File photo: the White House in Washington DC. [Photo/VCG]
The District of Columbia, seat of the US federal government, extended its stay-at-home order through June 8, the mayor said on Wednesday.
The stay-at-home order, intended to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus, had been scheduled to end on May 15.
Mayor Muriel Bowser left open the possibility that the US capital could reopen sooner, telling reporters that if it hit certain metrics including a declining number of cases over 14 days and sustained low transmission rate, she could move to open sooner.
Washington has reported 6,584 cases of the coronavirus and 350 deaths so far. Though Bowser said the data reflected some encouraging signs, she said, “We are not there yet.”
'We're not there yet and not quite ready to begin that phased new opening,' Bowser said at a press briefing.
'We will continue to follow the advice of our health officials. Rushing to reopen could have tragic results.'
Medical experts recommend states and regions do not reopen until they have recorded a 14-day decline in new coronavirus cases.
Other criteria for reopening have been met, however, including the required capacity for testing, Bowser said.
The announcement came as the White House pushes for states to reopen businesses while public health experts urge caution. Top US infectious diseases expert Anthony Fauci testified in the Senate on Tuesday his concerns that ending lockdowns could lead to uncontrollable outbreaks.
Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told a Senate panel the virus epidemic is not yet under control in areas of the nation and urged states to follow advice of witnessing a declining number of new infections before reopening.
'I think we're going in the right direction, but the right direction does not mean we have by any means total control of this outbreak,' Fauci said.
Both Maryland and Virginia, neighboring states where many workers in the US federal government live, have moved to reopen some businesses in parts of their states, but the suburbs immediately surrounding Washington have remained largely closed.
Government is considered an essential service, with many workers are currently working from home.
“We know that government is essential and the work of the government is essential, especially our lawmakers. What I have encouraged the federal government to do is to keep as many people on tele-work as possible,” Bowser said.
Senators returned to Washington earlier this month after six weeks at home. The congressional physician has advised lawmakers to wear masks, stay six feet (two meters) apart and limit the number of staff on Capitol Hill.
US President Donald Trump looks at National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci as Fauci answers a question during the daily coronavirus task force briefing at the White House in Washington, US, April 17, 2020. [Photo/Agencies]
News that lockdown will continue will no doubt be unwelcome news to the city's most famous resident, President Donald Trump, who has repeatedly urged the US to reopen for business as soon as possible.
However, when asked by reporters if there had been pressure from the president to reopen the nation's capital, Bowser said there had not been.
Most states have started easing their stay-at-home orders despite rising COVID-19 cases and deaths and repeated warnings from medical experts that there could be renewed spikes in figures if they reopen for business too soon.
A revised forecast model relied on by the White House is now projecting 147,000 Americans could die in the pandemic by August - an increase of 10,000 on projections from just two days ago - due to the easing of social distancing measures across much of the US.