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'We are open for business': D.C. National Cherry Blossom Festival still on as coronavirus concerns loom

'We are open for business': D.C. National Cherry Blossom Festival still on as coronavirus concerns loom
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The National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, D.C., is still on as of Thursday despite cancelations of several other functions throughout the country amid coronavirus concerns.

On Thursday, the city announced that the festival would begin March 20. There are currently 215 confirmed cases of the virus in the U.S., though none have been reported in the D.C. metro area. 

However, multiple international conferences and events in the U.S. — including at least one in D.C. — have been canceled due to travel advisories by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO). Dance troupes and corporate sponsors from Japan have pulled out of the annual festival in the past weeks due to those advisories. 

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“D.C. at this stage has no confirmed cases,” Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) said at a press conference, according to The Washington Post.  “We are open for business and we expect to welcome thousands of people to our city over the next few weeks. But just know this: We are a world-class city and we have world-class preparedness as well.”

The move comes as tourism in the city has declined amid the spread of the coronavirus, the Post reported. Tourism officials noted that more than 90 percent of visitors of the festival are domestic. 

The existing cases in the U.S. are spread across 18 states, and 11 people have died thus far. 

The nation's capital's cherry blossoms are expected to bloom in the coming weeks, about a month earlier than they did last year due to a mild winter. Once the flowers blossom, they stay open for up to 10 days depending on the weather.