolate themselves as the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the region hit 57 Thursday.
Public Gatherings, Cherry Blossom Festival Events Canceled
One of D.C.'s largest tourist and cultural events —which normally draws up to 1.5 million visitors — will scale back in light of the contagious virus. Two major events, the National Cherry Blossom Parade and Petalpalooza, are canceled this year.
The Sakura Matsuri Japanese Street Festival and Anacostia River Festival have been postponed.
City leaders are also doing what they can to push social distancing efforts. D.C. revoked event permits for all pub crawls that were scheduled for Saturday, including The Shamrock Crawl, the St. Patrick's Day Crawl and the Chase the Green Crawl.
D.C. also implemented a mandatory ban on gatherings of 250 people or more. For those in at-risk groups, the ban is 10 people or more.
"The spread of COVID-19 represents an imminent threat to the health, safety, and welfare of District residents that requires emergency protective actions to be undertaken by the District Government," the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board said.
DC to Close Schools, Adopt Distance Learning
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said Friday that D.C. Public Schools would close starting Monday, March 16, through the end of the month and implement distance learning. Teachers will report to work on Monday to plan distance learning. The school's spring break in April was set to be canceled. Charter schools were encouraged to adopt similar measures.
During that same period, many D.C. government employees will operate under an agency-specific telework plan, Bowser said.
The city government will work to continue essential services, including giving meals to D.C. students. Here's more on the city's plan.
"Some government operations will be performed fully remotely, while other services will continue to be performed at public buildings, but under modified operations," Bowser said.
Safety measures are expected to further punctuate daily routines and normal life as officials respond to rapidly changing conditions.
Maryland, Virginia School Closures
Maryland adopted "extraordinary measures" on Thursday, including banning gatherings of 250 or more people and preparing to close schools.
More than 800,000 Maryland students are expected in seats Friday, before schools statewide close through March 27 for cleaning and protective measures.
Tens of thousands of students are already staying home on Friday or preparing to stay home on Monday. Loudoun County Schools, with more than 80,000 students, plan to close Friday and reopen Monday, March 23.
Social Distancing Encouraged
Federal agencies have been directed by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to review telework, sick leave and other human resource policies. Some private employers in the D.C. area have asked employees to start working from home when possible.
D.C. Superior Court will change operations to postpone non-urgent business or conduct it remotely. The number of jurors required to report to court will be kept to a minimum. Details of the changes will be posted Monday morning.
The D.C. Court of Appeals is encouraging e-filing and livestreaming oral arguments. The court is suspending the filing of paper copies of e-filed documents beginning March 16.
Maryland state courts will be closed to the public for three weeks beginning March 16.
Employees are to report to work, and the courts will be staffed to handle emergencies like domestic violence petitions, bail reviews, juvenile detention and shelter hearings, and search warrants. Judges can use remote electronic means when possible.
The goal of social distancing measures is to slow virus transmission as to not overload hospitals.
Headed into the weekend, health officials urged people to distance themselves in hopes of preventing exposure to germs. Some grocery stores in the D.C. area and online retailers ran out of staple pantry items and toilet paper as customers stocked up amid uncertainty.
Even the Smithsonian museums, the National Zoo, Arlington National Cemetery and the Blue Line Metro stop that serves it will close.
The DC-Area Coronavirus Outbreak in Pictures
Most cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, only present mild symptoms. Older people, especially those with underlying health conditions, appear to be most at risk of more severe respiratory symptoms or pneumonia.
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