The District entered Phase Two of its reopening plan Monday and residents took full advantage of what it had to offer, taking care of personal needs and hoping to feed long-delayed desires in the city while mindful that the coronavirus pandemic continues.
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser gave the green light on June 19, announcing that the District had met specified requirements including a 14-day decline in positive test results.
“We’re adding a lot of activity right now,” Bowser said. “We went from Phase Zero, which [directed] everybody to stay at home, to Phase One which slightly turned on activity.”
Phase Two includes more business and governmental activity that can now take place but with several restrictions and requirements. Phase Two allows for an increase from no more than 10 to 50 to gather in groups. Houses of worship, however, have a 100-person limit for groups with singing and activities involving touching not permitted.
Phase Two allows restaurants to offer indoor dining to its customers unlike Phase One, in which carryout and delivery services could only be offered. Restaurants can only be filled to 50 percent capacity with social distancing measures and face masks remaining in effect.
Georgene Thompson, the co-owner of Players Lounge, a soul food establishment located in the Congress Heights neighborhood in Ward 8, could not have been happier that the dine-in option has been restored.
“It was a struggle for us a bit when we couldn’t have people come in to the restaurant and eat but we somehow made it work,” Thompson said. “Now we are able to have people come in and have a meal. It will be good to see people come here and have a good time with us.”
In the front room of Players Lounge, a booth has been removed to meet the requirements of social distancing. There are no chairs at the bar. And in the middle room, tables have been moved farther apart. Players Lounge now utilizes its patio with a handful of tables and two chairs on each side. Meanwhile, customers will now find their meals served on white Styrofoam trays instead of the usual plates with plastic utensils replacing silverware. When customers complete their meals, booths and tables will be wiped down immediately with cleaning fluids.
Thompson said she expects the volume of her business to pick up as Phase Two sets in.
“We have loyal customers here and we know they are going to come back,” she said. “We just have to get through this time frame.”
Phase Two includes some government services becoming available to customers albeit on a limited basis. On June 23, the District’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) opened its offices to residents on an appointment-only basis and with social distancing measures in place. At the Benning Road NE DMV office, James Murray, with face mask on, stood in line waiting to be served.
“I came here today because I had an appointment,” Murray said. “I am here to get my license changed because I am moving back into the city. To me, the process looks good. We have to do this because of the coronavirus. It’s better to be safe than sorry.”
Another government agency, the D.C. Public Library, has some branches such as the Dorothy I. Height Benning Branch in Ward 7 open on a limited basis with services that include: returning or picking up materials on hold through the online service and checking out “grab and go” items.
One branch now operates in each ward. However, patrons cannot enter buildings, instead being served through a front-door desk with plastic coverings to protect employees and patrons. However, on June 29, some library branches will offer limited personal computer service, with patrons practicing social distancing and wearing face masks while using the machines. During the day, the branches will be closed for an hour for cleaning and sanitizing. Phase Two regulations mandate a building’s capacity of patrons and staff cannot be more than 50 percent. On July 6 and July 13, more branches throughout the District will open with limited service.
Clarice Johnson came to the Benning branch and expressed disappointment that she could not use the computers.
“I came all the way here and found out I won’t be able to use the computers and I can’t even get into the library,” she said. “Well, hopefully that is for the best.”