WASHINGTON — Despite the headlines, the warnings, the climbing cases of coronavirus, the posted signs and despite the risks to public health, people are still not socially distancing themselves while visiting the cherry blossoms.
The tableau of tourists filling the Tidal Basin draws a dramatic contrast to the declarations of public health emergencies across the nation, as the capital’s iconic blossoms reach peak bloom.
The National Park Service is keeping the area open to the public. As long as local authorities keep outdoor spaces open, park rangers will follow that guidance.
"The health and safety of our visitors, employees, volunteers, and partners around the National Mall is our number one priority," NPS spokesperson Mike Litterst said in a statement Friday. "We are closely monitoring COVID-19 with the federal, state, and local authorities and where it is possible to adhere to their guidance, outdoor spaces, including the Tidal Basin, will remain accessible to the public."
The NPS has signs posted, reminding visitors to remain six feet away from each other, to wash hands often and to avoid touching one’s face.
The Metro transit system closed the two closest stations to the blossoms, Smithsonian and Arlington National Cemetery, in an effort to keep trains only for essential personnel.
"We also encourage people to take advantage of the new live BloomCam to enjoy peak bloom from the comfort of their own homes, courtesy of our partners at The Trust for the National Mall and the National Cherry Blossom Festival," Litterst added.
The District of Columbia banned all gatherings of more than 10 people, and closed all restaurants, bars, gyms and cinemas.
Authorities in the District reported the first death from COVID-19 Friday, with the city’s number of cases totaling 77.