D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) is enlisting prominent national figures to aid the city’s coronavirus response, including former first lady Michelle Obama, who has recorded robocalls and radio ads reminding Washingtonians to stay at home and offering information on testing sites.
Bowser said Monday she has also recruited Susan E. Rice, President Barack Obama’s national security adviser, and Michael Chertoff, President George W. Bush’s secretary of homeland security, to co-chair an advisory group on reopening the District.
The city plans to release a survey Tuesday and hold a virtual town hall Wednesday for residents to weigh in. The reopening groups must issue recommendations by the week of May 11. The city’s public health emergency and various restrictions are in effect through May 15.
Bowser said the advisory group would offer guidance on how to reopen institutions, but her administration will decide when to do so.
The Reopen D.C. Advisory Group includes 12 committees focused on different aspects of the city’s recovery.
Bowser recruited her political mentor, former mayor Adrian Fenty, to oversee committees related to open space and health-care work forces. The role marks one of Fenty’s few forays into local affairs after losing reelection in 2010 and moving to California.
Celebrity chef José Andrés is co-chairing a restaurant committee, while Democratic strategist Donna Brazile is helping lead a committee focused on racial disparities and vulnerable groups.
“You see that we have national, global and local and I think you recognize that we are dealing with a local, a national and a global pandemic,” Bowser said Monday. “We have called on a great mix of people that embody all of those needs and have all of those experiences.”
D.C. officials say they want to see at least two weeks of declining new cases and hospitals with sufficient equipment and beds to care for covid-19 patients before reopening the city’s economy. But new cases are not yet trending downward.
“We have not begun to see a period of declines, so it continues to be critical that D.C. residents stay at home and practice social distancing,” Bowser said.
LaQuandra Nesbitt, director of D.C. Health, said around 2 percent of the city’s nearly 4,000 confirmed cases involved travel, with about 5 percent involving health-care workers. With contact-tracing reserved for high-priority groups such as health workers and shelter residents, Nesbitt said she could not draw broader conclusions about where people were contracting the virus in the community. But she said household transmissions appear to be on the rise, possibly because people who are ill are still sharing utensils or failing to stay away from others in their homes.
“We do begin to have some concern that some of our transmission is related to household contacts not following some of these isolation and quarantine measures as aggressively as we would like,” said Nesbitt.
As of Monday, 435 individuals were hospitalized with covid-19 in the District, with 124 in intensive care units and 84 on ventilators. That’s an uptick from a week earlier, when 402 were hospitalized, with 120 in intensive care units and 59 on ventilators.