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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 3,411 in Virginia, Maryland and the District as of Tuesday evening, with 1,661 cases in Maryland, 1,251 in Virginia and 499 reported in the District. The regional death toll is 62.

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 or limited exercise. We break it all down here.

Montgomery County schools have launched remote-learning classes, and Schools Superintendent Jack R. Smith warns, “It will be chaotic, it will be difficult — we are going to do it.”

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. Those numbers climbed past 2,000 on Saturday — a grim marker that illustrates both the continued spread of the virus and the fact that more testing is being done to detect it.

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, which announces new cases every evening, reported 94 new coronavirus cases Monday, the highest single-day increase yet, bringing the total number of cases in the nation’s capital to 499.

The District has seen a surge in coronavirus cases as more samples have been tested. With new testing sites set to launch this week, officials expect the number of known cases to continue surging.

D.C. jail officials also said two inmates had tested positive for the virus. Officials said one inmate is a 20-year-old man and the other is a 44-year-old man. Both men were housed in the jail’s Correctional Treatment Facility.

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

What do we know about cases in Maryland?

Maryland reported 1,661 cases Tuesday morning. The state reported three fatalities in Carroll County on Tuesday evening, bringing its number of deaths to 23.

The 246 new cases announced Sunday would make it the state’s largest one-day increase, the fifth consecutive time this has happened. In the past four days, the total number of cases in Maryland has more than doubled.

“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 reported 230 new cases for a total of 1,251 on Tuesday morning. There have been 30 deaths.

In Northern Virginia, the commonwealth’s health department said Alexandria had 30 cases, Arlington 104, Fairfax 244, Loudoun 87 and Prince William 94.

Eight former patients from Canterbury Rehabilitation & Healthcare Center outside Richmond have died of the coronavirus since Tuesday.

Where can I donate medical items?

Marylanders who would like to donate personal protective equipment (PPE) to health-care workers will be able to do so at four central locations. States across the country, including Maryland, are struggling with the lack of PPE for those working on the front lines of the coronavirus crisis, forcing some hospitals to turn to crowdsourcing. Disaster relief agencies in the state want to help by 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 said they will not accept handmade or prototype versions:

· 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 drop-off locations are:

· Cambridge: 3105 Mallard Court.

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

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

· Silver Spring: 15930 Good Hope Rd.

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

What businesses are closed, and which are deemed essential?

D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) 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, and Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) significantly restricted operations of businesses in his state.

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?

As of Thursday, 19 Metro train stations are closed, officials said. Metro bus passengers must board using the rear door and will not have to tap their fare cards, making the rides essentially free, The Post’s Justin George reports. Bus service was reduced to just 20 routes over the weekend.

The service reductions are largely to protect passengers and front-line workers from crowding on vehicles because of the spread of the coronavirus, Metro has said.

The District previously waived fares on D.C. Circulator buses, allowing passengers to board at all entrances and maintain distance from one another, and the Circulator’s Mall route has been suspended. The Fairfax Connector also indefinitely suspended fares, requiring passengers who don’t have disabilities to board through the rear door.

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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