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D.C. Advisory Group Lays Out 4-Phase Plan For Reopening

Mayor Muriel Bowser speaking at the ReOpen D.C. advisory group press conference Thursday.

The advisory group Mayor Muriel Bowser convened to recommend how to reopen the city has released a four-phase approach that could take effect before the end of this month.

The 76-page ReOpen DC report, released Thursday, recommended that the first phase of reopening allow hotels to open, restaurants to open outdoor seating, barbershops to reopen by appointment and other nonessential retailers to provide curbside and delivery service. It recommended each type of business implement strong safeguards for social distancing and sanitation. The group's recommendations are not binding.

The first phase could begin as soon as May 29 if the decline in daily COVID-19 cases continues, Bowser said in a press conference Thursday. D.C. is currently in its 11th day of case decline. 

Phase 1 would keep closed a host of other activities and businesses, including summer camps, museums, K-12 schools, large outdoor gatherings, indoor venues, gyms, communal pools, bars and nightclubs. It would recommend office-using companies continue working from home, and it would limit public gatherings to 10 people. 

An aerial view of D.C.'s Central Business District and East End.

The second phase would begin when the coronavirus has been limited to localized transmission. It would allow gatherings of up to 50 people and recommend office spaces limit capacity to 25%. 

Phase 2 would allow restaurants to resume indoor seating and other nonessential retailers to reopen, both with 50% capacity and safeguards. It would also allow gyms, schools, camps and museums to open with limited capacity and safeguards. 

The third phase would begin when the pandemic has been reduced to sporadic transmission. It would allow gatherings of up to 250 people, allow bars and nightclubs to open with up to 50% capacity and allow restaurants to begin expanding capacity beyond 50% with approval on a case-by-case basis. 

The fourth and final phase would begin after an effective vaccine or cure has been widely administered. It would allow all gatherings and businesses to resume activity without capacity restrictions or safeguards. The report adds that it expects many aspects of living and working will look different than before and residents and businesses should prepare for a "new normal."

The reopening advisory group was led by former United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice and former Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff. It received more than 17,000 survey responses and held more than 45 focus groups with residents, community groups and business leaders, plus additional interviews and virtual town halls. 

The group consisted of 11 committees, including ones focused on real estate and construction, restaurants and food and small business and retail. 

The real estate committee made more detailed recommendations on returning to commercial office space, reopening common areas in multifamily buildings and maintaining safe construction and development activity. It said the two biggest concerns it heard from survey respondents were about the ability of residential and commercial tenants to pay rents and homeowners to pay mortgages, and the need for clear guidelines on how construction sites should operate.