By Michael Hernandez
WASHINGTON (AA) - The nation's capital will begin the slow process towards re-normalizing amid COVID-19 later this week when a stay-at-home order is lifted, Mayor Muriel Bowser announced Wednesday.
The order will be lifted Friday after the district marked 14 days of sustained decline in the virus' community transmission, but many restrictions will remain in place to ensure the novel coronavirus does not surge in Washington, D.C. Bowser's order was originally set to run through June 8.
The early lifting of the stay-at-home order will mark the beginning of phase one of the reopening plan, but Bowser continued to urge caution as the capital begins to reopen.
"I want to clarify this -- COVID-19 is still in our community, in our region, in our nation. The public health emergency will continue. Gatherings of more than 10 people are still prohibited," Bowser said during a news briefing. "I want to make sure we all understand that moving into phase one means that more people can get infected, because now more people will be moving around in the community."
In all, 72 people tested positive for the virus Tuesday, bringing the district's total to 8,406 as five more people aged between 55 and 75 died from the virus, according to official data. At least 445 residents have died from the virus.
When Bowser's stay-at-home order is lifted, non-essential retail stores will be able to open for curbside or front-door pickup, or delivery. Barbershops and hair salons will also be able to reopen, but with stations separated at least six feet apart, and restaurants will be able to host patrons in any outdoor seating they have under the same distancing guidelines.
Telework for all private employers will still be encouraged during phase one of reopening, Bowser said.