Fact check: DC's COVID-19 surge prompts closures through mid-January
The claim: Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser shut down indoor dining to prevent Trump supporters from protesting on Jan. 6
On Wednesday, the day Congress is set to convene to certify the Electoral College votes and solidify President-elect Joe Biden's victory, protests in Washington, D.C., have been planned in support of President Donald Trump's efforts to contest the election results.
A social media post claims D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser shut down indoor dining to prevent protesters from gathering.
"The Mayor of D.C. has shut down indoor dining to prevent Trump supporters from coming on January 6th to D.C. but that won't stop us! People are organizing food trucks." reads a tweet from Anna Khait, a former contestant on the reality TV show "Survivor" who has written for conservative site Epoch Times, posted to Facebook on Dec. 30.
A similar version of the post claims Bowser ordered "all hotels restaurants, grocery stores, gas stations, and convenience stores to close jan 4th, 5th and 6th to Discourage TRUMP supporters from gathering in D.C." The post goes on to encourage protesters to bring "EXTRA food, water, blankets, supplies and have a plan where to sleep."
USA TODAY reached out to the users and Khait for comment.
Fact check: Photo depicts 2018 March for Our Lives event, not post-Election Day pro-Trump march
Order issued to mitigate the spread of the COVID-19
Bowser issued an executive order on Dec. 18, closing indoor dining, museums and libraries from Dec. 23 until Jan. 15 because of heightened COVID-19 concerns.
“District residents are strongly advised to limit their activities to essential activities and travel, including work, school, childcare, government services, medical needs, food, supplies, and exercise,” the order reads.
According to data from the D.C. Department of Health, 15 coronavirus outbreaks were traced back to restaurants and bars from Aug. 1 to Nov. 26, accounting for 13.8% of the total outbreaks that took place. That compares with the same number of outbreaks linked to child care, 19 at K-12 schools and 30 at colleges and universities.
The district has had more than 29,500 coronavirus cases and 792 deaths as of Jan. 1, according to D.C.'s COVID-19 data.
There is no evidence the ban was issued to prevent Trump supporters from gathering. It is false to claim that the order is in place only from Monday to Thursday. .
The order also does not call for hotels to close. The Hotel Harrington, however, near the White House did announce it will close during the pro-Trump protests from Monday to Wednesday out of health and safety concerns, USA TODAY reported. Many restaurants and office buildings in downtown Washington are already boarded up ahead of the demonstrations.
Further, no gas stations, grocery stores or convenience stores have been ordered to close under the executive order, as claimed in the social media post. Grocery stores and convenience stores have remained open as essential businesses throughout the pandemic but are required to enforce social distancing guidelines, according to NBC Washington.
USA TODAY has reached out to Bowser's office for comment.
More: 'Wild' protests: Police brace for pro-Trump rallies when Congress meets Jan. 6 to certify Biden's win
Our rating: False
The claim that Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser ordered all hotels, restaurants, grocery stores, gas stations and convenience stores to close to prevent pro-Trump protests is FALSE, based on our research. A recent executive order closes indoor dining, libraries and museums, while hotels, convenience stores and grocery stores are still open. The order was issued because COVID-19 cases were rising. The restrictions took effect in December and last through mid-January, not just on the days of the demonstrations.
Our fact-check sources:
- Government of the District of Columbia, Dec. 18, Mayor's Order 2020-127
- District of Columbia, COVID-19 Outbreak Data Guide
- Government of the District of Columbia, COVID-19 Surveillance
- NBC Washington, April 8, "DC Orders All Grocery Stores, Outdoor Markets to Enforce Social Distancing"
- USA TODAY, Dec. 31, "'Wild' protests: Police brace for pro-Trump rallies when Congress meets Jan. 6 to certify Biden's win"
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