D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser has decided to relax some coronavirus restrictions along with her counterparts, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, despite the ongoing presence of the pandemic in the city due to virus numbers trending in the right direction.
On March 15, Bowser announced alterations to Phase Two regulations governing the District’s operations during the pandemic. Bowser said the restrictions change comes as coronavirus metrics improve in the city.
“We are loosening some Phase Two activities,” the mayor said. “We haven’t crushed the virus. People are still getting sick and dying of COVID in the city. We are encouraging people to continue practicing social distancing, wearing masks, hand washing and getting vaccinated.”
Bowser, Hogan and Northam are keeping mask mandates in place as they loosen restrictions, unlike their counterparts in Texas, Mississippi, Connecticut, Arizona and West Virginia. All three have said as the coronavirus metrics continue to trend in positive directions, more restrictions will be suspended.
Bowser extended the District’s public health emergency to May 20, 2021. At the same time she eased restrictions in key areas.
As of March 15, some high school sports can resume under District of Columbia State Athletic Association guidelines with field permits allowed to be issued for sports during the spring season. On March 22, some middle and high school sports will be allowed to resume, playgrounds opened, low-to-moderate contact sports occurring on a casual basis, D.C. Department of Recreation fields limited to 250 people and limited activities in District recreation centers and those are reservation-only.
Outdoor gatherings of up to 50 people can take place, and low-to-moderate contact high and middle school sports can resume next week. Indoor fitness classes can continue with up to 10 people, and outdoor up to 50 people. Gyms can operate at 25 percent capacity or up to 250 people.
Alcohol can presently be sold at restaurants until midnight and movie theaters can open up to 25 people or 25 percent. On March 22, restaurants can open for indoor dining at 25 percent of capacity or up to 250 people. Businesses can start applying for live-entertainment waivers, with some live performances and music starting next week.
Regarding the District’s schools, students and staff can come together for educational purposes but are advised to practice social distancing while in a school building. Extracurricular activities such as theater and choir are legal but there must be 10 feet of distance between participants.*****
Starting on March 15, professional sports teams such as the Washington Nationals and DC United can submit waivers to play in front of fans. Bowser said the Nationals could possibly have up to 5,000 fans on Opening Day, April 1, and DC United to have “thousands of fans.”
Bowser said more activities will open if the metrics continue to go down. The mayor said her administration will continue to monitor the metrics and the city’s vaccination rates until an update on April 5.
“There are more things and more things that we can do today, and there will be even more things that we can do…as we get later into the calendar—assuming that our numbers continue to go down,” she said. “There’s hope; there is a reason to be optimistic.”
Hogan announced on March 9 that he will lift many of the restrictions due to the pandemic in the state as far as indoor capacity of restaurants and businesses and lifting the out-of-state travel advisory while mandating masks be worn by residents to combat the coronavirus. Hogan’s order took effect March 12 at 5 p.m.
The order will continue to impose a capacity limit of 50 percent on places like stadiums and diners will be required to be seated in the manner of social distancing to be served. Capacity limits on places such as retail stores, fitness and indoor recreation facilities such as bowling alleys, wedding venues and conference centers are lifted, also but anti-COVID measures are advised to take place.
Most counties in the state have embraced Hogan’s order but Baltimore has not, according to its mayor, Brandon Scott. Scott signed an executive order keeping the city restrictions in place.
“Baltimore is not in the clear yet,” Scott said on March 12. “Our country and our world are not in the clear yet. We must stay the course and make responsible decisions on behalf of ourselves and those around us.”
Scott’s order restricts capacity at 25 percent at nearly all public places and indoor dining at restaurants and outdoor dining can be expanded to 50 percent capacity.
On Feb. 25, Northam announced the lightening of coronavirus restrictions due to positive trending public health metrics.
In Virginia, social gatherings outside are capped at 25 people while indoors, 10. Outdoor entertainment venues can operate up to 1,000 people or 30 percent capacity while indoor venues are capped at 30 percent with a maximum of 250. Dining businesses can sell alcohol until midnight and must be closed from midnight to 5 a.m.
Northam said on March 12, “This has been a tough year for Virginia, but things are going in the right direction.”
“We now have almost 10,000 deaths due to COVID but the cases are going down and the positivity rate is 5.5 percent and we have 916,275 Virginians vaccinated,” the governor said. “We are encouraging everyone to wear masks, practice social distancing and wash their hands. We are within reach of herd immunity and there is light at the end of the tunnel.”