Festival details, peak bloom amid coronavirus worry

WASHINGTON — The Washington D.C. cherry blossoms peak bloom dates are just weeks away. But with the threat of coronavirus looming, will people actually come and visit the city?

All signs point to yes right now, with the peak bloom set to happen March 27 to March 30, according to the National Park Service. There are no confirmed cases in the District of Columbia as of Wednesday morning, though the city is closely monitoring the virus’s impact, according to Mayor Muriel Bowser.

“We are open for business, and we expect to welcome thousands of people to our city over the next few weeks,” Bowser announced at the festival’s kickoff event at the 1331 building in Southwest D.C. She said the city will continue to work on prevention, preparedness and response if necessary.

The key words: if necessary.

“If the situation remains the same, we feel that people are still going to come,” Diana Mayhew, president of the National Cherry Blossom Festival, told USA TODAY. It’s hard to predict tourism ahead of time, as most events are free and open to the public. But special seats for the festival’s parade are tracking if not exceeding last year’s numbers, and visits to the website are up, indicating interest. The festival – which typically sees 1.5 million people attend everywhere, 45% of which are tourists –  is working closely with the city and following its lead. Of those tourists, 92% are from the U.S.

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