WASHINGTON — Virginia Governor Ralph Northam appears set to open some businesses with restrictions on May 15. However, he'll be doing so without D.C. and Maryland following his lead.
WUSA9's Bruce Johnson sat down with D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser via Skype to discuss DC's reopening plan and the latest information regarding COVID-19.
Bruce: What are the latest numbers in D.C.? Are you encouraged or discouraged by them?
Bowser: We knew that May was going to be a month where we saw our peak of cases and we still expect that to be the case. We have over 5,000 confirmed positive cases in D.C. and we've lost over 260 Washingtonians.
This is a serious disease and Washington residents and businesses have made a lot of sacrifices to help get our case count to this level, but it's important to practice very strict social distancing so we can give our health care system the opportunity to serve people who get sick.
Bruce: What are your thoughts on the video of people down on the mall watching the Blue Angels and the salute. Did you see enough social distancing?
Bowser: What it shows is that people are antsy, they want to get out after being under a stay-at-home order for about 6-7 weeks. We had a nice day after a lot of rain and it was something really cool happening.
Even given all of that and the very nice gesture that it was meant to be for health care workers, what I would implore Washingtonians to do is to get some sunshine and exercise in your own neighborhood.
You have a better chance of knowing that you can social distance and not be among a big crowd.
Bruce: So I thought that we were taking a regional approach to this, but yet, Gov. Northam says that on May 15, the commonwealth will reopen. We haven't heard the same thing from D.C. or from Maryland. What is the status of D.C. reopening?
Bowser: I'm not sure what they're saying on the ground in Virginia, but what we see is that every jurisdiction has rising case counts. The peaks of this virus and cases of hospitalizations are yet to come. I think we've all managed to keep our cases lower, but that's because of strict social distancing.
We all want to get back to work, church, school, and all of those things. But if we do it in a way that we can't support with testing and contact tracing, we're going to be back to square one.
Bruce: What would be your message to Virginia residents who are allowed out due to Phase 1 happening, who might want to come over to D.C.?
Bowser: We're going to keep working with our businesses so that they can open up and still be safe. That's why we have an advisory committee that's advising us across 11 sectors about how these various sectors can open up safely.
So what we know is that you can open up a restaurant, but if the public isn't confident that you're taking the necessary precautions....then we know that opening won't be successful.
Bruce: Do you think come May 15 that you will lessen the orders of restrictions in hopes to reopen the District?
Bowser: We're looking closely every day and I'd like to give businesses some notice. I can say that as of May 5, we won't have 14-days of decreases by May 15. But I am waiting for our health officials to give me some recommendations around May 15 in hopes of getting it out to the public as soon as possible.
To watch more of Bruce's interview with Mayor Bowser, watch the full-length interview below.