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DC’s iconic cherry blossoms have reached peak bloom. Melania Trump suggests people watch online

The iconic cherry blossoms that draw scores of admirers to Washington, DC, each spring reached peak bloom this weekend, but with officials urging “social distancing” to curb the spread of coronavirus, first lady Melania Trump has a suggestion to potential onlookers: view the trees online.

In a Sunday tweet, the first lady guided people to the National Park Service’s “#BloomCam,” a live feed of several different parts of the city where the trees are, and asked people to “Please follow social distancing guidelines to avoid #COVID19.”

Cherry blossom experts define peak bloom as the day when 70% of the Yoshino variety cherry blossoms are open on the cherry trees surrounding the Tidal Basin. This year’s peak bloom is expected to last from March 21 to 24, according to the NPS’ website. Photos posted on social media in recent days have shown sizable crowds at the areas where the trees are located.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended that no gatherings with 50 people or more take place for the next eight weeks to slow the spread of the virus. As a result, countless local, state and national events, including Washington’s National Cherry Blossom Festival parade, which was set to fete the trees next month, have been canceled or postponed.

Trump had been relatively silent on the coronavirus pandemic in recent days, which as of Sunday afternoon has seen more than 30,500 known cases in the US and led to more than 380 deaths, according to CNN’s tally. But over the last few days, the first lady has been more vocal about the pandemic, including by recording a pair of public service announcements about it.

Trump wasn’t alone in her suggestion — DC Mayor Muriel Bowser is also urging potential onlookers to stay away from the trees this year, going as far as to order the city’s National Guard to work with the Metropolitan Police Department to continue road closures and restrict pedestrian access to areas around the Tidal Basin, including the Jefferson Memorial.

The mayor said the closures and restrictions “will continue until further notice to ensure social distancing and prevent further community transmission of COVID-19.”

“Our message is clear: stay at home. We love our trees, we’ve had them for over 100 years and next year, they’re going to bloom, too,” Bowser said earlier on Sunday to CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on “The Situation Room.”

Bowser, a Democrat, said she had directed the city’s police department to close streets around the Tidal Basin, which is lined with dozens of the trees, so that it’s “very difficult” for people to go there to view the them.

“Gathering in big crowds at the Tidal Basin makes us all unsafe in DC, Maryland and Virginia because we know we have people traveling to the city from all around us,” she said.

As of Sunday afternoon, DC had 98 known cases of coronavirus and one death from the disease caused by the virus, according to CNN’s tally.

Earlier this month, Bowser declared a state of emergency and a public health emergency for Washington, and many of the city’s popular tourism attractions have temporarily closed in order to slow the spread of the virus, including the Smithsonian museums located there.

Article Topic Follows: Politics

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