Washington, D.C. will begin reopening on Friday: mayor

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Washington, D.C. is set to begin its first phase of reopening on Friday, the federal district’s mayor said on Wednesday.

FILE PHOTO: A general view shows a reflecting pool between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument in Washington, U.S., November 17, 2019. REUTERS/Yara Nardi

Mayor Muriel Bowser, who had issued a stay-at-home order on March 30, said the district had experienced a “sustained decline” in cases of the novel coronavirus over 14 days, allowing it to begin the process of reopening.

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Gatherings of more than 10 people will still be prohibited, Bowser said.

Non-essential retailers will be allowed to reopen on Friday for curbside or front-door pick-up of orders, Bowser said. Barbershops and salons will be allowed to open by appointment only, restaurants will be able to serve customers in outdoor spaces and some parks and recreation facilities will be able to open.

Earlier this month, Bowser had said the federal district would remain closed through June 8.

“We know people are nervous. This is a scary virus and they should be nervous,” Bowser said, adding that people should continue to social distance, practice good hygiene and get tested if they need to.

So far, the U.S. capital has reported more than 8,400 cases and 445 deaths related to the virus.

In a White House briefing last week, Deborah Birx, a member of the White House coronavirus task force, said the Washington area – Washington, D.C. and neighboring Maryland and Virginia – are reporting the largest percentage of positive coronavirus tests.

The move comes as U.S. President Donald Trump presses states to reopen businesses that were shuttered in a bid to ease the coronavirus pandemic. Unemployment has surged nationwide as a result, with many fearing the job losses will be permanent.

Maryland and Virginia have already moved to open portions of their states, though they have done so more slowly in the suburbs clustered around the U.S. capital, which have seen higher numbers of cases than more rural areas of the states.

Public health experts have warned reopening businesses could lead to a new spike in coronavirus cases.

Reporting by Makini Brice; Editing by Bill Berkrot

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