D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser announced that the District will begin to lift COVID-19 restrictions Friday, The Washington Post reported Wednesday.
The decision to enter Phase I of the reopening process comes after a 14-day decline in community spread – which counts infections by the date people began reporting symptoms, not when they tested positive – of COVID-19 throughout the District, The Post reported. Phase I reopening will allow restaurants to resume outdoor dining service, open salons and barbershops by appointment only and permit nonessential retailers to offer curbside sales.
Public pools, recreational centers, and playgrounds will stay closed and contact sports will remain banned, but parks, tennis courts, dog parks and fields may reopen.
“In my mind, I call it stay-at-home light,” Bowser said. “It means the stay-at-home order has been lifted and some activities have been added back to what we can do, but they are minimal.”
The World Health Organization advises that cities achieve no greater than a 5 percent positive test rate for more than 14 days before reopening. In late April, D.C. officials stated that lowering the test positivity rate below 5 percent of people tested was one of the benchmarks required to begin reopening, The Post reported.
The D.C. area has the highest rate of positive COVID-19 tests in the United States, with about 24 percent of D.C. residents tested for the virus showing a positive result, but the positivity rate has hovered closer to 15 percent over the last four days, The Post reported.
Bowser said the positivity rate remains high because the District has yet to conduct widespread testing of asymptomatic individuals, according to The Post.
In a call with reporters Sunday, D.C. health director LaQuandra Nesbitt said the District can enter Phase I of reopening with a test positivity rate below 20 percent, according to The Post.
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam announced Tuesday that communities in northern Virginia – including D.C. suburbs – can begin easing COVID-19 social distancing measures starting Friday despite a 24 percent test positivity rate in the region.
D.C. hospitals have been operating below maximum capacity and DMV public health officials said the District will have sufficient testing and contact tracing capacity to contain the coronavirus by the end of July, The Post reported Monday.