March 20, 2020 at 5:22 pm EDT | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Coronavirus closings extended to April 27 in D.C.
coronavirus, gay news, Washington Blade
JR.’s is among the local gay bars that have closed due to coronavirus. (Blade photo by Michael Key)

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser announced at a news conference on Friday that she has extended the city’s emergency order requiring restaurants and bars to discontinue onsite operations and the full closure of nightclubs until at least April 27 as part of efforts to curtail the spread of the coronavirus.

Last Sunday the city announced the closings and restricted operations of bars and restaurants and other businesses such as health spas and theaters would be in effect until at least March 31.

Bowser also announced that a 59-year-old D.C. man has become city’s first coronavirus related death.

The man, whose name was not disclosed, was admitted to a local hospital last week with a fever and cough as well as with other underlying medical conditions, the mayor said.

“It is with great sadness that we announced a tragic death and, on behalf of our residents, I share our love and condolences with the patient’s family and friends,” Bowser said. “As a community, we must continue to support one another during these uncertain times. Everyone must do their part so that we can blunt the spread and protect our families, friends, and neighbors,” she said.

Other city officials speaking at the news conference said an emergency $25 million city program to provide financial assistance grants to D.C. small businesses adversely impacted by the coronavirus emergency would become available early next week.

Among the businesses that could be eligible for the emergency grants are the city’s 13 gay bars that have been forced to shut down in connection with coronavirus restrictions. Only a few of the gay clubs that have provided food service were immediately equipped to switch to a carry-out operation.

A large number of D.C. area LGBTQ residents who work at the LGBTQ clubs and other hospitality industry businesses such as restaurants, bars and hotels have faced immediate loss of their jobs with the prospect that a prolonged emergency shutdown could force their employers out of business permanently.

Bowser reiterated at her news conference previously announced emergency changes to broaden the eligibly of temporarily unemployed workers to obtain unemployment insurance benefits. She noted that her office has issued waivers on certain restrictions that could have prevented workers displayed by coronavirus shutdowns of businesses from being eligible for unemployment benefits.

Several of the LGBTQ clubs forced to close have made appeals to their longtime customers on their websites and Facebook pages for donations to help employees who have lost their jobs due to the shutdowns.

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

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