Jun 22, 2020
Washington DC Mayor Muriel Bowser Press Conference Transcript June 22
Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser held a COVID-19 news briefing on June 22. Read the full transcript of her press conference here.
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Muriel Bowser: (00:00)
… Order outlining how the district would enter phase two of our reopening, which is effective today. So we want everybody to go to Coronavirus.dc.gov to see all of the changes. The slow opening of different activities across the district. We want to continue to reiterate that it is imperative that DC residents use good judgment and follow social distancing guidelines for any of the new activity that they are participating in. We also want to reiterate to anyone that they can get a test if they need a test at locations throughout the district during the day and into the evening. And you can see those locations also at Coronavirus.dc.gov.
Muriel Bowser: (00:59)
I will only spend some time now talking about some new district services that will be available as part of phase two. Namely, on DMV service centers will open for in person services at all of its locations, all of the DMV service centers, beginning tomorrow. I want to be clear however, that you need an appointment to go in person to the DMV. So you will need to go to Dmv.dc.gov to make an appointment. The DMV currently throughout our pandemic response has been using appointments. And so there are many people who already have an appointment, and if you need to make an appointment for service, you may go to Dmv.dc.gov. These are the things that need to be done in person. Anything else you can handle online? First time license and Real ID conversions. First time title and registrations for a vehicle and knowledge testing. So also opening will be adjudication services, the Brentwood CDL office, the inspection station, and the self service kiosk. So once again, visit Dmv.dc.gov. I also want to mention that you don’t have to rush. Everybody doesn’t have to go at the same time. All documents expiring on or after March 1st are still valid and will be valid at least through mid-September. And that’s 45 days after the current end of the public health emergency.
Muriel Bowser: (02:57)
So please skip the trip. Everybody doesn’t need to go in person. You need to go in person, if you’re doing a license and Real ID conversion, or if you’re registering your vehicle for title and registration for the first time and the knowledge tests. Everything else at the DMV can be done online. So please review the website. Also today are opening our playgrounds across the district. So I’m told that, if those playgrounds aren’t unlocked, they will be by the end of today. Our staff, our DPR staff has been working to make them open. And the reminder to parents and caregivers is to frequently clean minors, children’s and your hands and faces. So frequent hand washing or use of hand sanitizer is appropriate for use of a playground. So with that, we’ll take any questions. Questions? Yes.
Over the weekend, the community spread tracker said we were at 11 days of decreases, a setback and then because of a spike on June 11th, but that data is no longer on the chart. Was there a spike? If so, why was that data removed?
Muriel Bowser: (04:25)
I’m not sure what you’re referring to as being removed, but yes, there was a reset of the peak.
Okay. I’m looking at the data right now. It’s not on the chart, the community spread chart. Is there a reason that wasn’t-
Muriel Bowser: (04:40)
I’ll have to check with that, but there was a reset in the peak on Saturday. Yes.
Speaker 1: (04:47)
Muriel, so the president has announced that he wants to have a July 4th celebration on the mall. What’s your take on that? We’ve asked you about before and really some questions about trying to limit people down on the mall. What your plan now for this event?
Muriel Bowser: (05:05)
Well, as you know it’s a federal event and it will be on federal property. And I expect that some version of the July 4th celebration will happen.
Speaker 1: (05:18)
You said previously that you would work with the National Park Service, I think you said. On those plans, but do you have any plan whatsoever to try and limit people from coming in to the city?
Muriel Bowser: (05:29)
I don’t know what you mean by that.
Speaker 1: (05:33)
Back when we were trying to keep people away from the cherry blossoms, roads were blocked to keep people from going down there. Do you see a similar kind of situation?
Muriel Bowser: (05:41)
I expect that there will be some traffic mitigation, that either the federal government will put in place or we will help them with, for traffic mitigation. But there’s typically traffic mitigation around because there’s a parade, typically. There won’t be at the parade today. So I would expect pretty significant traffic limitations.
Speaker 1: (06:07)
Has there been a discussion with the Park Service or the US Park Police in trying to limit the crowd on the mall?
Muriel Bowser: (06:13)
I have had conversations with the Secretary of the Interior. I can’t say that we’re entirely clear what the scope of the event will be at this time, but those conversations will continue.
Speaker 1: (06:28)
All right. And then just to follow up on that, back when the fly over happened with the Blue Angels and the Air Force, people were asked not to go down to the mall, but they did anyway. And you had a very large crowd down there, and I don’t recall there being a spike at that time. So would you still be concerned though, if all of a sudden you get a 100,000 people showing up on the mall?
Muriel Bowser: (06:54)
Yes, I absolutely would. I don’t know that those are the estimated crowd numbers.
Speaker 1: (07:03)
You mean from the fly over?
Muriel Bowser: (07:03)
I mean, from the 4th of July events.
Speaker 1: (07:06)
Muriel Bowser: (07:06)
Although, I don’t know off the top of my head, if we’ve had crowds that size. Any other questions? Yes, Sam.
Mayor, when you talked about the rec centers opening and of course we have summer job program-
Muriel Bowser: (07:19)
Muriel Bowser: (07:21)
But we got summer job program, I’m just curious, will some of these other people would be working there or any idea what’s-
Muriel Bowser: (07:30)
The Department of Parks and Rec does have a summer jobs program. If you’re asking me, will there be in person or all virtual. I’m not sure, but they do have a pretty robust summer jobs component that they use a summer youth for programming. So I know that those youth will be certainly considered as part of any in person opportunities that we have. Yes, Mark.
Can we go back and get some …
Muriel Bowser: (08:03)
Can we go back and get some clarification on the metrics for phase two, because now I’m more confused than I was before?
Muriel Bowser: (08:09)
I don’t know why. What’s confusing you? Tell me. Let me help clarify, if I can.
So if Saturday we reset to 11, before then, the website said we had clinched phase two metrics [crosstalk 00:08:23].
Muriel Bowser: (08:23)
We had, and we, I think, Friday made 15 days and then the data reset on … Or 14 days, I think Saturday would have been the 15th day, and the data reset to 11.
So how many sustained days do we have now?
Muriel Bowser: (08:43)
I think 13 days.
And what about contact tracing? Are we where we’re supposed to be according to your metrics for contract tracing?
Muriel Bowser: (08:51)
Yes, we are. The last day that has been confirmed by DOH, and part of what we have reported is 100% first contacts with positive cases. And then I think that number has been over 90% for four or five days.
Okay, so then, if we’re at 13 today, I don’t understand, if we needed to be at 14, how we can go into phase two at 13 if we were supposed to be at 14.
Muriel Bowser: (09:28)
We’re going into it, Mark, because we achieved the 14 days and that’s the metric. And we always know that we could have different experiences with the data. We always know that, and we have the ability to go up and down. So it’s my decision that it wouldn’t be worth it to wait a day after we have announced a start date on this, this Monday. Yes?
I just had a question about the church limit. I know they’re allowed to have around a hundred people inside for services. Why are churches allowed, or places of worship, allowed to have more people than the limit on mass gatherings at 50 people?
Muriel Bowser: (10:16)
We had received a number of waiver requests for churches and all of those kind of hovered around 100, and so we think that’s kind of a outside number for most churches, and I think that it is better to deal with it upfront, to say that you can either have 50% of your capacity or max of 100 people, whichever is fewer.
If the limit on mass gatherings is at 50, why can places of worship have a hundred people?
Muriel Bowser: (10:56)
I just told you.
Of course, places of worship want to have the most people they can in their facility, so of course they’ll request that, but why, in terms of public health, the guidance, would that be okay, whereas everywhere else can only have 50?
Muriel Bowser: (11:16)
I mean, I don’t know how else to answer you. I told you that I frankly think that that is appropriate. Yes?
Mayor, what about clubs like Blues Alley? Are they open as part of phase two?
Muriel Bowser: (11:30)
Clubs are not open, other than if they’re food serving.
So if they serve some food, they could have live performances?
Muriel Bowser: (11:38)
No, they can serve food and anything else would require a waiver, and we haven’t issued any waivers for live performances.
So that’s probably a phase three thing? Is that what you’re suggesting or will …
Muriel Bowser: (11:54)
Well, it’s not in phase two, Sam. I wasn’t suggesting anything other than it’s not in phase two.
Well, you said with the waiver. I mean, is anybody going to be waivered to have live performances and such and such thing?
Muriel Bowser: (12:07)
That hasn’t happened at this stage.
Speaker 2: (12:10)
Muriel Bowser: (12:10)
Yes? Let me get to Julie. I don’t think she has had a chance.
I wanted to ask about the statue of General Pike that was taken down. Some people have asked, they know it’s on federal land, that people have asked questions like, “If that was the Lincoln Memorial being vandalized, would D.C. police step in help?” I wanted to give you a chance to respond to that and also to respond to the president who mentioned you again at his rally this weekend.
Muriel Bowser: (12:37)
I want to be clear that we don’t think any destruction of property is something that should happen in the district, and regardless of how you feel about the statue.
Do you think D.C. police should have stepped in in that situation?
Muriel Bowser: (12:56)
I think that they made the call on the ground that they thought was appropriate in calling the park police, and we believed that the park police would handle it. Yes?
Speaker 3: (13:11)
Can I take another run at Sophie’s question?
Muriel Bowser: (13:15)
Speaker 3: (13:16)
Maybe Dr. Nesbitt could help, why is it safe for 100 people to gather in a church, but only 50 people to gather in any other circumstance?
Muriel Bowser: (13:28)
Well that’s not exactly the case because what the requirements say is that 50% of a retail establishment, and it doesn’t have a number cap, can operate, or 50% of a restaurant can operate and doesn’t have a number of cap. So the restriction on churches is actually different than other indoor establishments in that, regardless of their capacity there’s still a number cap.
Speaker 3: (13:55)
So a restaurant could have, if their capacity is 200, and they had the space for social distancing, they could have …
Muriel Bowser: (14:03)
More than a hundred.
Speaker 3: (14:03)
You could have more than 100?
Muriel Bowser: (14:05)
Yeah. So the requirement, and to the point of the earlier question, it’s not more expansive. Some would say, a church would say, it’s more restrictive.
Mayor, I want to ask you about the police reform bill. The council still has to vote on the temporary bill coming up. My understanding is that there may not be a discussion within the council members of massaging that body-worn camera section of it, that they may change some of that, based on your comments and others, that there’s unforeseen consequences that could come out of that with the 72 hours and releasing officers’ names. Are you aware of discussions surrounding that?
Muriel Bowser: (14:53)
Honestly, Paul, I haven’t had that discussion with any of the members of the council as yet. That’s not to say that members of my team haven’t, but I’m going to be this week making just some touch base contacts with the members of the council, and I’m sure that will come up.
Have you suggested that?
Muriel Bowser: (15:14)
I haven’t suggested anything specific. As I mentioned, I just suggested that we make sure we have enough time to look at carefully any consequences. As well intentioned and as all of us are, sometimes there are unintended consequences, as you say.
All right, and then do you have any comment on the police union survey that was released last week?
Muriel Bowser: (15:38)
I only have looked at some reporting out there about it. I don’t think I find anything surprising about it. We have, over the course of the last five years, looked at how you recruit and retain good officers, and during that time have been able to measure job satisfaction and you’ve …
Muriel Bowser: (16:03)
… been able to measure job satisfaction. And you’ve reported many, many times over how do we keep police officers? Why do police officers leave? What type of benefits? What do they need to see? Why do they go to this department versus that department? So this is not a new discussion on ways to recruit and retain the best officers. Yes, sir.
Speaker 4: (16:25)
Can you give us an indication what phase three metrics might look like when we… I mean, I know phase two is only hours old, but can you give us any idea when people might expect that we might be getting close to phase three?
Muriel Bowser: (16:37)
I can’t say that. But I will say, and this is my non-medical or epidemiological informed opinion, I should say trained opinion, is that we’re adding a lot of activity right now. And so we went from phase zero, which was everybody’s staying at home to phase one, which really slightly turned on activity also to having unforeseen large mass gatherings to turning on a lot of activity. So I think people should regard phase two as moving around a lot more.
Muriel Bowser: (17:26)
So what that means is we have to have confidence that we could be ready for a spike in cases. That we can be assured that our level of testing is adequate, which I am very, very pleased, and I want to thank my entire team for working hard. We knew in phase one that we would expand and open up testing in more places than we had before, and we see people taking advantage of it.
Muriel Bowser: (17:54)
So people knowing where they can get tested, following social distancing guidelines strictly, not going crazy because we’ve turned on this activity, and also remembering that the virus is still circulating, not just in our city, but all around our region. So know that as you go out and starting to slowly turn your life on, that you can encounter the virus any place, so you have to be very, very careful and get tested if you think you need a test and then isolate. Yes.
Speaker 5: (18:39)
Is the department currently conducting an analysis of how phase one impacted the transmission and also the protests? And when could we expect maybe a report on that?
Muriel Bowser: (18:48)
A report on phase one?
Speaker 5: (18:51)
Yeah, and its impact on community transmission and spread of the coronavirus and including the protests as well?
Muriel Bowser: (18:57)
Well, we report on that each day. I’m not sure what else you want to see, but I can ask Dr. Nesbitt to speak to that.
Dr. Nesbitt: (19:09)
I’d caution you against requesting a special report on any particular activity’s contribution to our cases. I think I’ve spoken about that at length. What our charge is as we have cases, is to try best as we can to identify that individual’s specific exposure. As we identify exposures that are linked or exposures that are common, we will advise the public to avoid those particular risks. So we’d be more than happy to share that as we identify those shared risk.
Speaker 7: (19:47)
One more. Yes, ma’am.
Speaker 6: (19:47)
I’d like to follow up on that. Do you have any so far that you’ve realized are significant risks [inaudible 00:19:51]?
Dr. Nesbitt: (19:52)
As we have stated here before, we see our biggest risk are associated with individuals who are in congregate settings. We have not seen other trends yet emerge. And so, again, as we begin to have more in-depth contact tracing and we can identify our more common sources for individuals, we’d be happy to disclose that.
Muriel Bowser: (20:17)
Oh, another. You get the last one.
Okay. As to speaking to private settings, I was wondering if you could brief us on how the coronavirus pandemic is taking place in the DC jail, whether that’s being contained, and give us an update on that?
Muriel Bowser: (20:31)
Sure. Who wants to give that? Chris?
Chris Geldart: (20:36)
Could I just ask for your specific question again? I’m sorry.
Yeah. I was just curious if you can update us on the spread of coronavirus in the DC jail and how that’s being contained?
Chris Geldart: (20:46)
Sure. So our jail, as well as other congregate settings, we’re continuing to do testing throughout those settings on a regular basis so that we can understand exactly where we are. We’ve seen cases coming down. The numbers have come down. Our use of isolation and quarantine across the board has come down. So we’re moving in a positive direction. We’re going to continue to do the testing and hoping that we keep in that direction.
Mr. Geldart, quick question. You had five hotels you were operating at one point, is that still the same situation?
Chris Geldart: (21:18)
No, it’s not, Sam. We’re actually down, in our isolation quarantine, we’re down to two hotels, and we should be down to one this week, for sure. And then we have another two that we are using for those that are in congregate settings that are more vulnerable to the disease, so either by age or by preexisting condition or combination of the two, where we’ve put folks to make sure that they’ve gotten appropriate social distancing in their living. So we have two hotels that have that, and we’ll have one by the end of the week that’s doing isolation and quarantine.
So basically from five hotels to three?
Chris Geldart: (21:51)
Okay, thank you.
Muriel Bowser: (21:58)
Okay, thank you everybody. Stay safe.
Speaker 8: (22:00)
Speaker 8: (22:00)