As much of the world continues to reel from the coronavirus, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) announced that the District’s public health state of emergency — imposed less than three weeks ago — will remain in effect until the end of April.
This decision, which affects various aspects of life and government operations in the District, comes just hours after local health officials reported the District’s first coronavirus-related death.
The deceased, a man in his late 50s who tested positive for the coronavirus Thursday, counted among the cases documented by the D.C. Department of Health (DOH). He had been admitted to the hospital after coughing and showing signs of a fever. He had been in contact with another positive coronavirus case and didn’t report his travel history, officials told reporters Friday.
“This poses serious consequences for our community. [The coronavirus] doesn’t discriminate based on age, race or gender,” Bowser said Friday. “Everyone can get it and pass it on. We’re calling on everyone to stop the spread. Stay home. Anyone who’s not providing an essential duty, stay home. We’re focusing on flattening the curve. Our lives have been upended but our sacrifices will save lives.”
Earlier this week, District officials said that they received verbal confirmation that their request for National Guard support in the areas of logistics, security, planning and distribution of commodities, in addition to a 15-person medical unit, will be formally approved.
In total, the National Guard will send 30 additional people, all of whom will work from the DOH Emergency Operation Center.
DOH officials said they also applied to a specifically designated federal program for additional face masks, shields, cotton swabs and other equipment to meet patient and health care worker demands.
DOH Director LaQuandra S. Nesbitt addressed public concerns about the medical supply chain during a Friday afternoon press conference, saying the number of available ventilators currently exceeds the total of available beds in intensive care units.
This development, Nesbitt told reporters, highlights the effectiveness of changes that health care providers implemented early on, including the suspension of elective surgeries, the expansion of telehealth resources for patients seeking services deemed nonessential and the creation of alternative health care spaces.
The District’s total positive coronavirus cases currently stand at more than 70 — 39 of whom were reported Thursday. Among those documented were three D.C. firefighters and an 8-year-old boy. Since then, more than 100 D.C. firefighters have been quarantined. An additional 67 D.C. Jail inmates faced a similar situation once authorities discovered they’d had contact with an inmate who tested positive for the coronavirus earlier this month.
In regard to a case involving a Rocketship Academy student who allegedly tested positive for the coronavirus, Bowser told reporters Thursday that the public had been misinformed. Hours later, DOH officials reported that the student tested negative.
Even so, Bowser expressed a commitment to extending the social distancing period in various aspects of District life until April 27. Students in the D.C. public school system will engage in distance learning until April 24 and return to school on the following Monday. Deputy Mayor for Education Paul Kihn revealed that the Office of the State Superintendent will apply for a federal waiver excusing District students from taking the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career (PARCC) exam and other standardized tests.
The D.C. Public Library system and Department of Parks and Recreations will enact similar measures with District charter schools encouraged to follow suit. Throughout this period, all DCPS and DPR gated fields will be closed to the public, and those who congregate in open parks have been encouraged to do so only with immediate family and at least six feet away from other groups.
“To be clear, this extension comes with the expectation that teaching and learning will continue,” Kihn said. “Distance learning is new and we’re working to address challenges to increase the rigor. Our message to families and students is that it’s important you stay home and don’t congregate in areas.”
With the extension of distance learning, schools will continue to implement consistent methods to deliver instruction remotely to students in ELA and math. The D.C. government will work with schools to address challenges where they exist and develop engagement and submission mechanisms to increase the demands of online learning.
Beginning April 1, the District will add 10 meal sites for all students, bringing the total meal sites at DCPS buildings to 29 across the District. These sites serve lunch and a shelf-stable breakfast for all residents younger than 18 Monday-Friday, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.
A full list of meal sites can be found at coronavirus.dc.gov/mealsites.
The additional meal sites include:
• Marie Reed Elementary School – 2201 18th Street NW
• School Without Walls at Francis Stevens – 2425 N Street NW
• Strong John Thomson Elementary School – 1200 L Street NW
• Woodrow Wilson High School – 3950 Chesapeake Street NW
• Truesdell Education Campus – 800 Ingraham Street NW
• Langdon Elementary School – 1900 Evarts Street NE
• Miner Elementary School – 601 15th Street NE
• Ron Brown High School – 4800 Meade Street NE
• Hendley Elementary School – 425 Chesapeake Street SE
• Simon Elementary School – 401 Mississippi Avenue SE
Dorothy Rowley contributed to this story.