- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 23, 2020

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan on Thursday shared their plans for reopening their respective jurisdictions while under coronavirus stay-at-home orders and social distancing protocols.

Miss Bowser said her plan includes hiring 900 contact tracers and appointing an advisory group on reopening the District.

“Everybody wants to get open, but we also don’t want to lose the gains that we have made and we want to do it in a way that’s sustainable,” the mayor said at a press conference.

Before the District can enter phase one of reopening, as outlined in Trump administration guidelines, city officials must see:

⦁ A steady two-week decline in new coronavirus cases.

⦁ Widespread access to testing.

⦁ Robust contact tracing operations.

⦁ The health care system is able to care for anyone without use of crisis standards of care.

The D.C. Department of Health currently has about 65 contact tracers, is hiring about 200 others and is beginning to advertise for the remaining 600 contact tracers needed to enter phase one.

Dr. LaQuandra Nesbitt, who heads the Health Department, said officials will be looking for a decrease in the rate of new coronavirus cases even as more testing is done. She said that about 20% of tests currently come back as positive, adding that she wants the rate to fall to about 10%.

Miss Bowser said she has established a reopen D.C. advisory group that will be advised by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

The group will consist of 12 committees focused on different sectors in the city, such as transportation and infrastructure, education and child care, restaurants, and retail and small businesses.

Miss Bowser did not say who has been appointed to the group, but she said she expects recommendations from the committees in May.

The Democratic mayor called this a “once-in-a-generation” opportunity to build a more equitable city, saying that one of the committees is focused on addressing equity, disparity reduction and vulnerable populations.

“When we get on the other side of this, what that means in D.C. and across the nation is that we have to do better, and we have to tackle the long standing inequities that are causing these disparities,” Miss Bowser said.

Meanwhile, Mr. Hogan previewed his “Maryland Strong Roadmap to Recovery” in a Politico Live interview, saying he will provide details on Friday. He said Thursday that the region is not yet ready to reopen due to the rising number of new coronavirus cases.

“If we just were to flip the switch and open things back up like a lot of people want, ‘Let’s get it open,’” the Republican governor said. “There’s no question it would be worse and flashback in the fall and then we are in a much worse position, the economy will be much worse, more people will lose their jobs and more people will die.”

Mr. Hogan said that once the Trump administration guidelines for reopening are met, businesses will be able to reopen in phases based on risk level — high, medium and low — and their ability to maintain social distancing.

He said Maryland is making progress on entering phase one by adding 6,700 hospital beds in 41 days, reopening Laurel hospital in 37 days, procuring 500,000 coronavirus testing kits from South Korea and ordering millions of personal protective equipment every day.

As for professional sports, Mr. Hogan said he doesn’t anticipate stadiums filling up anytime soon. However, he did give golfers some hope.

“I think opening golf courses will be one of the early things we do in the first part of the reopening,” he said. “I don’t see you being able to hang at the bar with your buddies in the clubhouse but you will be able to get out there and take a few swings in the grass in a safe way.”

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