I wanted to send out a quick neighborhood update with a few pressing updates.
Coronavirus Updates: First, I want to get out some information on what we know about COVID-19. I suspect much of this information you will have heard before, but I want to get it out as far and wide as possible. Throughout this week, I’ve been in contact with our Director of DC's Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency and the Deputy Mayor for Public Safety about their preparation and coordination.
With new of confirmed cases of coronavirus in Montgomery County, Maryland, as well as several states on the East Coast, I’ve heard from many people with questions and concerns. Right now, there is no vaccine for the novel coronavirus, often referred to as COVID-19 or simply coronavirus in media reports. The best steps we can all take are sound public health and hygiene practices in general. It is worth remembering these habits are important not only for you, but for those around you, *especially anyone who might have a compromised immune system*. Even if you are in good health, good habits help others!
- Washing hands regularly using hot water and soap for at least the time it takes to sing "Happy Birthday" twice (don’t worry, you don’t have to sing it out loud...).
- From the World Health Organization: ""The disease can spread from person to person through small droplets from the nose or mouth which are spread when a person with COVID-19 coughs or exhales. These droplets land on objects and surfaces around the person. Other people then catch COVID-19 by touching these objects or surfaces, then touching their eyes, nose or mouth. People can also catch COVID-19 if they breathe in droplets from a person with COVID-19 who coughs out or exhales droplets. This is why it is important to stay more than 1 meter (3 feet) away from a person who is sick."
- Being extra cautious and staying home if you are sick or not feeling well.
- Follow these instructions if you have symptoms.
The DC Department of Health has this helpful FAQ set up to answer questions and I have asked that they be especially diligent about updating the site with new information as we have it since it feels breaking news is happening several times a day: https://coronavirus.dc.gov/
And for the little ones in our lives, let’s remember that our kids overhear the news all day long as well and might have some special concerns or anxiety they don’t quite know how to explain. I heard a story on NPR this weekend that, as a parent, I found helpful in thinking through how to talk about coronavirus with my kids while striking the right tone. Here's that NPR story and here's the comic referenced in the story.
Metro For DC: On Tuesday, I was proud to introduce a new proposal called Metro For DC. My legislation is simple, but I think can have a big impact on our public transportation system. There are two parts:
1) It would dedicate millions of dollars into a dedicated fund to improve bus service, focusing those investments to serve riders in neighborhoods that tend to be lower-income, further from established transit hubs and job centers, and often are the most likely to depend on public transit.
2) It would also set up a program where every DC resident could sign-up to receive a monthly balance of $100 on a registered SmarTrip card.
There's been a lot of media coverage on this introduction (WaPo, WAMU, NBC4) and I was grateful to have almost all of my colleagues signal their support. If you'd like to keep up with the process, we're setting up a separate email list here and you can learn more about the particulars here.
Council Passes Emergency Legislation Strengthening Gun Legislation: On Tuesday, the Council unanimously passed two emergency bills I introduced to strengthen our gun laws and our work to get illegal guns out of dangerous situations. Here's a press release from my office with more details. These aren’t the sum total of the work we’re doing to improve public safety and reduce gun violence, but they are important parts of the toolbox.
First, I worked to move legislation on behalf of Mayor Bowser to close loopholes in our laws around "ghost guns." Ghost guns is a term that refers to guns that might be part of what are called "80% kits" or 3-D printed guns. Over the last two years in DC, there's been a large uptick in the number of these types of guns being confiscated and they represent about 10% of all guns recovered by MPD. These kits are available online and come without a printed serial number in an attempt to circumvent the District's strong gun laws. This law will shut down those online sales into the District. More here.
Second, I moved an emergency bill to create a working group that would help implement the District's red flag law, which passed in 2018. In other states with a red flag law, hundreds of guns are taken out of the hands of someone at risk of doing harm to others or themselves. In the District, we've only had two petitions for a temporary reprieve - and it’s largely because most don’t know this new law exists. We need to do more to get this program up and running and my emergency bill creates a working group with everyone in our public safety sector to bring nonprofit organizations and government agencies together to better collaborate.
Related: I've spoken a lot about the important work of violence interruption efforts. And as our community continues to struggle and aim to reduce gun violence, their work will be critical moving forward. I appreciate that ABC7 took time to visit a neighborhood where violence interrupters have been having an impact.