KEY POINTS

  • Washington D.C. Mayor Bowser has issued a 'Stay-A-Home' order
  • The order will take effect at 12:01 a.m. on April 1
  • Violators of the order will face penalties 

Washington DC Mayor Muriel Bowser has now issued a Stay-At-Home order, following the footsteps of its neighbors in the battle against the coronavirus. The order reiterates Bowser's earlier message to the citizens to stay at home except for essential activities.

"Our message remains the same: stay home," Mayor Bowser said. "Staying at home is the best way to flatten the curve and protect yourself, your family, and our entire community from COVID-19. Many people want to know how they can help right now, and for most people, this is how – by staying home."

Under the order, citizens may only leave their residences if they have to perform essential activities such as seeking medical care, getting essential household goods and accessing essential government functions. Work at essential businesses and essential travel are also allowed, while some outdoor recreational activities may also be allowed under certain circumstances.

For example, people may go outside of their homes to engage in "allowable" recreational activities such as walking their dog, biking or gardening but they must comply with social distancing requirements, they must not have any person-to-person contact and, the activity should only be conducted with people from their own household.

The order goes into effect on April 1, with the intention to keep the maximum number of people in their homes so as to protect their health while still allowing essential community functions to continue. The hope is to significantly slow the spread of COVID-19. 

Anyone who violates the order may be slapped with a misdemeanor charge, which could subject the individual to a $5,000 fine, 90 days in jail or both.

Naturally, the possibility of jail time is alarming for some, particularly since five inmates at the city’s jail have already tested positive for the coronavirus.

Interestingly, it was only recently when advocates and members of the D.C. government asked police officers to make fewer arrests as part of the efforts to manage the spread of the coronavirus. On March 17, emergency legislation from the D.C. Council even gave D.C. Department of Corrections the ability to release the people who were sentenced with misdemeanor charges.

So far, D.C. has nearly 500 confirmed COVID-19 cases and nine deaths, while neighboring Maryland and Virginia each have over 1,000 cases.

Tourists take pictures near a sign informing about coronavirus safety measures at the Lincoln Memorial on March 27, 2020 in Washington, DC Tourists take pictures near a sign informing about coronavirus safety measures at the Lincoln Memorial on March 27, 2020 in Washington, DC Photo: AFP / Olivier DOULIERY