WASHINGTON, DC — Mayor Muriel Bowser confirmed the District’s first death to the new coronavirus, also known as COVID-19. She also pushed back the date when her mass gathering order would end, as well as when D.C. schools would reopen.
“Today, we are sad to announce the first death in Washington, D.C. related to COVID-19,” Bowser said, during a Friday press conference. “We certainly want to extend the condolences of the entire District of Columbia to the family.”
Dr. LaQuandra Nesbitt, director of the D.C. Department of Health described the District’s first COVID-19 fatality as a 59-year-old man with a complicated medical history who died Friday morning.
The man had experienced symptoms of COVID-19, including a fever and shortness of breath, and was admitted to a local hospital a week ago.
“This individual was tested upon admission to the hospital and then had repeat testing done through the District’s public health laboratory, where the test results were returned with a positive test for COVID-19 on March 18,” Nesbitt said.
The man had not traveled recently, but he was exposed to another individual who had previously tested positive for COVID-19 in the District.
“It is very important for the social distancing practices that we put in place are adhered to and be taken very seriously by our community, so that we may protect other members of our community from COVID-19,” Nesbitt said.
Thursday night, the District’s number of confirmed positive COVID-19 cases jumped from 39 to 71. Among the 32 new cases were three firefighters from D.C. Fire and EMS.
Bowser also mentioned that a detective in the Metropolitan Police Department had a presumptive positive test for coronavirus. She did not have any other details on that case but said Chief Peter Newsham would provide more information soon.
Based on discussions with D.C. Health officials and weighing the city’s expectations for continued social distancing, Bowser has decided to modify government operations. This includes extending distance learning at D.C. Public Schools through Friday, April 24, with a planned reopening of schools on Monday, April 27.
“District government will continue teleworking and operating on modified status and we will continue the ban on mass gatherings,” said Bowser, who had previously ordered all gatherings of more than 60 people be prohibited in the District.
Bowser is also extending the end date to her closure order regarding restaurants, bars, and theaters. She pushed back the date from Wednesday, April 1 to Monday, April 27.
“I cannot stress enough that the threat of this virus poses very serious consequences for our community and everyone is susceptible to being infected by this virus,” she said. “It does not discriminate based on age, race or gender. Everyone can get it and pass it on.”
Bowser asked District residents to stay home over the weekend in order to slow the spread of COVID-19.
“More than anything, we need anyone who’s no performing an essential service or activity to stay home,” she said. “Don’t treat this like a normal weekend. There will be other weekends, more nice days, and right now, we’re all focused on flattening the curve.”