DC Holds Its Breath on Potential Friday Reopening 


After a stumble in Washington D.C.’s coronavirus numbers this weekend, Mayor Muriel E. Bowser said yesterday that things were “back on track” and she would make a final decision later this week on whether to keep a proposed May 29 reopening date. 

Bowser said she would decide tomorrow, May 27, on whether to push forward with the first phase of the planned reopening. Last week, on May 21, Mayor Bowser expressed optimism for the move given that D.C. was in its 11th day of falling cases.

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The optimism has been clouded by this past weekend, when the number of COVID-19 cases surpassed 90,000 in the Washington, D.C. area, with 3,880 confirmed deaths. There was a spike in the numbers for the first time in almost two weeks, bringing concerns that D.C. wouldn’t be able to reopen on Friday as expected.

Under ReOpen DC, a 76-page report authored by an advisory group set up by Mayor Bowser, the District would reopen in four phases. 

The first phase would allow hotels to open their doors, restaurants to open outdoor seating, and other nonessential retailers to provide curbside pick-up and delivery service. Barbershops would also be allowed to open under strict social distancing guidelines.

The second phase would allow gatherings of up to 50 people and recommend office spaces limit capacity to 25 percent, allowing offices and some retail establishments to open. Gyms, schools, camps and museums would also be allowed to open with limited capacity and proper social distancing measures in place. This phase would commence once the coronavirus has been limited to localized transmission. 

The third phase would only start once the pandemic has been reduced to sporadic transmission. In this case, gatherings would be allowed for up to 250 people, and bars and nightclubs would be able to open with up to 50 percent capacity. Additionally, restaurants could expand their capacity beyond the 50 percent from Phase Two, with proper approval.

Finally, ReOpen DC calls for the fourth phase to come about only after an effective vaccine or cure has been widely administered. Only then would all businesses be allowed to resume activity without capacity restrictions or safeguards.

In the report, the real estate committee, co-chaired by Wharf developer Monty Hoffman and Buwa Binitie, founder and managing principal of Dantes Partners, offered their tips and opinions on returning to commercial office space, reopening common areas in multifamily buildings and maintaining safe construction and development activity.

The advisory group was led by Susan Rice, former United Nations Ambassador and Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff. It consisted of 11 committees, including those focused on real estate and construction, restaurants and food and small business and retail.