Jun 17, 2020
Washington DC Mayor Muriel Bowser Press Conference Transcript June 17
Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser held a news briefing on June 17. She announced DC expects to start coronavirus Phase 2 reopening on Monday if trends hold. Read the full transcript here.
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Mayor Muriel Bowser: (00:00)
Good morning. I’m Muriel Bowser, I’m the Mayor of Washington DC and I want to start today by providing a brief update on our new hospital agreements and their status at the DC Council. And I want to invite people to participate this evening. We will host a community telephone town hall to discuss these agreements, the details of these agreements. And I will be joined by the city administrator as well as representatives from Howard and Howard university and GW. I encourage any resident who is interested in this topic, health equity, in a more equitable and healthy DC to please dial into that call. You may do so by dialing 844-881- 1314. And that’s tonight this evening at 5:00 PM. And I want to remind you that we talked in a earlier briefing where we invited GW and Howard University, and Adventist Healthcare to talk about the district’s investments, not just in two new hospitals, but in a system of care that will make access to healthcare easier and more broadly distributed in our city.
Mayor Muriel Bowser: (01:35)
What we know from our experience with COVID-19 is that health disparities are stark and that we need to make every investment that we can and get everything out of all parts of our government to ensure that we have more healthy people and more equitable outcomes in Washington DC. So with that, I’d like the City Administrator to talk a bit about the agreements that are at the Council. We can go back to slide three and also ask you to call us in this evening if you have any questions or want to share any thoughts.
City Administrator: (02:23)
Thank you Madam Mayor. If we could just go back one slide, please. So there are two sets of agreements or two pieces of legislation at the Council. One would effectuate the project with GW Health at what we’re calling the GW Health Hospital to be located on the campus of Saint Elizabeth’s. Again, that project is a 136 bed inpatient facility at Saint Elizabeth’s East with the addition of a verified trauma center. The verified trauma center really will allow patients, about 90% of the emergent cases that occur in ward seven and eight to be treated at this new hospital. So the inpatient facility is a community hospital, but has a more enhanced emergency room facility to be able to treat the vast majority of cases that would present. The project also includes an ambulatory center also on the campus of Saint Elizabeth’s. This is a facility that will have not only a clinic, but be able to do a number of outpatient and specialized procedures at that site and will be connected to the inpatient facility at Saint Elizabeth’s.
City Administrator: (03:46)
And also and lastly, the project includes the provision for two new urgent care facilities, one to be located in ward seven, the other to be in ward eight. The urgent care facilities actually would precede the construction of the inpatient tower and the ambulatory center. We would expect those urgent care facilities to be open in calendar year 2021 and calendar year 2022. The second project that is before the Council would support the development of a new hospital on the campus of Howard University and replace the existing Howard University Hospital. That project would be a 225 bed level one academic research teaching hospital to be located again on the campus of Howard University. And we also will be supporting and partnering with Howard through DC Health to create five centers of excellence that really focus on health services and health disparities that impact our community.
City Administrator: (04:49)
So sickle cell treatment for example, mental health treatment, trauma, oral health. Those are some of the centers of excellence that we’ll be focusing on where Howard can offer a new set of services to the community. So as the mayor mentioned, next slide, there are agreements currently at the Council just in terms of the timeline in April. The mayor announced these new agreements for the hospital at Howard University and the hospital at Saint Elizabeth’s. On June the ninth, the mayor submitted those agreements to the DC Council. There is a hearing scheduled on June 30th and a joint hearing with the committee on health and the committee on business and economic development. And depending on the results of the committee hearing, the first vote of the Council would be on July the seventh. And then if the Council approves these agreements by the end of July, then we can begin the process to build a new hospital at Saint Elizabeth’s immediately.
City Administrator: (05:58)
You can see on the bottom slide is our timeline for the development of the project at Saint Elizabeth’s. So, in the fall or pending council approval this summer, we would be in a position to contract with an architect for the design of the hospital and the ambulatory center with the construction contracts being released in the summer of 2021, breaking ground on the new hospital in early 2022, with the ambulatory surgical center opening in the fall of 23, and the new hospital on the campus of Saint Elizabeth’s opening in 2024. So we think there’s urgency as the mayor talked about at the outset of our comments. There’s urgency in moving forward with these projects so that we can have a healthcare system that really can service the needs of all of our residents, address the health disparities that we are seeing, and makes us and our community more resilient for the future. So with that, may I turn it back over to you? Thank you.
Mayor Muriel Bowser: (07:03)
Thank you CA and thanks for your hard work on all of these issues and Deputy Mayor Turnage and Dr. Nesbitt and all the people who have been involved in these discussions. And I look forward to working with the Council, answering any and all of their questions and urging them very strongly to move through their process so that we can begin the contracting process to get the ambulatory care centers built and the hospitals built. So next, I just want to switch to our update on the district’s response to COVID-19. And we will go over on the guidelines and the guidance that we will make available, so our community can start thinking about what phase two of reopening looks like and get prepared.
Mayor Muriel Bowser: (08:03)
This morning, we announced 29 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 which means more than 9,800 people have tested positive with COVID-19 in the district. And sadly three Washingtonians have lost their lives in our report today, meaning bringing our total number of Washingtonians who have succumbed to the virus to more than 520 people. We also announced and it’s reflected in this graph that we have achieved 13 days of sustained decline in community spread. You will recall the metrics that we are monitoring for our phased progression on to get into phase two. And so we will continue to monitor these data points as we move forward. You will notice as I just mentioned that we are trending in the right direction in each of these, community spread at 13 days, low transmission rate we have achieved, positivity rate we have achieved. Also for sufficient health care capacity we have achieved and we are trending in the right direction for contact tracing.
Mayor Muriel Bowser: (09:34)
I’ll just pause on that note because that number you see refers to a seven day average through 6/14 and I’ll ask Dr. Nesbitt to talk about our experience over the last couple of days, which gives us confidence in saying that we are hitting, going to hit where we need to be.
Dr. Nesbitt: (09:59)
Sure. One of the things that I wanted to be able to communicate is that in the past week or so, we’ve been migrating our data to a new system and we’ve tasked the 200 to 300 individuals who are now working with us for contact tracing. 200 of them are fully deployed, a hundred new individuals started with us this week in their training and we’ll be onboarding new 60 to 100 individuals next week for contact tracing. What we have is we’ve migrated to a new system and now that we have a more well-robust workforce, we’ve been reaching out to individuals who were previously diagnosed to better understand where they are in their recovery and isolation. Many of them have worked with our team in the past. Many of the patients, I’m sorry, or residents have worked with our team in the past or have been recovered by their healthcare provider, but we wanted to do a much better job of improving documentation of the individuals who are recovered.
Dr. Nesbitt: (10:58)
In the past couple of days, we’ve been able to have more of a structured focus on our new cases and improve documentation in our new technology system which we went over in depth with you all last week. So as the mayor has mentioned, in the past two days, we have achieved over this 90%, 90%, 92% of making first attempts with our new positive cases within one day of us being notified of their case. So we calculate this metric on a seven day average. So because of the backwork that we were doing, it’s not a backlog per se so people had been reached out to if they were in that. What we were doing in phase one, a lot more of those high priority cases.
Dr. Nesbitt: (11:48)
But now that we are reaching out to all new positive cases, a lot more legwork had to be done. And so now we’re in a much better position moving forward to people within one day of us being notified as evidenced by our ability to have done that in the past two days. So this metric will improve markedly over the next couple of days and we expect it to be able to be sustained over 90% in the next week or so. And we’ll continue to monitor it as we move through the various phases of reopening.
Mayor Muriel Bowser: (12:24)
Thank you Dr. Nesbitt. And let me also remind people that if they need a test, to get a test through your provider, your doctor, or the healthcare center that you use, or you can use one of the district supported sites, at the drive in or walk up sites, or at one of the district’s fire stations that we are using although I don’t see those here on this slide.
Mayor Muriel Bowser: (12:54)
I’m sorry? The weather. Okay. So these are just the two we’re going to use today. Okay. So for today, we’ll be using the two drive up sites. All of the testing is done outside, and so rain can hamper our ability to test. So these are the locations on F Street and on Martin Luther King Avenue SouthEast that will be available today.
Mayor Muriel Bowser: (13:20)
So now let’s move to our discussion about phase two. And as I said just a moment ago, we’re going to continue to monitor the data. We are trending in the right direction but today we want to provide the guidelines so that all residents and businesses can be preparing for phase two. These guidelines will be converted into a mayor’s order. And I expect that if we continue to trend this way, I will make these guidelines and phase two effective this Monday.
Mayor Muriel Bowser: (14:04)
So here are the guidelines. First, District Government will continue to operate in a modified telework posture. Now, there are some exceptions to that and I want to go through those and CA feel free to jump in. And this we continue to have more than half of our employees who will be teleworking. The DMV will be an exception and on Tuesday we will open up the Department of Motor Vehicles for in-person service. DPR will also be an exception. We will open up playgrounds and fields for use with some very specific guidelines that have to be followed. We also expect libraries to be able to slowly reopen for in-person visitation at various libraries. Some of our Aussie staff will be reporting at their work sites to support childcare centers. Our Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement will also begin reporting in person and there will be others directors who will re-engage various services at their departments and that require in-person work. So our employees will be notified and we will get additional information out to you.
Mayor Muriel Bowser: (15:52)
On mass gatherings, the number of people that can gather has been increased to 50 people. More than 50 people are prohibited. On nonessential businesses especially retailers, nonessential retail businesses. In addition to the curbside that they have been permitted, they now may have patrons and customers inside at 50% capacity. For personal services, we continue to require appointments and stations to be six feet apart, but other personal services like tanning, tattoo, waxing, threading, cryotherapy, facials, and nail salons may now open. Restaurants are permitted to have indoor dining at 50% capacity which is the big change. Fitness and recreation, gyms and health clubs, yoga, dance, and workout studios may open with a capacity limit of five people per 1000 square feet and classes must also be limited with a 10 foot distance between patrons.
Mayor Muriel Bowser: (17:11)
DPR pools may open for structured activities including lessons and lap swimming which is distinct from open swimming. And so I’ve asked the CA and DPR to devise a plan on what that might look like for swim lessons for people of all ages and for laps swimming. We expect to be able to have a plan to discuss with the public by mid to late July. Playgrounds, courts, and fields will be open for casual play on the fields. We will not be permitting league sports and low to moderate contact sports will be allowed for casual play. And there are specific guidelines at the Department of Health that relate to that. For houses of worship, we are permitting indoor service though we encourage virtual services to continue. There will be a 100 person or 50% of capacity limit whichever is less. So not more than 100 people. And we are encouraging that no choirs are singing or shared items be used at those services. Camps and educational opportunities. Camps may open with no more than 10 people in a cohort and with social distancing protocols and other safeguards. Libraries may operate at 50-
Mayor Muriel Bowser: (19:02)
Safeguards. Libraries may operate at 50% capacity. Colleges and universities can open when they have submitted a plan onto the office of planning that has been developed in consultation with the DME and the Department of Health. Theaters, cinemas, and entertainment venues continue to be closed. However, we will open up a waiver process to consider operations at venue specific with venue specific requests. Those are the big items. Again, Dr. Nesbitt, if you could just mention some of the guidelines that DC Health is putting on the coronavirus.dc.gov website that explains these guidelines.
Dr. Nesbitt: (19:59)
Sure. Similar to phase one, we have worked on a comprehensive set of guidance documents. Well over a dozen that specifies what members of the general public, as well as businesses that are part of the phase two reopening can do to help ensure that we have as safe as possible, a successful phase two reopening. What people can expect in those guidance documents is good structured information for members of the general public, employees and employers who are impacted by the newer guidelines for a phase two reopening. Each guidance document will provide instructions for the employees, the employers, information in terms of if your facility has been closed, things that we want you to do to prepare the building, including for the water.
Dr. Nesbitt: (20:54)
For example, that has been shut off that may present additional public health challenges that are not related to COVID. We also have included based on feedback that we received during phase one, what employers should expect to do in terms of communicating to us. Employers or business operators should expect to do in terms of communicating to DC Health, if an employee or a patron of their business contacts them and informs them that they have been diagnosed with COVID-19. How they communicate that information to DC Health, and what they should expect in terms of a response time for DC Health if they have submitted such a correspondence or inquiry. That will help them get a little bit more insight in terms of a response time.
Dr. Nesbitt: (21:43)
For certain sectors who have a substantial or a different change in operations based on the guidance document, we will be hosting webinars for them to be able to ask questions of the public health professionals at DC Health. To help them understand how to make these social distancing changes or sanitation and hygiene adaptations to their business operations. And these webinars, we expect to have them recorded and also made available on the phase two reopening site, on the coronavirus.dc.gov phase two website that is posted there or for future reference. So we’re all working collaboratively and collectively to ensure a successful transition into the next phase of reopening and the district of Columbia, and hope that everyone will review the guidance documents. Those for the general public, those for families with children, those for who are members of vulnerable populations. There’s a guidance document for everyone. Thank you, madam mayor.
Mayor Muriel Bowser: (22:53)
Thank you. So go to coronavirus.dc.gov/ phase two to review the guidance and we can begin our phase reopening. We think if our trends continue on this Monday. Yes? Yes?
Speaker 1: (23:15)
Mayor Muriel Bowser: (23:16)
Speaker 1: (23:16)
A question about contact tracing.
Mayor Muriel Bowser: (23:18)
Speaker 1: (23:19)
New York City, mayor de Blasio has apparently instructed contract tracers to not ask individuals if they had attended any of the social justice demonstrations over the past couple of weeks, is that a directive being put into place here in the district? And if not, why?
Mayor Muriel Bowser: (23:40)
Dr. Nesbitt will know a little bit more about the interview.
Dr. Nesbitt: (23:44)
So we conduct a comprehensive interview. We ask questions about the individuals’ movement, all of their activities. And we ask questions in a nonjudgmental way. It’s important for us to know where an individual has been to be able to identify their risk of exposure. What we have communicated publicly and will continue to communicate publicly is that these first amendment demonstrations are mass gatherings. And that is how we have viewed them from a public health perspective. We hold no judgment against any type of public first amendment demonstration, where it was held, the specific location, because we recognize that many of the people did converge in a specific location. Our primary interest is knowing where the individual’s movements were, so that we may be able to identify a specific location where they may have come into contact with other people, and there may be a single source of exposure.
Dr. Nesbitt: (24:48)
I would caution against communicating to people that there may be some type of activity that they participated in. That it is appropriate to withhold that activity from a public health authority that could cause stigma from that activity. If it is perceived that a first amendment activity has a set of stigma than individuals might start to assume that sexual intercourse is an activity that has stigma, and should be withheld. Or going to a brothel is a type of activity that should be withheld or going to a spa that should be closed, but it’s open, is a type of activity that should be withheld. We need people to be very transparent with us, with all of the activities that they are participating in. So we can identify sources of exposure and limit that exposure from other people, so that we can really do a good job of preventing transmission in our city.
Speaker 1: (25:49)
Could I follow?
Mayor Muriel Bowser: (25:50)
Speaker 1: (25:53)
Because I asked that not in a judgmental way. I ask that in a clinical way, if you’re trying to conduct medical research here. I think the lay person would suggest that there is a difference between an individual having sexual intercourse and participating in a demonstration, which many of us were at with tens of thousands of people. Is this a question that is going to be asked? Not judgmental, but in a clinical sense that [crosstalk 00:26:18]
Dr. Nesbitt: (26:20)
I answered you in a very clinical way. We don’t ask people A, did you go to, is not the question that we ask. We ask people to give us a history of their past activities. If someone does not tell us that they went to a first amendment activity, we don’t proactively ask them if they did so. So I want to make sure that that is very clear. What we are trying to do is we’re trying to ascertain people’s movements to be able to identify if there is a particular source of exposure. To proactively discourage people from disclosing types of activities or places that they have gone to, could give people the impression that there is a stigma around participating in a particular type of activity, and could encourage people to proactively start withholding types of activities from us. And that does a great disservice to the process of disease investigation and surveillance.
Speaker 1: (27:22)
So the message here is to anybody who comes in contact with a contact tracer is to be open and honest [crosstalk 00:27:28]
Dr. Nesbitt: (27:28)
Full disclosure. Absolutely.
Speaker 1: (27:30)
Mayor Muriel Bowser: (27:31)
A couple of questions. One on the entertainment venues and cinemas asking for a waiver. I’m guessing the farmer’s market will have to do some type of a safety plan that would be approved.
Mayor Muriel Bowser: (27:43)
You said the church has no choirs, I believe. Is that correct? I’m wondering is live music allowed under phase two at entertainment venues?
Mayor Muriel Bowser: (27:54)
It would have to be waived. It would have to be a waived activity.
It’s possible live music [crosstalk 00:27:58]
Mayor Muriel Bowser: (27:59)
It’s possible with the approval of a waiver.
I mean, you talked about swimming pools and DPR pools being open for restrictive purposes. What about communal pools at condominiums, apartment buildings, private pools like that?
Mayor Muriel Bowser: (28:15)
I think where we’ve landed on residential pools… Let me just confirm, because we had a lot of discussion about that. Let me confirm that, Mark.
And if I could ask about the metrics, and specifically I know you were training in the right direction and you wrote by Monday, we’ll be okay to move forward with phase two. Is it simply the contact tracing that is really the one thing that is lagging behind here?
Mayor Muriel Bowser: (28:40)
It’s the one thing that we have not met, and I think also the community spread. I think we have another day to achieve. [crosstalk 00:28:52] I didn’t hear you, Mark.
Well, community spread is at 13 today.
Mayor Muriel Bowser: (28:54)
You’ve got one more day to be there.
Mayor Muriel Bowser: (28:56)
The bigger deficit is in the contract tracing.
Mayor Muriel Bowser: (29:01)
Is that correct?
Mayor Muriel Bowser: (29:03)
And the only reason we call it a deficit is largely because we haven’t been able to watch it long enough. And if our expectation of the last two days is an indicator, then we will be able to meet it, even though we don’t have… The way that DC Health is reporting it, is with the previous seven days.
That’s what I guess I’m having a hard time understanding or I guess I’m confused about, because if we’re this far away now, how do we make up that time?
Mayor Muriel Bowser: (29:38)
We’re not really [crosstalk 00:29:40] Honestly, Mark, we didn’t say that we have to have seven days showing that, but that is a calculation that they’re comfortable with making. So that’s where we’re going with. And we have the number of people who we need, and the number of cases that we’ve seen over the last couple of weeks, we know that we can hit those numbers. So that’s where we’re going to be. Yes?
Speaker 2: (30:12)
Can I ask a couple more questions about contact tracing? First of all, I’m trying to understand where this 15% number comes from, because by my math, and my math might be wrong. But if you had 90 and 92% of the past two days, even if you had zero for the five days before that, that would be 26%, seven day average right there. Where did this number come from?
Mayor Muriel Bowser: (30:34)
Do we have the numbers for all of the days?
Dr. Nesbitt: (30:36)
Yeah. So it’s only the one day is included in there, because we report out a two day data lag. So you don’t always have access to all the information that we do. So we look at it and we observe trends on a daily basis. So I’m able to go in and look at staff performance on a daily basis and see where they are performing, which isn’t what we report out. So we report out again, a day in a hold, as you know, by looking at the dashboards. The other thing, as I mentioned to you before, we have switched some of the data systems. So the automated data feed that goes into the dashboard is from a different system that staff were working in previously.
Dr. Nesbitt: (31:16)
So everything that was calculating in terms of who they were contacting, how many staff were working on particular cases before, was in a different system than what the data was migrated over to recently. So the staff who is calculating and providing to me what performance looked like before, manually did that calculation in another system. So when the mayor communicates that the way we calculate this average is on a seven day rolling average, some of that calculation is being done in a data system that automatically reports over into a data system without the benefit of seeing the work that was done in another data system. So you can’t manually sit at home and do the math on this.
Speaker 2: (32:05)
And my second question on contact tracing. We were talking about the first amendment demonstrations. Are you seeing so far as people are getting tested, who’ve gone to these protests, are you seeing whether these people are testing positive? Testing negative? Any trends you can report on that?
Dr. Nesbitt: (32:20)
I cannot give you trends on that. Remember last week we advised. I’m not sure if you’ve been here since last week. I think I recognize you. I think you’re starting to become familiar to me. Is that we would expect again because of the incubation period of the virus, that it would be too early to start to make any inference about trends that we’re seeing, being related to people’s participation in first amendment demonstrations. The other thing is that, what we call complicating epidemiological factors is that we had the phased reopening and the first amendment activities happening at the same time. And so our interviews and the reason why it’s important to be able to understand people’s movements is to be able to ascertain where they were going.
Dr. Nesbitt: (33:09)
And to see if one is bearing out more than the other. From a public health perspective, of course, mass gatherings, while we still have community transmission is of concern. But we also know that we have people who are participating in activities that were permitted and phase one of reopening. In fact, some of the people who I spoke to who were getting tested last week stated that they wanted to be tested, because of their participation in both. And so we’ll just have to keep our eyes on those things as we have more people tested and more test results coming in that are positive.
Speaker 2: (33:45)
It’s too early in the incubation period to see the effect of these protests on the number of cases. Is it too early to enter phase two until we know whether we’re going to have a spike in the virus cases, because [crosstalk 00:33:57]
Mayor Muriel Bowser: (33:58)
We always have the ability to turn up or turn down our reopening. Yes?
Speaker 3: (34:06)
So the maximum number of people who can be gathered is 50 people, unless it’s a church, in which case it can be 100 people?
Mayor Muriel Bowser: (34:18)
Yes, or unless there is a waived activity.
Speaker 3: (34:22)
Mayor Muriel Bowser: (34:23)
Unless there is a waiver that we issue.
Speaker 3: (34:27)
Okay, but the general guidelines are 50 tops, unless it’s a church, and then it can be up to 100 people?
Mayor Muriel Bowser: (34:35)
Speaker 3: (34:35)
And no choirs? Why do you say that?
Mayor Muriel Bowser: (34:38)
We encourage no choirs. We don’t mandate no choirs. And what’s your question, why?
Speaker 3: (34:47)
Mayor Muriel Bowser: (34:47)
Because that is what the health people call a super spreading activity.
Speaker 3: (34:58)
Okay, and so this basically churches could essentially start having service again, I guess a week from Sunday?
Mayor Muriel Bowser: (35:05)
Many churches have service throughout the week.
Speaker 3: (35:08)
Right, but I’m just saying, the typical service.
Mayor Muriel Bowser: (35:15)
Speaker 4: (35:18)
Mayor, in reference to what you just said about dialing up or dialing back.
Mayor Muriel Bowser: (35:22)
Speaker 4: (35:23)
You look across the country to areas like Florida, now Texas, regions of the country that initially, maybe resisted some of these social distancing efforts. We are now seeing a spike in those regions. So two things. How likely or concerned are you that we might have to dial back at some point? And how closely are you monitoring the behavior that you’re seeing in those regions that are now paying the price of not following some of these guidelines?
Mayor Muriel Bowser: (35:55)
Well, we know we don’t have a cure or a vaccine, and we know that with activity, we can have more cases. And we also know that people travel from regions where they are having spikes and having more cases. And they could be traveling here to the district. We have been very careful to follow the gated criteria, to go through phases. And we continue to be very careful in doing that. We know that we’ve been able to blunt the curve in DC. We see our numbers of cases going down in our hospital capacity. Even with turning on some elective procedures. We were still at the hospital capacity where we need to be. That’s with normal hospital operations. And we still have surge capacity, a lot of surge capacity in our system. So we are concerned of course, that more people would get sick. And that’s why we continue to focus on people wearing masks, washing their hands, staying home when sick, and following these guidelines very carefully.
Speaker 4: (37:14)
I would like to ask you a question about hospitals. Obviously, you started by talking about the town hall meeting tonight. How long do you think that the convention center facility will remain in place? And given that fortunately, we’ve not had to put that into full operation. Do you still feel like that was a good idea to have that at the ready in case it was needed?
Mayor Muriel Bowser: (37:38)
I absolutely feel like it is a good idea. And it also gives us assurance going into a flu season, going into the fall, that we would have surge capacity if necessary. Now, here is also what’s good about our setup at the convention center. It’s only in a section of the building. We didn’t build it out as big as we could have. In the rest of the building.
Mayor Muriel Bowser: (38:03)
[inaudible 00:38:00] out as big as we could have and the rest of the building can be used. When we get to a point where the convention center can have more business, more non-local business, keep in mind that phase two will allow them to have some local meetings, but still not be able to host conferences. And so, as we get through the phases, there is still a substantial part of the convention center that can be used.
Speaker 5: (38:33)
Any timeline on how long it would remain in place?
Mayor Muriel Bowser: (38:36)
We haven’t had that discussion yet, but to your point, the more we can rely on it for an expected spike, the more sense it makes.
Mayor Muriel Bowser: (38:51)
Mayor Bowser, I know you and your staff were tested recently. I don’t know if you’ve gotten your results, I suspect you wouldn’t be here if you tested positive. Are you going to reveal your results that you got from your test if you’ve gotten them back yet?
Mayor Muriel Bowser: (39:06)
I have gotten them back yet and I’m a very healthy, thank you. I am negative.
And then, we’ve seen it already in phase one, that some people are letting their guard down. At least anecdotally, I see people not wearing masks frequently and more people gathering. What is your concern that if you go into phase two, even more people will begin to let their guard down? And as you said before, we might see another spike. What’s your word to people about cautioning going into phase [inaudible 00:39:38]?
Mayor Muriel Bowser: (39:40)
Well, it’s the same message that your behavior affects me. My behavior affects you. We’re in this together in a very real way. And there are some of us, there are some among us, who are more susceptible to dying from this virus. When we think about our activity, we have to think about more than ourselves. We have to think about all of the essential workers, the healthcare workers, the people who have some underlying condition, the elderly, all of the people that we have seen that this virus can attack and be devastating for them and for their families. But the biggest message I think I would say, Mark, is that this virus is not gone. It is still here. It is still circulating. We have not achieved the point of, what is the phrase you use, where it’s isolated, but it’s still spreading in the community. You don’t know who or where or how you can interact with it. You should act like you could contact it anywhere. And so wearing a mask, washing hands frequently, not going out in big groups, all of those things will keep us safe.
You said Monday would be the earliest. Will you announce in advance of Monday, if Monday we’re going to be phase one [crosstalk 00:41:15]?
Mayor Muriel Bowser: (41:16)
I would. I would expect to be able to do that on Friday. And at that time, I would issue the mayor’s order.
And then, if I could, going off topic-
Mayor Muriel Bowser: (41:27)
[crosstalk 00:41:28] and I apologize if this has been answered and I missed it when I went out of town, but who exactly’s idea was it to paint Black Lives Matter? Was that one specific person’s idea to paint Black Lives Matter on the road? I know you talked about your team and having great people at the table, but it seems like somebody must’ve come up with that idea. I’m just wondering if-
Mayor Muriel Bowser: (41:48)
As I mentioned, this is a Murals DC project.
And then, if I could just stay off topic, yesterday the ACLU released a report on MPD’s stop and frisk data that came out. And this is the second time this data has come out and it doesn’t seem to be improving. And it shows, what the ACLU called it, it says there’s an alarming rate of African Americans disproportionately being stopped and frisked compared to their white counterparts, particularly young people, teenagers also. What is your reaction to at the same time you’re painting Black Lives Matter and you’re really becoming an international figure on that stage, your police department has this data, which does not look good?
Mayor Muriel Bowser: (42:37)
I haven’t read that report, Mark. I can’t comment on it. I will refer you to the report that we completed and submitted to the council. And we can comment on that and I think that that is something that we will submit every year.
You guys have been [inaudible 00:42:54] data, this is your own data and it’s a pretty important story. This is been more than 24 hours since their report came out. When would you and Chief Newsham be available to sit in front of cameras and reporters and answer questions about this?
Mayor Muriel Bowser: (43:12)
I can get a time for you.
Mayor Muriel Bowser: (43:15)
Speaker 6: (43:15)
One of the things it said in this report I thought was quite interesting they said this vast majority of stops that did not result in a warning, a ticket or an arrest involved black people. And the vast majority was 91%. Does that concern you?
Mayor Muriel Bowser: (43:33)
Again, I’m not going to comment on something I haven’t read, but if we have a stop and that was not a stop for a reason that the police were called to a scene, that would concern me.
Speaker 7: (43:50)
Now a few weeks ago, the city administrator was here talking about the budget and as I recall, you have cut funding for violence interrupters. And this ACLU report is saying that DC Council should not accept your increase of $18.5 million for MPD. In light of what’s been going on, is there any idea of changing that balance? Because funding was cut for the violence interrupters, according to the city administrator, fundings increased for MPD.
Mayor Muriel Bowser: (44:29)
What’s your question? For us?
Speaker 7: (44:31)
Are you reconsidering any of that?
Mayor Muriel Bowser: (44:33)
You know how the budget process works, Sam, I submit a budget and the council can change it. My budget is in, I’m not doing to do over of our budget. That’s not how it works.
Speaker 7: (44:47)
But no consideration? You’re not going to say to the council, maybe you should reconsider some of this?
Mayor Muriel Bowser: (44:54)
Well, the council decides what it’s going to reconsider. I’m not resubmitting the budget. Do you understand the mechanism?
Speaker 7: (45:04)
I understand you submitted a budget, but I’m just asking, in light of reason events, do you have any different opinion about it?
Mayor Muriel Bowser: (45:11)
I do not.
Mayor Muriel Bowser: (45:15)
We have submitted a budget that we need for public safety in the district. Part of that is policing. Part of it is a 3% increase in our education spending. Part of that is a plan to totally transform our infrastructure academy. Part of that is hiring DC residents to be police officers. Part of that is investing in academies at our high schools that put credible messengers to ensure that our kids have a safe passage to school. Our budget, if you were just equating a public safety budget with policing and violence interrupters, you’re missing the point of government spending.
Speaker 7: (46:00)
But the cut was in violence interrupters, right?
Mayor Muriel Bowser: (46:01)
Sam, you do recognize that this budget has $800 million less than what we expected it to have. There are many programs that have less. And let me be clear about violence interrupters I think we are level to what we put in last year. The Council put in a one time increase and the Council could put in another one time increase, if it chooses. It’s better, however, if they’re going to do something one time that they have it recurring through the budget. So that every year it’s not a question of if it’s warranted for one year, they can include it for the whole financial plan, which is what we tend to do.
Speaker 7: (46:47)
There’s no plan on your part, though, to increase it? Because a lot of the talk lately has been more of the non policing things to cut crime. There is no plan to increase it on your part or ask for it to be increased?
Mayor Muriel Bowser: (47:01)
If we increased it, it would be outside of the budget process and it would have to be associated with a program. And these are the programs that we have invested more in. In programs at schools, where we call them the leadership academies, we have one in Anacostia. We will have two more at Anacostia High School. We will have two more, if this budget is improved. We have also increased, I think, not as much as we wanted to, but I still think we have an increase in the Pathways Program, which is part of our Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement. Where we work with people who have been identified as likely to be victims of crimes or commit crimes and also have the ability to change the trajectory of how our neighborhood is moving. And that Pathways Program has worked very well for us in public safety.
Mayor Muriel Bowser: (48:13)
Speaker 8: (48:15)
If I can ask a very small question. I saw that pools are included on things that would reopen in phase two, but then I think you said that it would take until mid July.
Mayor Muriel Bowser: (48:23)
Speaker 8: (48:23)
SO they don’t open on day one-
Mayor Muriel Bowser: (48:26)
Speaker 8: (48:27)
When everything else is… Okay thank you.
Mayor Muriel Bowser: (48:29)
Speaker 9: (48:31)
If I can circle back to the hospital [inaudible 00:48:33], what is the timeline for that? And do you allow for public hearings on that? When do you need this approved?
Mayor Muriel Bowser: (48:42)
It’s at the Council now and as is noted, they have already scheduled a hearing for June the 30th.
Speaker 9: (48:51)
You would want this done by July?
Mayor Muriel Bowser: (48:53)
We would. We would like it before the Council goes on recess that will allow us to get to work in the fall to hit a fall 2024 opening.
Speaker 9: (49:04)
And do you think that allows enough time for enough hearings?
Mayor Muriel Bowser: (49:07)
Well, we’ve been hearing hearings on this for the better part of a year and a half. I hope so, but that will be up to the Council.
Speaker 5: (49:17)
And if I could circle back to the police, I don’t know if you’ve commented on Chief Newsham’s remarks to his officers.
Mayor Muriel Bowser: (49:24)
Speaker 5: (49:26)
Do you agree with him that that was an insult and that the Council has abandoned the police department?
Mayor Muriel Bowser: (49:31)
I recognized the chief’s frustration.
Mayor Muriel Bowser: (49:40)
Thank you everybody.
Speaker 10: (50:02)
We now return to our previously scheduled program already in progress.
Speaker 10: (50:06)