Mayor Muriel Bowser
Mayor Muriel Bowser Credit: Darrow Montgomery/File

Amid calls to do something about the rising COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, Mayor Muriel Bowser’s administration imposed new restrictions on restaurants, museums, and libraries that take effect Wednesday night. The restrictions last three weeks.  

City Paper broke the news Friday morning that Bowser was going to close indoor dining. “From a public health perspective, it is absolutely the right decision,” says Grand Duchess bar manager Sam Ward, in reaction to the news. “For keeping people alive, it’s the right decision. But it’s unconscionable that it could happen without additional support from the city. It’s hard not to feel forsaken to a degree.”   

Later that Friday, at 10 p.m., Bowser announced a new mayoral order that calls for a “holiday pause.” “Taken together, legal restrictions, self-limitation of activity, and the vaccine’s employment can prevent disease, save lives, and prevent a crisis at our hospitals,” the order says. The order restricts the following activities between 10 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 23 and 5 a.m. on Friday, Jan. 15:

  • Restaurants can only offer outdoor dining, along with carry out and delivery services. 
  • Museums are closed. 
  • Libraries can only offer curbside pickup services.  
  • Circulator route on the National Mall is suspended. 
  • Departments of Parks and Recreation can only operate under reservations for swim and fitness. 
  • Non-essential businesses are required to telework, except if staff is needed to support minimal operations. 

The new order also repeals an occupancy limit on food sellers like grocery stores. In a mayoral order issued last Wednesday, food sellers were capped at 25 percent capacity or 250 people. The order attempted to resolve a lawsuit from the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington, which sued the District over an occupancy limit on houses of worship. “Stores must make plans that provide for safe social distancing between persons and limit occupancy to the extent necessary for safety,” the latest order says.    

During a Monday press conference, Bowser said she does not expect to extend restrictions past Jan. 15. “We know and the health department tells us that three weeks is a good intervention interval,” said Bowser.


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