As promised, I'm reaching back out with the latest information as the District takes steps to mitigate the spread and impact of coronavirus on our community.
The actions and announcements over the last few days likely have many of us on edge and feeling anxious.
During the coming week, our neighborhoods and city will feel different for each of us. Many of the decisions made have been hard to make and will require significant changes and sacrifices to your plans, family budget, and daily life. But each one of them is grounded in science and public health, and they are aimed not just at slowing the spread of COVID-19 but in saving lives. We will get through this -- don’t let fear of the unknown overwhelm you.
I’ve already seen neighbors coming together, not through fear or panic, but with an urgent commitment to look after the family member, neighbor, or stranger who is more vulnerable than themself. We will need that spirit in the days and weeks to come, but I’m proud of what I’ve already seen on display. I won’t pretend to have all of the answers yet either, but I am committed to providing leadership and information as we face this challenge together. That being said, apologies in advance for the length of this note...
DCPS Announces Closures Beginning Monday, March 16 thru March 31
This is a big update I know many parents have been anxiously waiting to hear about. DCPS will be closed for students from March 16 through March 31. Here's how those days breakdown:
- DCPS will keep Monday, March 16 as a professional development day.
- Spring Break will move up from April to take place March 17-23.
- March 24-31 students will participate in distance learning.
I know many Ward 6 families also have DC Public Charter School students. Each school will be making their own decisions, but the Mayor has urged every LEA to follow DCPS's schedule for simplicity. The DC Public Charter School Board is maintaining a running list of closures here.
- Jefferson Middle School (801 7th St., SW)
- Eastern High School (1700 East Capitol Street, NE)
- Walker-Jones Education Campus (1125 New Jersey Avenue, NW)
- Full list: https://dcps.dc.gov/coronavirus
**These meals are available for ALL students, regardless of what school they attend. There is no need to present a student ID.**
Updates on Coronavirus Testing and Response
Since my last note, a lot has changed as more and more organizations and government agencies have taken steps to either close or significantly reduce gatherings of people in order to slow the spread and flatten the curve.
As it has been covered extensively in the news, the US is far behind in the availability of full test kits and processing, challenges that are beyond the control of the District or any other states due to the federal government largely, though the private market is quickly stepping in with testing. This means we have a lagging indicator of just how widespread the coronavirus is. In the coming days we will see the picture get more clear as more and more private labs get online and testing results speed up - as you see confirmed cases grow, know this is why we've taken so many steps to minimize spread through social distancing.
The website https://coronavirus.dc.gov/page/coronavirus-data will continue to be the central site to follow for data updates. If you want to share information in your organization, community, or otherwise, the resources tab is helpful and has downloadable fliers and graphics.
For now, exercising caution and sound judgment is the best course of action along with great hand-washing, surface cleaning, sneezing and handshake protocols. You should absolutely contact your primary care doctor if you are concerned about your symptoms.
As far as planning and operations for many city services, such as trash pick-up, policing, fire and EMS, DC Jail, and our Courts - these functions will not cease, but there are ongoing plans around how these core services are delivered to ensure staff and public safety.
Update on District City Services
All of this can change quickly, but here is where we stand on essential and regular city services:
Trash and Recycling Collection: Will continue as normal, DPW employees will be wearing gloves and masks. Please ensure your trash is self-contained and easy to transfer from the bin to the truck.
Police, Fire, and EMS: We are taking steps to ensure personal protective equipment is available for all of our first responders. Right now, there are supply chain issues globally on some of these items, but we are working to help agencies resolve those issues as fast as possible. I have been in very regular contact with our first responder agencies and union representatives to make sure they are getting all of the support they need.
WMATA: Beginning Monday, WMATA will transition to a reduced hours schedule for both Metrorail and Metrobus. More information here.
DC Public Libraries: DC Public Libraries will be closed as well beginning Wednesday, April 1. Here's what DCPL has provided: "All DC Public Libraries will close on Monday, Mar. 16 and reopen on Wednesday, Apr. 1. The Library will be locking all book drops so please keep borrowed items until the Library reopens. All late fees will be waived and hold expirations will be extended. We invite you to explore our digital offerings by visiting GoDigital. Please continue to visit our website for updates to our operating schedule. You can also follow the library on social media including Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram."
DC Courts and Jury Duty: DC Superior Court has shared the following guidance for anyone with business at the Superior Court, including potential jurors.
Corrections, Elections, and Other Judiciary Committee Agencies: We are in frequent communication with every agency under the Judiciary Committee’s oversight, including our elections and criminal justice agencies. In terms of the D.C. Jail facilities, the current status is operational, and the Department of Corrections is screening all visitors and at intake and increasing cleaning of its facilities for residents and staff. More information is available here about the Department’s safety procedures. In terms of our elections, we are speaking with the agency at least daily about potential changes necessary for the upcoming June elections.
Emergency Legislation Coming Tuesday
On Tuesday, the Council will convene to vote on emergency legislation to make immediate adjustments in response to the coronavirus emergency. I'll highlight some of the broad goals below, but some of the specific details are subject to change ahead of Tuesday. And please keep in mind this is only the first of many steps that the Council will likely take to help District residents in the coming months.
- Protections for workers
- Ensures that someone who self-quarantines, or whose hours are reduced because of COVID-19—including when a business shuts down—can receive unemployment insurance.
- Allows all employees who are told to self-quarantine or who test positive for COVID-19 to receive benefits under the Family and Medical Leave Act. Currently only employers with 20 or more employees have to provide this leave. This is not necessarily paid leave, but it does mean employees gets up to 16 weeks of medical leave (every 2 years) without fear of losing their job.
- Small Businesses
- Allows all businesses to delay monthly sales tax filing by up to 90 days. Sales taxes still must be paid in full by the end of the year.
- Creates a “public health emergency grant program.” Under this program, the Mayor would give grants to small businesses that lose business due to COVID-19 closures and restrictions. Grants can be used for employees’ wages and benefits, operating costs, or to repay SBA loans.
- Consumer protections
- Allows the Mayor to prohibit price gouging during the COVID-19 emergency.
- Prohibits disconnection of electric, gas, and water service during this emergency.
- Prohibits evictions during this public health emergency.
- Allows folks to get a large enough supply of necessary prescription medication to get through the COVID-19 public health emergency. The Boards of Medicine and Pharmacy will need to create rules for pharmacists, so this may not be available right away.
- Allows the Mayor to waive any provisions of law necessary to ensure folks don’t lose public benefits during a public health emergency.
- Allows the Mayor to waive requirements to re-certify licenses in person—including driver’s licenses, vehicle registrations, and professional licenses.
- Government operations
- Allows ANCs, Boards, and Commissions to cancel required monthly meetings during a public health emergency.
- Gives the Mayor more time to transmit her proposed budget to the Council. As you may know, the Council was about to receive the Mayor's proposed budget. The Council is legally required to approve the budget about 3 months later. Given the need to respond to coronavirus, it didn’t make sense to prioritize the budget over the next few months. We will take up the budget when we have been able to appropriately respond to the COVID-19 emergency.
- Allows remote voting for Council meetings. In the event that Councilmembers cannot or should not meet in person, this would allow the Council to still take care of official business.
- Public health emergency clarifications
- Clarifies legal protections for healthcare providers who help implement the District’s response to the COVID-19 public health emergency.
- Allows the Mayor to declare a public health emergency that lasts 30 days and, with the Council’s approval, to extend the emergency by 30 days at a time. Currently, that’s only 15 days.
Finally, a number of folks want to know how they can volunteer and help. I'd point you toward this volunteer effort, which is being organized by Ward 6ers separate of any local government activity. It’s inspiring to see folks step up, and I encourage you get involved. They are organizing efforts in a way to help vulnerable or older neighbors that need help; and they’re using strategies to ensure low and no contact where warranted.
Thank you. The situation will continue to evolve rapidly and our response will continue to move with it. Please stay tuned to local news. My team and I will also do our best to share new info on our office social media accounts:
My personal Twitter
My office Twitter
My office Facebook
My office Instagram
Contacting Me and my Team: On Friday, my team and I tested our office’s ability to work remotely and still serve Ward 6 in anticipation of needing to transition more of the Council’s regular functions to tele-work. There is still official business that will take place at the Wilson Building, but we’ve got things set up so that you can still call the main office line 202-724-8072 to reach a staff member immediately during normal business hours or email or call any of us here.