DC Mayor stresses safe social distancing after weekend National Mall crowding

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser strongly encouraged residents to refrain from large public gatherings after social media posts popped up that showed crowding at the National Mall and also groups of people on at least one restaurant’s patio.

RELATED: People pack National Mall during Blue Angels flyover

The District has joined most states in establishing social distancing guidelines to halt the spread of the novel coronavirus.

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Numerous photos and videos emerged on Twitter and Instagram Saturday as large groups of people congregated at the National Mall to see the Thunderbirds’ and Blue Angels’ flyover salute to front-line workers in the battle against COVID-19.

The mayor acknowledged that she sympathizes with residents who were eager to enjoy Saturday’s good weather, along with the spectacle. But she stressed that social distancing is one of the District’s most critical weapons in the fight against a virus that has sickened thousands, and killed hundreds.

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“I thought it was unfortunate. I thought it was a well-intentioned gesture to recognize our health professionals. But sadly, I just want to send this message to all of our residents, you can’t insure safe social distancing on a venue like that, on the National Mall,” Bowser said.

While Governor Ralph Northam of neighboring Virginia said on Monday that the state could take its first furtive steps toward reopening as early as next week, Bowser stopped short of promising the District could stick to its May 15 target date.

RELATED: Virginia Gov. Northam says salons, restaurants could open next week in limited capacity

“We want people to stay at home so that we can contain the spread of the virus and we will continue to watch the cases to see if we can see a decrease in cases over a sustained period of time,” she said.