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 1,688 in Virginia, Maryland and the District by Friday. The regional death toll is 29.

The number of unemployment benefit claims filed in the region has spiked, mirroring a surge across the country. According to figures Thursday from the Labor Department, the number of claims filed last week was more than 102,000 for Maryland, Virginia and the District.

D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D), Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) and Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) have closed or restricted operations of nonessential businesses. 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.

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 1,600 Friday — 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, had reported 308 cases Thursday, an increase of 36 cases.

Among the cases announced in the District was an 8-week-old infant.

D.C. jail officials also said an inmate tested positive for the virus. In a statement, a jail spokeswoman said the inmate is a 20-year-old man who was 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 775 cases as of Friday morning, including five deaths.

The 194 new cases announced Friday would make this the state’s largest one-day increase, the third consecutive time this has happened. In the last three 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,” Hogan said on Twitter.

Montgomery County officials said Sunday that a woman in her 40s who had underlying health conditions had died. She is the youngest person to die of the virus in the state.

What do we know about cases in Virginia?

Virginia reported 145 new cases for a total of 606 on Friday afternoon, including 20 deaths.

In Northern Virginia, the commonwealth’s health department said Alexandria had 18 cases, Arlington 63, Fairfax 124, Loudoun 43 and Prince William 44.

Three former patients from Canterbury Rehabilitation & Healthcare Center outside Richmond have died of the coronavirus since Tuesday, and more than a dozen other patients and staff are infected, The Washington Post’s Laura Vozzella reports.

A top local health official said staff at the long-term-care facility still lack the protective gear needed to fully contain the spread of what is one of the largest outbreaks of the virus in the greater Washington area.

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, and Northam 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 bricks-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 said Monday 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 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 Wednesday it would keep its 180 churches closed until at least May 8 — meaning there will be no in-person Easter services in Virginia’s Episcopal communities.

The Virginia diocese, which says it has more than 68,000 members across most of the state (southern and southwestern Virginia are in separate church regions), initially announced March 11 that it would close churches until March 25. Last week, the diocese said its churches would remain closed at least through Easter.

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 as well.

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 announced Sunday it is canceling 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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