Officials of Washington, D.C. spelled out a dismal future for the city's residents this week by declaring that phased reopening of the nation's capital shouldn't begin for at least two months and could be delayed up to three months and beyond.
Speaking during a virtual town hall on Wednesday, D.C. Department of Health director Dr. LaQuandra Nesbitt outlined the "most stringent" and "less stringent" guidelines for reopening D.C. Under her guidelines, remaining on a city-wide stay-at-home order should not be relaxed at all for at least two to three months. Only after this time, she says, should social gatherings of any amount of people resume.
Even under the less stringent recommendation, that couldn't occur until the beginning of July, Dr. Nesbitt says that any citizens considered "vulnerable" should remain isolated at home, and that small business and school reopenings adhere to "strict internal social distancing procedures. Bar and nightclub closures, she said, should continue indefinitely.
Neither D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser nor city director of the Office of Planning said whether they would institute Dr. Nesbitt's strict recommendations during the virtual information blast. The current stay-at-home order issued by Mayor Bowser is set to expire on May 15.
The ReOpen DC Advisory Group, which will announce its recommendations for reopening next month, has laid out a mission statement that casts reopening the economy toward D.C.'s "values and priorities" as its primary objective.
The mayor and other city politicians have faced heavy criticism for their appointed advisory board, rife with hyper partisan lobbyists, Democratic allies, and Bowser's own brother. The board is split up into several off-shoots, including those specifically for "Equity, disparity reduction, and vulnerable populations," "Faith, arts, culture, hotels, entertainment, and sports," and "Restaurants and food retailers." No religious leaders were appointed to direct the mayor in matters of faith and one restaurant advisor is a Bowser booster and developer with no stake in the restaurant community. The only restaurateur listed on Bowser's ReOpen website is Jose Andres, a celebrity chef and philanthropist known for his advocacy against President Trump.
As of this week, more than a million people in Washington, D.C., Maryland, Virginia have filed for unemployment assistance in the wake of the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic. While small businesses in the district wait for their PPP loans, if they qualify, unemployed workers face a termination of benefits and an end to the $600 per week given to them through the CARES Act. That money will stop in July and laid off workers will watch their D.C. unemployment benefits, a mere fraction of their typical earnings, dry up not long after.
D.C. has also seen a rise in violent crime during the COVID-19 pandemic, an issue the city has been dealing with in recent history before the time of the virus. Though robberies are down as citizens shelter in place, gun violence and domestic violence are at a decade high. As law-abiding citizens and law enforcement follow the strict social distancing guidelines given by the city mayor, the criminals will likely take advantage of the eased supervision.