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Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser announced Wednesday that Washington, D.C., will lift its COVID-19 precautionary stay-at-home order Friday, though she said it was only Phase 1 of a process intended to end with the removal of all restrictions.
At a news briefing, Bowser said she made the decision based on 14 days of declining infections, hospital capacity, the city's supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) and other factors.
She discussed the move using terms of caution, saying "the bottom line and what we want to emphasize is that this virus is still in our city and in our region and in our country."
Masks, social distancing remain required
While masks and social distancing will still be required, Phase 1 will allow restaurants and taverns to resume outdoor dining, barber shops and salons to open by appointment with no waiting allowed, and non-essential retailers to offer curbside sales. Parks, tennis courts, dog parks and fields may reopen, but public pools, recreational centers and playgrounds cannot. Contact sports will remain banned.
Some businesses, including gyms, saunas, clothing stores, hookah bars and florists must remain closed.
Gatherings of more than 10 people are still prohibited.
Bowser said she expects that moving into Phase 1 means more people will be infected because more people will be moving around in the community. She said the city - through testing - must focus on identifying who has COVID-19 or who has been exposed to COVID-19, and making sure those people isolate so that the spread of the virus stops.
Contact tracers hired
Bowser said the city also has hired contact tracers to help contain COVID-19. She emphasized that if anyone needs a test, they should "get a test."
Under the city's Phase 1 guidelines, only people who are symptomatic or have contacted anyone who has tested positive for COVID-19 may get tested, with a doctor's order.
Bowser said in the past 24 hours there had been 72 new cases reported in Washington, bringing the total the number to 8,406 and five more Washingtonians had died, bringing the death toll to 445.