Coronavirus in the DMV: What you need to know

Coronavirus in the DMV: What you need to know

(Bonnie Jo Mount/The Washington Post)
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The number of people who have tested positive for the novel coronavirus climbed to 6,442 in Virginia, Maryland and the District as of noon Saturday, with 3,126 cases in Maryland, 2,410 in Virginia and 906 reported in the District. The regional death toll reached 126.

The three leaders of Maryland, Virginia and the District have issued “stay-at-home” orders, mandating broad, enforceable restrictions on where residents can go in an effort to limit the virus’s spread. What do they mean? Stay home unless you must travel for essential needs such as groceries, pharmaceuticals, medical care, work and limited exercise. We break it all down here.

D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) said Friday that officials estimate that about 93,000 people could become infected with the coronavirus in the city, based on the District’s projections.

Labor Department numbers released Thursday show Virginians filed 114,104 jobless claims through the week ending March 28. Marylanders filed 83,536 unemployment benefit claims during that time, while D.C. residents filed 14,868 claims. The regional numbers mirror a record spike nationwide.

Here are answers to frequently asked questions.

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Who can answer my questions about the coronavirus?

Officials encourage residents to contact their health-care providers first. The latest information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention can be found at cdc.gov/coronavirus.

Virginia, Maryland and the District also have set up resources for residents.

In Virginia, call 877-ASK-VDH3 (877-275-8343). The Fairfax County Health Department also has a public information line, 703-267-3511, for questions from county residents. For information about covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, visit the Virginia Department of Health website.

Arlington County set up a hotline, 703-228-7999, to minimize the risk posed by covid-19. The call center is open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday.

In Maryland, those worried about potential exposure to people with the virus can call the state Emergency Management Agency at 410-517-3720. For information about the state response, go to health.maryland.gov/coronavirus. For general questions, call 211.

Prince George’s County has set up a hotline for questions, 301-883-6627, and directed residents to health.mypgc.us/coronavirus.

The District is directing residents to coronavirus.dc.gov.

Leadership in a pandemic: How Hogan, Bowser and Northam have taken charge

Can I track how many people are testing positive in the Washington region?

Public health departments for Virginia, Maryland and the District update their surveillance and information websites on most weekdays. The Washington Post tally of regional coronavirus cases includes cases originally announced by public health authorities and later reclassified as belonging to other jurisdictions.

As more coronavirus tests are administered, more reports are coming through of positive cases. More than 4,000 cases were reported by Wednesday — double Saturday’s total and a grim reminder of continued spread of the virus and the uptick in testing.

The Washington Post is tracking known coronavirus cases in Virginia, Maryland and the District, updated at least twice daily.

What do we know about cases in the District?

The District has reported 906 cases as of noon Saturday, including 21 deaths.

Five more members of the D.C. fire department have tested positive for the coronavirus, the department announced Friday night, bringing to 28 the number of firefighters, paramedics and emergency medical technicians who have fallen ill.

The District has had a surge in coronavirus cases as more samples have been tested, a phenomenon officials expect will continue.

Union leaders representing nurses and corrections officers accused the administration of Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) of not doing enough to protect those workers from infection. The District of Columbia Nurses Association said the city’s health department refused to test hospital staff who treated covid-19 patients who later died at United Medical Center and St. Elizabeths Hospital.

‘Dad, are you okay?’: Doctors and nurses fighting pandemic fear infecting their families

What do we know about cases in Maryland?

Maryland has reported 3,126 cases as of noon Saturday, including 53 deaths.

Montgomery County has closed all tennis and pickleball courts, has banned the use of basketball courts and playgrounds, and says it plans to heighten enforcement of social distancing rules at its parks and trails. Amid “repeated violations” of the rules, the department has taken more serious steps, including removing basketball hoops at certain courts and placing orange barriers around playgrounds.

“There is no timetable and no model that can tell us exactly how long this will last or how bad this is going to get,” Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) said on Twitter.

What do we know about cases in Virginia?

Virginia has reported 2,410 cases as of noon Saturday, including 52 deaths.

In Northern Virginia, the commonwealth’s health department said Alexandria had 56 cases, Arlington 135, Fairfax 372, Loudoun 130 and Prince William 131.

“I want Virginians to prepare themselves for the long haul,” said Gov. Ralph Northam (D), adding that the state has been reviewing computer models to determine when the outbreak might reach its most severe stage, before leveling off. “We currently expect that will be sometime between late April and late May.”

Where can I donate medical items?

States across the country, including Maryland and Virginia, are struggling with a shortage of PPE for those working on the front lines of the coronavirus crisis, forcing some hospitals to turn to crowdsourcing.

Arlington County is opening a drive-through donation station to collect unused, unopened containers of essential personal protective equipment (PPE), cleaning supplies and other items. It will be one day only, Friday, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Central Library parking lot on 10th Street North.

Disaster relief agencies Maryland are coordinating the collection and distribution of masks, goggles and cleaning supplies, the state announced in a statement Sunday. Officials are looking for unused and unopened items and will not accept handmade or prototype versions of the following:

· Unused N95 masks with or without valve

· Protective goggles in original packaging

· Unused nitrile gloves in original packaging

· Unused hospital gowns in original packaging

· Tyvek coats and bodysuits

· Bleach, Lysol, cleaning supplies — must be unopened and unused

· Face shields

· Hand sanitizer

The Maryland drop-off locations are:

· Cambridge: 3105 Mallard Court.

· Ellicott City: 3291 St. John’s Lane.

· Hagerstown: Mount Aetna Retreat Center, 10375 Retreat Way.

· Silver Spring: 15930 Good Hope Rd.

They will be open Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m., and from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Over the weekend, they will be open from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.

What if my landlord threatens eviction?

The District, Maryland and Virginia have banned evictions at least through the end of April, and since courts are closed, no court cases can immediately be filed against tenants. Renters unable to pay because coronavirus has affected their income should call their landlord and try to arrange a repayment schedule and contact their local government for help if needed, officials say.

Even if it’s delayed, the rent is still due, and depending on your location, the landlord may be able to seek late fees. Local elected officials in Northern Virginia have asked landlords to voluntarily waive late fees or penalties.

For a more detailed answer, see reporter Renae Merle’s FAQ.

What businesses are closed, and which are deemed essential?

Bowser ordered the closure of nonessential businesses in the District and banned gatherings of 10 or more people. Hogan ordered the closure of all nonessential businesses, as did Northam.

It isn’t always obvious what businesses are considered essential.

In general, medical facilities, grocery and convenience stores, pharmacies and farmers markets are open, with some restrictions. Liquor stores, laundromats, dry cleaners and banks are open, too. Table service at restaurants, food courts, bars and taverns is prohibited. Takeout and delivery are allowed.

Other brick-and-mortar retail stores, such as bike shops, are considered nonessential in Virginia but may stay open as long as they serve fewer than 10 people at a time.

Businesses focused on entertainment or that require close physical contact — theaters, casinos, racetracks, gyms, massage parlors, beauty salons and tattoo parlors — are closed.

The District and some other localities have also closed playgrounds, gated parks and athletic fields. The District also banned door-to-door solicitations and tour services.

A more detailed explanation of essential businesses in Maryland, the District or Virginia can be found here.

How do I get tested in the Washington region?

Testing, or at least sample collection, is becoming more prevalent in our region, but there are still several hoops that potential patients must jump through.

Virtually all hospitals and clinics require a doctor’s referral and an appointment made with the organization that will collect a sample and have it tested. If you suspect you may have the coronavirus, call your primary care provider first. If you don’t have a doctor, call your local health department. They will tell you where to go and whom to call.

Here is a list of the places we know that are testing. It will be updated as more information becomes available.

Are hospitals prepared for a surge?

D.C. officials said there are 3,273 licensed acute-care hospital beds in the city and that 69 of the city’s 351 intensive-care unit beds are in use. Officials have said they are looking for space in hospitals and unused hotels to prepare for any increase in coronavirus cases.

In Maryland, officials hope to add about 6,000 hospital beds across the state’s four dozen hospitals, which will include reopening a 135-bed hospital in Prince George’s County that had been downsized into a medical center, setting up a “field hospital” at the Baltimore Convention Center and creating an “alternate care site” at the Hilton Hotel in downtown Baltimore.

The state has about 7,400 operational beds. About 900 beds can be made available immediately, and 1,000 more can be ready in the next 45 days.

Maryland and Virginia received shipments of personal protective gear from the federally controlled Strategic National Stockpile to shore up hospitals, nursing homes and other facilities, but they declined to provide details.

Virginia has about 18,500 licensed hospital beds, including 2,000 inside intensive care units.

What are K-12 schools and universities doing in response to the virus?

Northam has ordered schools in Virginia closed for the rest of the academic year. Schools in Maryland and the District are closed through April 24.

Most jurisdictions are offering free meals to students and all children, and the federal government is allowing school districts to distribute meals “to a parent or guardian to take home to their children,” The Post’s Hannah Natanson reports. Here is a list of places to pick up breakfast and lunch in the District, Maryland and Virginia.

Many colleges and universities are clearing their campuses, too, including American University, Georgetown University and the University of Maryland.

A complete list of school closings can be found here.

Is it safe to worship with my congregation?

Most of the nation’s houses of worship have suspended in-person religious services and activities to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, and many do not expect to be open again by Easter, which falls on April 12 this year.

The Episcopal Diocese of Virginia announced it will keep its 180 churches closed until at least May 8 — meaning there will be no in-person Easter services in Virginia’s Episcopal communities.

Are all cultural events and attractions off limits?

Basically, yes.

Events where significant numbers of people gather, including the National Cherry Blossom Festival and the White House Easter Egg Roll, have been canceled.

District officials closed streets in the Tidal Basin area to all car, bicycle and pedestrian traffic and deployed police and the D.C. National Guard to enforce a restricted access zone around the cherry blossoms.

All Smithsonian Institution museums and the National Zoo are closed temporarily, in addition to the National Children’s Museum and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.

The Washington Nationals remain in limbo as Major League Baseball delayed Opening Day. The National Basketball Association and the National Hockey League suspended their seasons indefinitely, putting the Wizards and the Capitals on pause, too.

The Post is keeping an updated list of canceled D.C.-area events.

What should federal workers know?

The White House, after weeks of reluctance to disrupt the gears of government, has instructed federal agencies to adjust their operations to focus on “mission critical” services to contain the coronavirus by limiting face-to-face interactions, The Post’s Lisa Rein, Kimberly Kindy and Eric Yoder reported.

In a memo, the acting director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, Russell Vought, told department heads they should “postpone or significantly curtail” operations that cannot be carried out through telework or that require in-person interaction with the public.

What precautions is Metro taking?

Starting Monday, Metro will close at 9 p.m. while Metrobus service will stop at 11 p.m., the transit agency said Friday, after “significant” drops in ridership due to the regional stay-at-home orders.

Metro has reduced service several times since mid-March as it sought to discourage all but essential riders to use public transportation because of the possibility crowded buses and rail cars could help the coronavirus spread. The agency has also tried to limit shifts to protect its workers. It has closed down 19 Metro train stations and nine station entrances to limit staff and save on disinfectant supplies.

This weekend, Metro will run the same schedule it ran last weekend, with Metrorail operating from 8 a.m. until 11 p.m. with waits of between 10 and 30 minutes on all lines. Metrobus runs until 11 p.m., operating just 27 of its most used routes.

Beginning Saturday, the D.C. Streetcar will operate Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Saturday through Sunday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., for essential trips only. Passengers are encouraged to allow extra travel time as D.C. Streetcars will arrive approximately every 20 minutes.

Ten Metro employees have tested positive for the coronavirus including four bus operators, according to Metro. The Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689, which represents Metro operators, have called for fewer service shifts and better protective equipment to protect its workers.

What about Amtrak?

Amtrak has announced the cancellation of its Acela Express line in the Northeast because of reduced demand, after previously canceling nonstop Acela trains only.

The agency had reduced its service between Washington and Boston by as much as 35 percent, The Post’s Luz Lazo reported. In addition to service cuts, the passenger railroad has taken other cost-saving measures such as asking noncritical employees to take unpaid leave.

Passengers can change reservations at amtrak.com or via the Amtrak app.

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