WASHINGTON - With COVID-19 cases declining in Washington, D.C. officials are taking a step towards normalcy by loosening various coronavirus restrictions.
"We are grateful to our residents and businesses that have been closely following health guidelines which has allowed us to flatten the curve and really save lives here In D.C.", said D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser when she spoke with FOX 5 Friday.
The District will begin to ease many of their Phase 2 restrictions beginning Saturday, May 1. According to Bowser, the indoor capacity limit for non-essential retail businesses will be raised from 25% to 50% or to 250 people -- whichever is lower.
DC Mayor Muriel Bowser speaks during a press conference about Covid19 Situational Update, DC Statehood and Gun problem in USA, today on March 25, 2021 at Old Council Chambers in Washington DC, USA.(Photo by Lenin Nolly/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Also on Saturday, the number of people who can sit together at a table inside restaurants and bars will be increased from six people to 10 people. Live music will be allowed outdoors for summer gardens, courtyard dining and sidewalk cafes that are controlled by the restaurants. If customers are sitting outside, alcohol sales can be made without a requirement to purchase food, officials say.
"We know, as you look across the country, there are vastly different approaches with how to deal with COVID. We've aligned our process very closely with what the risk analysis say," Bowser said. "We still want people to be mindful if they are not vaccinated and if they are vaccinated and are in mix company, to take COVID precautions."
Multi-purpose facilities, concert venues, and theaters may open at 25% capacity (up to 500 people) with attendees remaining seated. Movie theaters can operate at up to 25% capacity (per auditorium).
D.C. health officials say weddings and special events will be allowed indoors and outdoors at 25% capacity (with a waiver for attendance greater than 250), and with attendees remaining seated and socially distanced.
Indoor fitness classes can include up to 25 people and gyms and fitness centers can operate at 50% capacity with no more than 250 guests. Public and private pools may open with health and safety plans in place and hotel pools may only open to overnight guests. D.C. says outdoor splash pads will be able to open at full capacity.
Places of worship may admit up to 40% of their capacity for the room or areas where worship services will be held. This total limit includes worshippers, not including clergy and staff. Health and safety protocols, such as mandatory masking and social distancing, must remain in place. Officials add virtual services and outdoor services continue to be encouraged, especially for those who have not yet been fully vaccinated.
Graduation ceremonies will be able to be held, officials say. D.C. Public Schools has partnered with Audi Field to provide a centralized venue for DCPS high schools to hold safe outdoor graduation ceremonies that will be held from June 19 to June 24.
Also, beginning on Saturday, May 1, the District will transition to the use of 11 high-capacity, walk-up vaccination sites where no appointments are needed. Officials say the walk-up sites will be in addition to the pharmacies, clinics, and health care providers that are also administering vaccines. The sites, officials say, will operate their own scheduling systems.
"We want people to get vaccinated because this vaccine is 95% effective at keeping people alive and out of the hospital. And that’s is the incentive," Bowser said. "The way we've been able to make sure that our hospitals have capacity and our health care workers have been safe is flattening that curve."
"But the message here should really be, if we want to get back to normal the way to do it is to get vaccinated," Bowser said. The mayor said that a Day of Action is being planned for Saturday in D.C. to canvass D.C. neighborhoods encouraging residents to get vaccinated.
WALK-UP VACCINATION SITES:
- Arena Stage | 1101 6th St SW
- Fort Stanton Recreation Center | 1812 Erie Street, SE
- Kenilworth Recreation Center | 4321 Ord St, NE
- Lamond Recreation Center | 20 Tuckerman St, NE
- Langdon Park Community Center | 2901 20th St, NE
- Providence Health System | 1150 Varnum St, NE
- Rosedale Recreation Center | 1701 Gales St, NE
- Turkey Thicket Recreation Center | 1100 Michigan Ave, NE
- University of the District of Columbia | 4200 Connecticut Ave NW
- Walter E. Washington Convention Center (GW MFA) | 801 Mt Vernon Pl, NW
- MAY 1 ONLY: Entertainment and Sports Arena | 1100 Oak St, SE
- AFTER MAY 1: RISE Demonstration Center | 2730 Martin Luther King Jr. Ave, SE
Days, hours, and available vaccines will be listed on vaccinefinder.org