By Victoria Daniels
Special to the AFRO

On March 7, D.C. reported 2 positive test results for COVID-19 (coronavirus), yet that number has grown substantially as 1,334 people have been tested and 183 of those people have tested positive, as of March 24. 

“Our public health leaders, our doctors and our nurses, and all our administration of our health care systems are doing everything they can to prepare for this crisis,” said Mayor Muriel Bowser during a live update yesterday as she addressed the inevitable rise of cases. 

Bowser also said that testing is being brought to hospitals in the area for those who have a “clinical need” as well as health providers and those on the frontlines.

City workers throw away items left behind by homeless people during a temporary encampment clearing on L Street Northeast in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 5, 2019. (Photo by Julia Lerner/Howard Center for Investigative Journalism)

So far, there have been two COVID-19 related deaths in the District. 

With about 40 new positive COVID-19 diagnoses  in one evening, Bowser has ordered a shutdown of non-essential businesses.

“The intent of the Order is to temporarily cease all non-essential business activities, including tour guides and touring services; gyms, health clubs, spas and massage establishments; theaters, auditoriums and other places of large gatherings; nightclubs; hair, nail and tanning salons and barbershops; tattoo parlors; sales not involved in professional services not devoted to assisting essential business operations,” according to an official statement from the Office of the Mayor.

According to DC Health, businesses that can remain open include: “automotive repair and automotive supply stores; banks and credit unions; bicycle sales and bicycle repair shops; childcare facilities; grocery stores, supermarkets, licensed farmers markets, liquor stores, convenience stores and food retailers; hospitals, clinics, dentists and pharmacies; and veterinarians and animal care services.”

On Sunday, Mayor Bowser announced that in efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19, the public will no longer be allowed to view the cherry blossoms as many flocked there over the weekend, breaking social distancing rules that have been encouraged by local and national governments.

“We’ve been enjoying them for more than a hundred years and we will enjoy them again next year,” said Mayor Bowser. 

The Metropolitan Police Department and D.C. National Guard are enforcing the road closures and restrictions around the Tidal Basin area, including entrances to the National Mall and the Jefferson Memorial. 

The District’s government modified operating status has been extended until April 27. DCPS students and faculties can expect for distance learning to continue until April 24 and classes to resume on Monday, April 27. 

Mass gatherings including attending restaurants and bars will resume April 25. The mayor spoke highly of restaurants and bars adhering to take-out only rules by saying that she admired their “sense of optimism, but also duty to continue to serve their neighborhood in these altered conditions.” 

In a Twitter thread a few hours after the live updates, the mayor informed the public of other measures being taken during this outbreak such as local businesses helping out during this time. 

Republic Restoratives Distillery and Compass Coffee are each producing 1,000 gallons of hand sanitizer which will be made available to public health officials and first responders. 

In another thread, she tweeted that taxpayers have an additional 90 days to file and pay taxes, changing the original deadline of April 15 to July 15. The Office of Revenue is also encouraging taxpayers to file returns electronically. 

The D.C. DMV has also been affected. In a statement sent from the DMV, as of Wednesday, all in-person service centers will be closed to the public. Adjudication services will open back up on Monday, April 27 while inspection centers and service centers are expected to open doors on Tuesday, April 28. 

Drivers licenses, identification cards, vehicle registrations, inspections, ticket payments and ticket adjudication responses that expire March 1 through April 28, have been extended until May 15. Those with expiring documents will be granted a waiver without penalty when the DMV reopens and driver licenses suspensions and revocations are also on pause. Tickets and adjudications can still be paid and made online. 

D.C. residents are encouraged to check for updates and information. Until more updates are made available, as Mayor Bowser’s tweet reads, “In simple terms: be a good neighbor, stay at home. #StayHomeDC.”