Bowser temporarily bans indoor dining, extends state of emergency

D.C. will temporarily ban indoor dining next week following an order Mayor Muriel Bowser issued Friday.

The order states the District will shut down indoor dining, close museums and restrict indoor services in libraries for about three weeks from Wednesday at 10 p.m. until Jan. 15. With the order, Bowser also extended the city’s state of emergency through March 31 and suspended the D.C. Circulator’s National Mall bus route.

Bowser’s order also includes an advisory for all District residents to limit their public activities to avoid spreading the coronavirus around the city.

“District residents are strongly advised to limit their activities to essential activities and travel, including work, school, childcare, government services, medical needs, food, supplies and exercise,” the order states.

Restaurants in the District may continue to offer outdoor dining and carryout and delivery services, and libraries will still be permitted to provide pickup and drop-off options, according to the order. The order also states that employees for nonessential businesses must start teleworking, and the Department of Parks and Recreation’s activities will be limited to individual swim and fitness room sessions.

The order states “a pause in activity” in D.C. can help slow the spread of COVID-19 in conjunction with the ongoing distribution of COVID-19 vaccines and stipulates that violations may lead to penalties, like sanctions, fines or license revocations.

“Taken together, legal restrictions, self-limitation activity and the vaccine’s deployment can prevent disease, save lives and prevent a crisis at our hospitals,” the order states.

Bowser started walking back COVID-19 reopening guidelines last month when she limited outdoor and indoor gathering sizes and announced plans to reduce indoor dining capacity from 50 to 25 percent and end alcohol sales at 10 p.m., which took effect earlier this week.

Small businesses in the District have improvised to keep operations outdoors during the recent months of the pandemic as colder weather has threatened the sustainability of outdoor dining, where visitors are less likely to spread the virus.

Restaurant owners in Foggy Bottom purchased heat lamps and blankets earlier this fall to keep people warm while eating outside, and earlier this month, other D.C. restaurants started assembling dining igloos for customers to sit in a heated bubble in outdoor seating areas.

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