Mayor Enlists Big Names for ReOpen DC Advisory Group

D.C. Grants $25 Million to 10 Hospitals for Possible Surge

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Michelle Obama, Susan Rice and Michael Chertoff. Government photos.

Mayor Muriel Bowser announced April 27 that the ReOpen DC Advisory Group, tasked with formulating the District’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, will be headed by Secretary Michael Chertoff and Ambassador Susan Rice. Bowser also enlisted former first lady Michelle Obama as a spokesperson in D.C. government ads that encourage testing.

As of April 26, the District reported 51 new positive cases of COVID-19, bringing the total number of positive cases to 3,892 — with 185 District residents having lost their lives from the disease, caused by the novel coronavirus.

The goal of this special group is to “develop recommendations on reopening the District safely and sustainably through a plan based in science and tailored to the needs of the community,” Bowser said. The advisory group will recommend a plan that “proposes how to reopen D.C. toward its values and priorities, recommends deployment of the best approaches and innovations from D.C. residents and from around the country and globe and proposes a phased reopening with mitigation guidelines by sector to ensure a safe and responsive process.”

The group’s report is due on May 11. ReOpen DC will hold a virtual town hall on April 29. A survey will be posted on its website on April 28, with residents and businesses encouraged to provide feedback.

The Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security will advise the ReOpen DC advisory group, according to Bowser. The group will have 12 committees, whose work will be guided by the center’s report, “Public Health Principles for a Phased Reopening During COVID-19: Guidance for Governors.”

Additional ReOpen DC co-chairpersons are: D.C.’s Chief Financial Officer Jeffrey DeWitt, former Mayor Adrian Fenty, former HHS Assistant Secretary Nicole Lurie, District Council Chairman Phil Mendelson, the mayor’s Senior Advisor Beverly Perry and former Mayor Anthony Williams. The six will chair two committees each.

The group’s 12 committees are:

·         Equity, Disparity Reduction, Vulnerable Populations 

·         Public Health Innovation and Workforce 

·         Transportation and Infrastructure 

·         Open Spaces and Recreation 

·         Education and Childcare 

·         Government Operations, Public Safety, and Criminal Justice

·         Faith, Arts, Culture, Hotels, Entertainment and Sports

·         Restaurants and Food Retailers 

·         Retail and Small Business

·         Human Services, Social Services, and Health

·         Real Estate and Construction

Chertoff served as President George W. Bush’s secretary of homeland security. Rice was national security advisor under President Barack Obama. Bowser said both are D.C. residents and that she asked them to help the city in these temporary roles, calling Rice “a hometown D.C. leader” and saying that Chertoff “has helped me before.”

At the same press briefing, Bowser announced that the Department of Health Care Finance has awarded $25 million in grants to 10 hospitals to support and prepare for the District’s medical surge in response to the coronavirus public health emergency.

“Eligible hospitals applied to receive funding based on the number of beds the hospital is able to provide to address the anticipated surge,” Bowser added. “Each hospital received an award based on this allocation and funding will be distributed to hospitals on May 1.”

Among others, George Washington University Hospital will receive a little more than $5 million, Howard more than $4 million and MedStar Georgetown a little more than $1 million.

The District and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are converting the Walter E. Washington Convention Center into an alternate care facility with 500 beds for any medical surge, if necessary. It will be ready next week.

More information is available at coronavirus.dc.gov/reopendc.

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