WASHINGTON – Mayor Muriel Bowser said Tuesday that while there have been no cases of the coronavirus yet in the District, her government has started “worst-case scenario planning” for an outbreak.
The nation’s capital is dealing with the possibility of major challenges to its tourism industry, with the National Cherry Blossom Festival due to start on March 20.
While 92 percent of attendees at the festival are from the Washington region, Bowser expects some sponsors of the event to face challenges traveling to the city due to travel restrictions caused by the virus. There are no travel restrictions in the United States so far.
“If people are restricted from traveling out of their country or to the United States, it will have an impact on our tourism season,” Bowser said at a press conference.
Nearly 24 million people visited Washington in 2018, spending almost $8 billion, according to Destination DC, a private, non-profit destination marketing firm.
Bowser said that the capital still wants to welcome people because tourism is a big part of its economy. She and other officials advised Destination DC and the Walter E. Washington Convention Center to give guidance to tourists who encounter health challenges during their stay.
Mayor Bowser developed orders on District preparations for COVID-19 to help prevent the spread of the virus during cold and flu season.
The United States already expected to see a decline in Chinese tourists due to the coronavirus as travel restrictions have been imposed in that nation. This will likely impact the Washington area because China is the district’s largest overseas market, according to Julie Marshall, spokeswoman for Destination DC.
Confirmed cases of COVID-19, the novel 2019 coronavirus, have been reported in the United States. Dr. Laquandra Nesbitt, director of the DC Health Department, said that if there is a confirmed case in the District, officials would be concerned if “the contact tracing (a detailed interview to figure out how they contracted the virus) is unable to identify a known exposure” because that would mean that “community spread” has occurred.
The mayor said that on Monday she authorized the use of $500,000 from the district’s contingency cash reserve fund to order protective equipment and other supplies for first responders.
Bowser also directed the DC Department of Health and DC Homeland Security and Emergency Management Services to coordinate the district’s emergency response plan to any outbreak.
As of now, the mayor said that she did not anticipate any changes to the way the district’s primary elections will be conducted on June 2.