A policy change in D.C. will make it less burdensome for residents to travel or host guests from afar, a reversal in messaging even as Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) has encouraged residents to spend Thanksgiving only with members of their household.
The rules announced Thursday largely do away with the city’s mandatory two-week quarantine for travelers, which has been in place since July. The change came as the greater Washington region set a record for its average number of new daily infections, fueled by increases in Virginia and Maryland.
D.C.’s rules previously said anyone who has been in a “high-risk” state — those with an average of more than 10 new daily coronavirus cases per 100,000 residents — must stay home for two weeks upon entering or returning to D.C.
As case rates rose nationwide, the quarantine order came to apply to visitors from 42 states, which include about 90 percent of the U.S. population.
Bowser said Thursday that visitors from outside the city won’t need to quarantine if they get a negative coronavirus test before traveling and get tested again in the city within three to five days of arriving. The city will provide free tests to visitors at public testing sites.
[Coronavirus caseload sets record in Virginia as infections jump across D.C. region]
The testing requirement generally won’t be enforced — there will be no checks at points of entry — although Bowser said places such as hotels, universities and employers could lawfully require visitors to provide proof of a negative test.
Bowser said she is continuing to urge families not to host Thanksgiving visitors, but she added, “We also know that people are going to come here.”
The city essentially decided to give up on its quarantine mandate out of a belief that it wasn’t being followed, Bowser said.
D.C. residents who visit a high-risk state will be required to quarantine upon their return home until they get a negative test, but the city is abandoning its two-week quarantine requirement.
The rule change is timed to make Thanksgiving travel easier, even though Bowser late last month strongly discouraged visiting family or hosting out-of-town relatives for the holiday.
“Make sure what should be a fun holiday gathering doesn’t turn into a tragedy for your family,” she said.
[Coronavirus cases and metrics in D.C., Maryland and Virginia]
The seven-day rolling average of new coronavirus infections Thursday in D.C., Maryland and Virginia stood at 2,315 — a record high for the region since the start of the pandemic. While D.C. and Maryland remain below their peak, Virginia has registered record numbers in recent days, with the largest increase coming in rural Southwest Virginia.
Julian Walker, a spokesman for the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association in Glen Allen, which includes many large hospitals and health-care providers as members, said the state has about 7,000 beds available for covid patients if Virginia sees a surge in cases.
“We had a spike in Virginia’s hospitalizations in late April and early May