Georgetown Is Coping — With Grace

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The Tidal Basin last week. Photo by Jeff Malet.

What are you seeing in Georgetown as the D.C. government begins to restrict businesses, postpones and cancels public events and temporarily closes the District’s day care programs, schools and universities because of the coronavirus? Are you seeing any panicking? Hysteria? Hoarding? Or are you seeing healthy behavior and acts of kindness?

Those were the questions Georgetowner reporters were asking as we covered the town in recent days. It appears there is a lot of the latter.

For instance, the 6 p.m. Friendly Wave, first suggested by Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Elizabeth Miller, is spreading throughout Georgetown. On the first night, March 18, neighbors up and down Q Street came out on their porches and waved. Then one brought out her accordion and two played their horns; others showed off their spring puppies.

“A Friendly Wave can go a long way to keeping us sane,” Miller told The Georgetowner. It’s also a way to check on each other — especially our more mature neighbors — and make sure we have what we need and are staying healthy.”

“I am so impressed with the number of calls from Georgetown neighbors asking how they can help,” said Lynn GolubRofrano, executive director of Georgetown Village, a nonprofit that provides services to enable seniors to age in place. “People who are not members and who have never volunteered are calling to say they are available to make calls, deliver groceries, help out seniors in need. In addition, we’ve put many of our programs, including chats with medical professionals, online.”

Georgetowners seem to be exercising a lot. The tennis courts at Rose Park and Volta Park are full of players practicing the perfect social-distancing sport with friends, even as they are able to take out their frustrations on the ball. “Rock Creek Park pathways and exercise areas are full of runners and people of all ages,” said Fred Gibbons, a Hyde-Addison kindergarten teacher and the son of ANC 2E Commissioner Joe Gibbons.

Circulator fares are free again. Though most Georgetowners don’t go directly to the Tidal Basin to see the cherry blossoms — in full early bloom last weekend — many are walking there along the river from the Georgetown waterfront. It’s a unique experience: no crowds.

“I am not hearing of anyone panicking,” said Rick Murphy, who chairs the Georgetown-Burleith ANC. “The calls I am getting are mostly from people upset about not knowing how long all the restrictions will last. So far, I haven’t heard anything official about an extension beyond March 31.” [Ed. note: At press time, the D.C. closures had been extended until April 25.]

“The D.C. public school system also officially states the restrictions are through March 31,” teacher Gibbons confirmed. “However, DCPS is preparing three weeks of prepared take-home lesson assignments and plans for teachers and students for online classes beginning next week. That takes us well into April after discounting this past week [March 16-20] as the rescheduled spring break.”

That is perhaps the biggest challenge for Georgetown’s surging number of residents with children. While playdates and sports matches are restricted, children riding their scooters and bikes in the park with a parent is a common sight. But most of their time will be confined to home. Teachers and parents will have to get creative, said Gibbons.

Grocery store hours are changing as well. Trader Joe’s has reduced shopping hours to 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Georgetown’s “social” Safeway remains open 24 hours, with seniors-only shopping from 7 to 9 a.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays (though this doesn’t seem to be highly monitored to date). The Tenleytown Whole Foods is offering seniors-only shopping from 7 to 8 a.m. daily.

Many of Georgetown’s favorite restaurants are geared up for phone orders and takeout. Martin’s Tavern — consistently voted the neighborhood’s most popular eatery in the annual Business Improvement District survey — is offering a 25-percent discount for preordered takeout. Lines of cars with their flashers on were parked along N Street on the evening of March 17, St. Patrick’s Day, when The Georgetowner picked up the tavern’s traditional corned beef and cabbage dinner, along with the newly minted 2020 St. Patrick’s Day button.

“This too shall pass,” said Commissioner Gibbons. “In the meantime, order and buy as much as you can from our Georgetown retailers.”

The Georgetown Wave on Q Street NW last week. Courtesy Elizabeth Miller.
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