D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) on Wednesday extended the city’s public health emergency until May 15, requiring residents to continue staying at home and keeping public schools and nonessential businesses closed through the new date.
Those restrictions, as well as a ban on gatherings of 10 or more, were originally set to expire after April 24. D.C. officials said they have been coordinating with the governors of Maryland and Virginia in deciding when to reopen society in the greater Washington region. Those governors have briefings scheduled Wednesday afternoon.
The mayor’s order also now requires people to wear masks or face coverings at hotels, during taxi and ride-share trips and for workers at food sellers. Grocery store customers were already required to do so.
Bowser said social distancing measures are paying off because infections are below original projections. But she said the city needs more time to flatten the curve and to prevent the health system from becoming overloaded.
“If we are concerned about black people dying from covid-19 in Washington, D.C., everyone needs to do their part,” said Bowser, referencing racial disparities in deaths. “If you want stores to continue providing your food, everyone needs to do their part.”
The mayor said she has the authority to extend restrictions further if necessary.
“I don’t know that that means we are going to be open on May the 16th, but it will be a point for us to check in and if we need to extend it beyond that, we certainly will,” Bowser said.
Bowser’s announcement came as the city also announced a host of measures to protect vulnerable residents from the coronavirus. The city plans to deploy newly obtained rapid-testing equipment for vulnerable populations, including at the D.C. jail, homeless shelters, nursing homes and for immigrants.
At the D.C. jail, where 56 have tested positive and one has died, surgical masks will be provided to all inmates and staff at the facility, and temperature checks will be taken upon entry. Inmate movement will also be restricted.
Nursing homes and skilled-care facilities will be required to check residents for symptoms every four hours and test them if they do. D.C. nursing homes have reported nine deaths and 78 infections, with half of the infections at the Lisner-Louise-Dickson-Hurt Home and three of the deaths and an employee death at Stoddard Baptist Nursing Home.
D.C. also disclosed the deaths of four homeless residents, two of whom were not hospitalized. The city is using five hotels to move people out of shelters, prioritizing high-risk groups such as the elderly and people with chronic medical conditions and anyone showing symptoms or requiring quarantine after close contact with a patient.