D.C. Mayor to Lift Nearly All COVID Restrictions on May 21

At an 11 a.m. press conference today, May 10, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser announced that by Friday, May 21, she will order the lifting of nearly all COVID-19 restrictions on public and commercial activities in the District. The loosening does not include bars, nightclubs or large entertainment and sports venues, however, which will be allowed to operate only at 50-percent capacity.  

“But on June 11, capacity limits and restrictions will be lifted on all those venues that cannot fully reopen on May 21,” the mayor stated. 

“May 21 is a turning point,” said Bowser. “There will be no capacity requirements after that for almost all activities, including libraries, museums, gyms and fitness centers, pools, recreation centers, places of worship, business meetings, schools, child care and the like.”

The sudden announcement was almost a complete reversal from the mayor’s insistence over the weekend that her administration was still carefully monitoring all COVID-19 metrics and would maintain the 25-percent capacity rule for commercial activities, even on Mother’s Day. This was despite the growing urgings of D.C. business owners, especially restaurateurs, who pointed out that Virginia restaurants and shops, including those in nearby Arlington and Alexandria, were at 50-percent capacity indoors as well as outdoors; in some areas, there are no restrictions at all.    

On Friday, District Council members Brooke Pinto and Kenyan McDuffie sent a letter to Bowser asking her to loosen D.C.’s pandemic restrictions.

News articles on Monday echoed the frustration. The front-page story in the Washington Post’s Metro section was headlined: “DC urged to pick up pace.” By 11 a.m., it was apparent to some commentators that the mayor had bowed to the pressure. 

Masking guidelines for D.C. residents and visitors are still not clear, however. According to the mayor, “Guidance will emphasize the current mask and travel guidelines, cleaning and disinfecting recommendations and COVID-19 case reporting requirements.” These include: “Fully Vaccinated People: Wear a mask and wash your hands. Unvaccinated People: Wear a mask, stay 6 feet apart and wash your hands.”    

Yet CDC guidelines released last week do not require fully vaccinated people to wear a mask outdoors — nor indoors when among small groups of fully vaccinated individuals, whether family members or not.

Along with the mayor’s announcement, a timeline for D.C. government employees to return to office work was posted. According to the chart, up to 50 percent will return by June 7. It states: “Executive, Excepted and Management Service employees will be required to be in office the majority of the week. By July, all employees are required to be set and working in new in-office work schedules.” 

“DC Health is reviewing all health guidance on coronavirus.dc.gov, and updates will be available in the next seven to 10 days,” said the mayor.


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