Mayor Extends COVID-19 Emergency, School Closures

District Playgrounds, Schools Close and Restaurants to Shuttered until April 27

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Mayor Bowser speaks at the Mar 20 press conference. Screenshot: DCN Live

In a press conference after the announcement of the District’s first death due to COVID-19, Bowser extended the Mayor’s Order of March 16 Prohibiting Mass Gatherings.

Bowser asked residents to stay at home unless they were providers of essential services or had essential needs to fulfill. “Don’t treat this like a normal weekend. There will be more weekends, more nice days,” she said.

However, Bowser stopped short of ordering shelter in place, an order already given to residents of California.

Bowser announced that school closures would be extended until Friday, April 24, together with the ban on mass gatherings. Charters are expected to follow this updated operating status, Deputy Mayor for Education Paul Kiln said.

Ten additional sites will be added to supply lunches to students. In Ward 6, the additional site will be located at Miner Elementary School (601 15th St. NE).

Kiln said that the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) plans to seek a one-year waiver from federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) requirements around assessments, and will cancel statewide assessments for students, including Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) and DC Science.

This extension of the emergency order will also include the closure of restaurants, bars, theaters and gyms. Bowser said the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) was working on an assessment of the impact to the District economy. “We know that we will have to tap into a lot of our resources to help get through this,” she said.

DC Department of Parks and Recreation (DC DPR) facilities, including playgrounds, parks, and athletic fields, will be closed to the public. DCPS playgrounds will also be closed. People should avoid using those playground that the District cannot close, Kiln said, such as those operated by the National Parks Service (NPS). Residents are encouraged to practice social distancing if they must utilize these spaces and to be “enjoying these spaces only with their immediate family.” DC Public Libraries will also remain closed until April 27.

Child care provisions will be created for critical health care workers in the coming days, with discussions ongoing with Hospital Association and Primary Care Association to identify specific needs. More than 50 child care centers to continue to operate in the District, many home-based, Kiln said, and those were encouraged to remain open to meet the needs of families.

Benefits such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) will be extended throughout the Public Health Emergency, Bowser said, and deadlines for renewal of licenses and registrations, such as for driver’s licenses, REAL I.D. and vehicle registration will also be extended throughout the emergency.

As of Friday, DC has received 11,844 applications for Unemployment Insurance.