Today, the District of Columbia enters a Phase 1 Re-Opening, loosening a few of the restrictions put in place to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. I'd like to share what those changes are, and also what they aren't.
But first, I want to strongly emphasize that the things that got us to this point, wearing masks and physical distancing, are still very much in place and important. Please wear a mask if you leave home and expect to be within six feet of other people unavoidably -- even outdoors. Masks are very much a sign of respect for those around you and are proving (along with soap) to be one of the most effective ways to prevent transmission of the disease. Remember, the purpose of the mask is to prevent you from unknowingly transmitting the virus, so don't be the person who isn't wearing one around others!
So What does Re-Opening Look Like?
I hesitate to use the phrase "re-open," because what is happening tomorrow is a gradual scaling back of restrictions and closures on non-essential businesses and activities put in place months ago and we cannot afford to let our guard down as a community. It has taken enormous hard work and sacrifice by so many to restrict the spread of the novel coronavirus as much as we have. We must remain very concerned about the spread of the novel coronavirus, but our understanding of how the virus spreads is a little more clear than it was in late February and early March.
If you want to read the Mayor's order, you can find it here: https://coronavirus.dc.gov/phaseone
Let's run through some of the changes taking place tomorrow (click the image to the right to dig into specific guidance):
- Non-essential retail businesses may begin offering curbside, contactless from online or phone ordering only.
- Barbershops and hair salons can begin serving customers again under strict regulations around how many people can be indoors at once.
- Related: DC Hope Grant funding is available to assist small businesses with needs related to PPE and cleaning supplies.
- Some restaurants can request approval to re-start outdoor dining—with reservations, only for parties of six or less, and with all tables at least six feet apart. You should also expect to provide contact information to the restaurant if you go out to eat. This one is probably one of the bigger changes and I urge anyone heading out to eat to use extreme caution when eating - wear your mask as much as possible. All restaurants are still permitted to continue their to-go sales of food and alcohol as well.
- The Department of Parks and Recreation is authorized to reopen parks, dog parks, tennis courts, tracks, and fields. Playgrounds, public pools, recreation centers, and indoor facilities remain closed. This is another big one many people have been asking for. While playgrounds are still closed, DC-managed parks will now be open to give more access to the outdoors. Please continue to practice social distancing and carry a mask with you.
- Gatherings of more than 10 people are still prohibited.
- Some of the restrictions on farmer's markets are being scaled back to allow for food to be prepared on-site and non-produce retail once again.
- DC Public Libraries are slowly re-opening as well - DCist has the update.
- The DMV Southwest Site is open for appointment only services for three specific services: first time license issuance or conversation from out of state to DC, first time vehicle registrations or conversation from out of state tags, and taking the knowledge test.
Public Space Changes:
- BEGINNING MONDAY: The new local road default speed limit will be 20 mph, down from 25 mph. This is a change I've urged as part of my Vision Zero Enhancement Legislation, so I'm grateful to see it going into effect for the safety of our residents. The Mayor said she expects this to be a permanent change, even after the public health emergency ends.
- DDOT launching a "Slow Streets" Initiative that will reduce speeds to 15 mph and likely set up physical barriers to slow the entrance of vehicles onto roads. These roads will not be closed outright. I'll share more information on this initiative as I have it, but other cities have used a similar approach very successfully.
- Restaurants and retailers can apply here for a permit to expand seating and operations into the street - also a change I recommended in the last Council COVID-19 Relief bill before hearing it was coming today.
I am not prepared to tell you what level of risk you should assume with these reduced restrictions. I am glad to have the chance to see more of our small and local businesses offer their services, but it must be accompanied by extreme caution and a recognition many Ward 6 residents won't be able to go out due to extra risk to the virus.
Stay safe, wear a mask, and let me know what you need in your neighborhood,
P.S. - This is a shorter newsletter than usual to get you information on what re-opening means. If you need resources or help during this pandemic, here's an ongoing resource guide and please reach out to me and my staff for help navigating what's available.