One Week Before DC's Stay-at-Home Order Is Set to End, Community Transmission Ongoing

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser says officials will follow the science as an indicator of when a phased reopening can begin

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With just one week before Washington, D.C.'s, stay-at-home order expires, officials say that widespread community transmission is still happening but declined to say whether the order would be extended.

"We will definitely brief you out on our plans post-May 15. Not today," Bowser said at a press conference Friday. On Monday, Bowser said she plans to extend the stay-at-home order before it expires, but didn't offer details on what to expect.

Bowser has said she is looking to follow the science, not the lead of nearby states with plans to reopen. She said that over the past two months D.C. has successfully increased testing, contact tracing, personal protective equipment, hospital capacity and use of masks, which are reasons to be hopeful.

The number of cases continues to rise in D.C. On Friday, the District reported 245 new positive cases, bringing the total number of diagnoses to 5,899. More than 300 people have died.

There remains a "level of widespread community transmission," D.C. Health Department Director LaQuandra Nesbitt said. Officials urge anyone diagnosed to quarantine and isolate themselves, including from their own households. Anyone who needs help to do that can call 888-349-8323.

Bowser said officials will make plans for turning parts of the economy on slowly and consider rules that would, for example, change restaurant operations to protect customers and staff.

"As we move forward without a vaccine or a treatment for COVID-19, we must always weigh the risks of our actions," Bowser said. "We recognize that opening up is going to allow for more spread of infection."

The United States reported a staggering 14.7% unemployment rate on Friday and the push to reopen continues. The federal Office of Personnel Management posted guidance Thursday saying the government will begin a "phased transmission to normal operations" in line with local rules.

"We want a telework posture where the majority of workers can stay on telework as long as possible," Bowser said. "We recognize, however, just like with D.C. government that there are workers who will need to report to their workstations."

Maryland is on track to begin reopening next week as hospitalizations and numbers of virus patients in intensive care drop, Gov. Larry Hogan said Wednesday. Under Stage 1, Maryland will lift the stay-at-home order and allow some businesses to reopen. State parks and beaches were back open on Thursday, and activities including golf, camping and fishing can resume. 

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam said earlier this week that he expects to be able to allow some businesses to reopen on May 15. The restrictions may stay in place longer in Northern Virginia and other parts of the state that are harder-hit, he said Wednesday.

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