DC enters phase 1 of reopening plan today

D.C. is entering phase one of its reopening plan today – easing some of the myriad restrictions put in place to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus in the nation’s capital.

Mayor Muriel Bowser told FOX 5 that District officials are not approaching phase one as an occasion for celebration, but just the first furtive step toward restoring a once-thriving economy.

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"We don't really regard it as a day to celebrate, but as a day to start slowly reopening," the mayor said.

The mayor added, "We should regard it as slowly turning on our economy."

Bowser's office Tweeted on Friday morning that residents should continue to wear masks in public, practice social distancing and use proper hygiene.

During a Friday news conference, the mayor described the first phase of reopening as "stay-at-home light."

Some of the highlights of phase one include restaurants being able to serve customers once again, but with a number of restrictions, including relegating service to outdoor areas; salons and barbershops reopening, but by appointment only, alongside other strict guidelines; and retailers opening for curbside service.

The mayor says the District is trying to "reimagine public space" to facilitate restaurants, retail and recreation during phase one.

The first change they're making is reducing the speed limit in D.C.

With fewer cars on city streets, officials are seeing more speeding vehicles.

Starting Monday, the new default speed limit in D.C. will be 20 miles per hour - down from the previous limit of 25 miles per hour.

The mayor also noted that officials are working with business owners to devise what they are calling "streateries" - or restaurant areas in public space.

The District is also highlighting opportunities for businesses that are not already authorized for outdoor service, can apply for it on D.C.'s phaseone site.

Bowser has repeatedly stressed that “the virus is still with us,” cautioning residents that with more people moving about, there will likely be an uptick in infections.

But District officials believe the pillars are now in place to take the first steps toward reopening the city’s once-thriving economy, including: expanded COVID-19 testing capacity, hospital surge capacity, a decline in cases, and a robust contact tracing program.

READ MORE: DC records zero COVID-19 deaths in a day for the first time in over 7 weeks

D.C. suffered a slight setback last weekend when it saw a spike in cases, but Mayor Muriel Bowser said on Monday she believed the city could still meet its target before today. 

Phase one will include the following features, in accordance with the recommendations of the mayor’s Reopen DC Advisory Committee:

- Declining virus transmission

- Key low-risk activities with strong safeguards

- Gatherings limited to 10 people

- Remote work still strongly encouraged

- Travel heavily discouraged

Phase one will include:

- Work from home strongly recommended

- Restaurants can open with outdoor seating, physical distancing and other safeguards. Tables must be six feet apart, and no more than six people can be seated at each table.

- Bars and nightclubs remain closed

- Non-essential retailers can provide curbside, front-door pickup, or delivery. Customers are still forbidden from entering the store proper.

- Barbershops and salons can reopen with strong safeguards and physical distancing (5 people per 1,000 feet). Do not go to the salon or barbershop if you are sick. Service is limited to one customer per stylist. Services are limited to hair services. Nail salons and similar establishments are still closed.

- Limited childcare opening

- Preschool K-12 and adult education will be conducted with distance learning only

- Higher education can be conducted with limited on campus activities

- Summer camps remain closed

- Select libraries can conduct limited curbside service

- Museums and exhibits will remain closed

- Places of worship would continue with virtual services or groups under 10 people

- Outdoor gatherings (parades, etc.) would remain shut down

- Indoor entertainment venues would remain closed

- Gyms and workout studios would remain closed

- Parks, fields, tennis courts, tracks and golf course will open on Friday. Playgrounds, public pools and recreation centers will remain closed. Contact sports are still forbidden.

- District opens additional in-person services with safeguards and expands virtual services with safeguards

- Non-essential shared transportation highly discouraged

- Public transit would meet demand and allow for physical distancing

Healthcare providers can offer outpatient services and procedures as long as they do not burden hospital capacity.

Click here to see D.C.’s plan for phases two and three.