Please Note

The Washington Post is providing this important information about the coronavirus for free. For more free coverage of the coronavirus pandemic, sign up for our Coronavirus Updates newsletter where all stories are free to read.

As of Tuesday evening, newly reported cases of the novel coronavirus pushed the region’s known total to 162 — 67 in Virginia, 63 in Maryland and 32 in the District. Here are some of the most significant and recent developments as the region responds to the pandemic of the coronavirus that causes the disease covid-19:

• Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) issued an order to let local governments prohibit more than 10 people in restaurants, fitness centers and theaters. He had previously refrained from issuing mandatory limits or closures, such as those in place in the District and Maryland.

• Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) postponed the state’s April 28 primary to June 2, but he will allow mail-in only ballots for a special election to succeed the late Elijah E. Cummings. Hogan also announced Maryland is shutting down vehicle emissions inspection sites and turning them into drive-through coronavirus testing centers across the state.

• Maryland added 22 confirmed cases of the coronavirus — its largest per-day increase. Virginia added 15 cases, while results from 48 tests are pending. The District announced 9 new cases, which is also its largest increase in a single day.

• Metro is further reducing service starting Wednesday as the transit agency said it seeks to further protect passengers and employees. Trains will run every 15 minutes.

12:04 a.m.
Link copied
link

D.C. announces nine new cases, its largest single-day increase

D.C. officials announced on Tuesday evening nine new coronavirus cases, marking the largest increase reported in a single day and bringing the District’s total to 32.

Officials said one case involves a 23-year-old man who attended last month’s Conservative Political Action Conference, which has been linked to several other cases. But the source of exposure for the other eight was under investigation.

Tuesday’s announcement marked the first in which District officials did not have a suspected cause for a majority of the new cases, which could be a sign of greater community transmission. The cases also skew younger than the median age for patients in the Washington region and are all men. The ages include 28, 29, 30, 40, 42, 44, 52 and 61.

In all, 162 cases have been reported in the District, Maryland and Virginia.

11:33 p.m.
Link copied
link

Virginia governor issues order to let jurisdictions prohibit more than 10 people in restaurants, other businesses

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) toughened his language Tuesday evening, banning groups of more than 10 people in restaurants and bars, fitness centers and theaters under penalty of law as the state’s number of confirmed coronavirus cases has climbed to 67, including two deaths.

Earlier, Northam had merely “urged” Virginia businesses to comply with the CDC’s recommendation that no more than 10 people should gather in public places.

But by evening, he issued an emergency order that gives local governments the ability to enforce a ban on more than 10 people in restaurants, fitness centers and theaters. Northam said local law enforcement officials have the authority to break up gatherings exceeding the size restrictions.

Violations could result in “immediate operation permit suspension” for businesses and misdemeanor charges. The state health commissioner could also bring charges against businesses that repeatedly violate the order.

The harder stance — the administration still does not call it a ban — comes as revelers were expected to gather Tuesday at nightlife districts throughout the Commonwealth for St. Patrick’s Day celebrations. State officials have talked throughout the day with the attorney general’s office and executive department lawyers about how to emphasize that there are teeth behind the 10-patron limit.

“Our strategy must focus on mitigating and slowing down the spread of this virus so that our medical system has more time to prepare,” Northam said in a morning news conference. “Every one of us has a role in being part of the solution. That means do not go to St. Patrick’s Day parties tonight. If you do, you are literally putting others at risk.”

11:05 p.m.
Link copied
link

D.C. firefighter-paramedic tests positive

A D.C. firefighter-paramedic has tested positive for the coronavirus and is in self-isolation at home, according to the District’s fire chief and the president of the union representing firefighters.

In a statement, D.C. Fire Chief Gregory M. Dean said the District’s health department is working to trace the firefighter’s past movements and contacts. Once those people are contacted, health officials will instruct them “regarding the next steps for quarantine,” the statement says. Dean’s statement also said that if the health department or a doctor recommends it, those people will also be tested for the virus.

Officials declined to discuss what type or how many calls the firefighter responded to while possibly contagious. They also declined to say how the firefighter might have contracted the virus.

The firefighters’ union president, Dabney Hudson, said the firefighter works at Engine Company 19 on Pennsylvania Avenue in Southeast Washington and at Engine Company 32 in Garfield Heights, also in Southeast. He said those stations were cleaned and disinfected.

On Monday, a Metro Transit police officer tested positive, prompting the department to close its District 2 station for cleaning and disinfecting. It was later cleared to reopen, though Metro said it would use video for roll call — meetings with officers before shifts — “and other strategies to maximize social distancing to the extent possible.” The Metro police isolated seven police employees who had been in recent contact with the officers.

The District 2 station is located near the Franconia-Springfield Metro station in Northern Virginia. Its more than 100 officers serve the Metro Center and Gallery Place-Chinatown stations and rail lines and bus routes south.

Last week, a dozen firefighters and emergency medical technicians from Prince George’s County were placed under quarantine after authorities learned they had been inside a home occupied by a man who tested positive. At the time, officials said one firefighter showed flu-like symptoms and was being tested. Jennifer Donelan, a spokeswoman for the county fire department, said those tests have come back negative.

Donelan said on Tuesday that an additional six firefighters and emergency medical technicians have self-quarantined, bringing the total to 18. She said those six cases stemmed from a variety of calls and the quarantines were done out an abundance of caution. She said no firefighters or EMTs in the county have tested positive for the virus.

10:09 p.m.
Link copied
link

Local official will host ‘virtual story time’ daily to help with loss of early child-care programs

Schools and libraries are closed, day-care centers have been shut down, and thousands of parents are trying to work from home while looking after restless, confused children. To provide some relief, one local official is offering “virtual babysitting” in the form of daily story times.

Starting Wednesday, Montgomery County Council member Will Jawando (D-At Large) said he will host a virtual story time from his office in Rockville at 11:30 a.m. daily. The 30-minute session will be broadcast on his Facebook page.

“It’s not going to solve every problem, but it could help parents get some sort of relief — even if it’s just for 30 minutes,” said Jawando, a father to four children ages 4 to 9.

Like counties across the region, Montgomery shuttered its 22 public libraries Monday to help stem the spread of the novel coronavirus. Jawando, the county council’s lead on libraries, said the sudden loss of dozens of library programs will leave a “gaping hole” in early-childhood education. He hopes to help by doing what he does for his own kids at night — just online.

For his first story time, Jawando said, he will be reading the aptly-titled book by Mo Willems — “Waiting Is Not Easy.”

10:07 p.m.
Link copied
link

What St. Patrick’s Day? Most bars and restaurants quiet in normally raucous Clarendon - but not all

Nearly every bar in Clarendon chose Tuesday to abide by state and local leaders’ recommendation to offer only takeout or shut down entirely. It took Mike Heard, 35, 10 blocks of walking around in his “Happy Go Lucky” T-shirt before he found one open: the Mexican restaurant La Finca.

Both nearby Irish bars were closed.

“The Irish have given up,” he said. “This is the quietest, saddest St. Patrick’s Day.”

Over margaritas, Heard bonded with the few other patrons, including an economist who asked not to be named because of his employer but argued forcefully that the economic ramifications of a quarantine are worse than the health risks from the coronavirus.

“It’s an overreaction,” Heard agreed. “Why hurt the economy?”

La Finca owner Rafael De La Paz was working the bar with his son. He said through a Spanish interpreter that a chef and a dishwasher were also working.

“I don’t want to close,” he said. “I want to be able to take care of the customers.”

The bar was empty enough to abide by federal guidelines, as urged by the governor. At 5 p.m., there were fewer than 10 customers.

But elsewhere in Arlington...

While many Irish bars in the area shut down, The Celtic House on Columbia Pike in Arlington was packed with a crowd enjoying live Irish music and bowls of beef stew.

Owner Michael McMahon said he was capping guests at 100 to comply with state law, prior to Gov. Northam’s order that crowds be limited to 10, had switched to plastic cups for all that Guinness, and had staff aggressively washing all surfaces and hands. Tables were spaced six feet apart, though patrons and servers weaved between them.

But McMahon wasn’t going to close unless ordered to do so.

“We’re just trying to do the best we can and stay afloat,” he said. “An awful lot of people are grateful.”

He said he couldn’t afford as a small business owner to take care of his 25 employees any other way. He and the chef opened the bar five years ago after decades working in pubs here and in Ireland.

“We love them and want to be supportive,” patron Julie Allen, 51 said. She and her husband came from down the street, thinking it was only a matter of time before Virginia follows D.C. and Maryland in shutting all bars. “We trust them to be clean,” she added. “We trust the patrons to be responsible.”

While sipping her beer, she noted that since washing her hands before entering the bar, she had not touched her face.

9:52 p.m.
Link copied
link

Virginia approves $11 million to mitigate economic impact on public transit

Virginia is issuing $11 million in emergency transportation funding to alleviate the economic impact of the coronavirus on public transportation systems across the state. The funding package approved by the Commonwealth Transportation Board on Tuesday includes $1.8 million for Fairfax Connector and $1.1 million for the Virginia Railway Express.

“The onset and continued spread of covid-19 has had extraordinary and disproportionate impacts on Virginia’s public transit industry and the communities they serve,” Virginia Secretary of Transportation Shannon Valentine said. “As more social distancing is implemented, we recognize that reduced service and significant ridership losses lead to diminished revenue and more challenges ahead.”

The $11 million will be allocated to local public transit agencies by formula and will be available by early April, officials said. Other funding to Northern Virginia agencies includes $493,396 for the city of Alexandria, $420,926 for Arlington and $613,446 for the Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Commission, which operates transit services in Prince William County and the cities of Manassas and Manassas Park.

Local transit systems have reported deep declines in ridership and revenue in recent days and have changed service levels as more people are working from home or avoiding public transit during the outbreak. On Monday, VRE said it was shifting to a reduced service schedule known as the “S” schedule on its two lines, Fredericksburg and Manassas. Ridership has dropped significantly, VRE said, citing an increasing number of area businesses and government agencies that are encouraging or mandating telework.

“Transit agencies had to take immediate steps to minimize the risk to their employees, customers, and communities, far beyond anything envisioned in their operating budgets,” said Jennifer Mitchell, director of the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation. “Today’s action enables DRPT to respond quickly and equitably to help their agency needs.”

9:38 p.m.
Link copied
link

D.C Council passes emergency measures to help residents and businesses affected by coronavirus

The D.C. Council passed emergency legislation Tuesday that prohibits evictions and public utility shut-offs during the public health emergency, extends unemployment compensation and offers grants to small businesses.

Under the measure, introduced by Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D), those who lose work hours, their jobs or pay while quarantined because of the coronavirus are allowed to receive unemployment benefits without proving they are applying for other jobs or the usual waiting period.

People asked to quarantine will have job protections under the city’s family and medical leave law, even if they haven’t reached the one year or 1,000 work hours requirement. The measure also gives Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) the power to establish a small business grant program to help nonprofits and small contractors if they can’t qualify for unemployment insurance.

Businesses will be able to defer paying February and March city sales tax collections until July and hotels also get a 90-day extension for property taxes. Both moves amount to a short-term, no-interest loan of up to $266 million, Mendelson said.

“As you see, this bill is very broad in its reach,” Mendelson said Tuesday. “I am well aware that the potential economic damage to individuals and businesses is far greater than the relief this bill provides.”

Bowser, who declared a public health emergency last week, would be able to extend the deadline for renewing city benefits — including welfare and food stamps under the anti-poverty Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — and for licenses, such as driver’s licenses. The measure allows Bowser to extend the public emergency by 30 days once without approval and for 15 more days with council approval.

Bowser will able to put families experiencing homelessness in interim housing for up to 60 days and can extend that during the emergency.

The law pushes back Thursday’s deadline for Bowser to submit the budget for fiscal year 2021 to the council to May 6.

9:30 p.m.
Link copied
link

Va. Supreme Court suspends nonessential court cases statewide, halts new evictions

The Supreme Court of Virginia declared a judicial emergency Tuesday and suspended “all non-essential, non-emergency court proceedings,” including new eviction cases, for 21 days because of the covid-19 pandemic, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring (D) said in a news release Tuesday.

The State Corporation Commission also ordered a 60-day halt to all disconnections by regulated utilities at Herring’s request, his office said.

Many Virginia courts had already taken steps to postpone or severely reduce court proceedings, and Arlington County had just suspended enforcement of all existing eviction writs. But now, all must follow suit.

Arraignments and bond hearings for those newly arrested will proceed, as will hearings for protective orders, emergency child custody cases and civil commitment hearings. “And to the extent possible,” Chief Justice Donald W. Lemons wrote, “the courts and clerks’ offices shall remain operational and provide essential services while balancing the health and safety needs of court visitors and personnel.”

Herring endorsed the court’s move, particularly the restriction on evictions. “It would be an absolute outrage for Virginians to be evicted from their homes during this emergency, especially as we are asking them to practice social distancing and stay home to prevent further spread of covid-19,” Herring said. “This temporary eviction suspension is particularly important for hourly wage earners who are more likely to lose income and not be able to pay their rent because of business closures. I want to thank the Supreme Court of Virginia for making this important decision to protect Virginians during these unprecedented times.”

Last week, Herring’s office filed an emergency petition with the State Corporation Commission to seek a freeze on utility disconnections during Virginia’s state of emergency.

9:04 p.m.
Link copied
link

Volunteering and coronavirus: When helping people could mean putting them at risk

Restaurant Medium Rare partnered with volunteer drivers to deliver meals to elderly individuals who were self-isolating due to coronavirus concerns. (The Washington Post)

Thelma Sanderlin, 88, has become accustomed to visitors. She has no husband or children, and no living siblings, but at least twice a month, a volunteer arrives at her apartment in the District to give her a break from the isolation that can jeopardize the health of older adults.

“I just like to have company sometimes,” Sanderlin said. “They’re young people, you see. They listen to my aches and pains.”

But now, as the coronavirus rapidly spreads, keeping Sanderlin isolated has become the goal. To help her, at least in person, would be to put her in danger.

This is the paradox facing nonprofits, community groups, religious organizations and neighbors across the United States, especially those that work with the elderly and other medically vulnerable adults. For regular volunteers and those eager to volunteer in this time of chaos, the systems in place to do so have been upended.

Community centers, tutoring services, home construction programs, recovery meetings, arts workshops and animal shelters have been forced to temporarily shutter. Many of those that haven’t closed have had to aggressively scale back their operations to keep those they serve safe.

8:33 p.m.
Link copied
link

DMV hospitals work to expand testing, free up beds as covid-19 cases climb

As the number of Washington-area residents testing positive for the novel coronavirus climbs, hospitals are racing to enact a two-pronged strategy — expand testing capability and free up beds — in preparation for what could be a months-long response to the global pandemic.

Montgomery County hospitals are installing treatment and triage tents. Kaiser Permanente set up five drive-through testing sites in Maryland and Virginia for patients who have a prescription, and a health care system in Hampton Roads, Va., is testing people via drive-through if they meet certain criteria.

Providers also are encouraging “virtual visits” to prevent the spread of the virus among the general population and medical community.

But as residents continue to struggle to access tests they say they need, medical experts in the Washington area and across the nation warn that the lack of adequate testing materials, limited supplies of personal protective equipment and too few beds mean the country is likely facing a dangerous situation.

There will be a bed shortage if the pandemic worsens, despite Maryland’s efforts to prepare for an influx of patients all at once, said Gene Ransom, chief executive of the Maryland State Medical Society.

“The biggest thing is: how big is the surge?” he said.

Read the full story here.

8:30 p.m.
Link copied
link

D.C. Circuit federal appeals court cancels in-person oral arguments

The federal appeals court in Washington on Tuesday canceled all in-person oral arguments at the courthouse in response to the coronavirus outbreak. Hearings will instead be held by teleconference, postponed until a later date, or decided without oral argument, court officials announced.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit followed the lead of court officials throughout the country, including the Supreme Court, in trying to limit visits to the courthouse.

Judges, lawyers, journalists and members of the public will be able to call in to participate or listen to certain arguments or follow through a live audio stream from the court’s website. The announcement affects a half-dozen cases scheduled Friday and next week, including a lawsuit filed by journalist Brian Karem, a White House correspondent for Playboy magazine who sued President Trump and his press secretary Stephanie Grishman after the White House suspended his press credentials.

8:06 p.m.
Link copied
link

Metro to further reduce rail and bus service Wednesday

Metro is once again reducing service starting Wednesday, as the transit agency says it seeks to further protect passengers, bus and rail operators, station managers and other front line employees during the coronavirus pandemic.

The changes will decrease Metrorail’s operating hours and frequency between trains. Metrobus, meanwhile, will operate on a schedule typically seen on Sundays but with a few more routes. The decrease corresponds with ridership being down 70 percent across the board, Metro said.

“The changes further draw down service to protect front line employees, while maintaining regional mobility for essential trips taken by hospital staff, government officials, and emergency responders,” Metro said in a statement.

The reduction takes into account the urgent public guidance from regional leaders, along with emergency orders to cancel events, close schools and offices, and limit social gatherings across the nation.

"Our region is speaking with one voice: Stay home. Essential travel only,” the Metro statement said.

Metro is currently running reduced schedules on both bus and rail. Starting Monday, buses began operating on Saturday schedules with some extra routes, while Metrorail had canceled peak-hour frequencies. Trains are running every 12 minutes all day Tuesday, but will reduce to every 15 minutes starting Wednesday.

7:44 p.m.
Link copied
link

Resident at retirement community in Virginia tests positive for virus

A resident at a retirement community in Richmond has tested positive for the novel coronavirus, marking the first known case in the region of a resident at a senior living facility.

In a statement, Westminster Canterbury Richmond, which houses about 900 senior citizens, said one of its residents has been diagnosed with the coronavirus and hospitalized. The patient recently returned from Florida, where there are more than 170 cases of the disease.

The novel coronavirus has been shown to be significantly more harmful to older people, particularly to those with preexisting medical conditions. In Washington state, an outbreak at a King County nursing home led to the deaths of at least 29 people.

Gayle Haglund, vice president for resource development at Westminster Canterbury, said the patient was a man in his mid-80s who was otherwise in good health. After being in Florida for “an extended period of time,” Haglund said, the man and his wife returned to the Richmond facility and “had been pretty much keeping to themselves since they got back.”

The man had an unrelated health issue arise last week, she said, and had to be sent to an area hospital. It was there that he began showing symptoms of coronavirus, was tested and found to be infected with it, Haglund said. He has been at the hospital ever since.

The man’s wife has so far shown no symptoms and has kept herself in home quarantine. “We’re tracking everybody that could have been exposed and we have all the staff that we can identify with any level of exposure at home under quarantine,” Haglund said. She said state health officials are on-site and continuing to monitor the situation while also conducting contact-tracing.

Westminster Canterbury is located at 1600 Westbrook Ave., in the Bryan Park neighborhood along Interstate 95 in Richmond. Several health-care workers at the community have self-quarantined, Westminster said in a statement.

Westminster closed its campus to visitors on March 11, when the first case of the coronavirus was reported in Hanover County, part of the greater Richmond region. It has also been screening and taking the temperature of everyone who enters the campus, including staff members.

6:57 p.m.
Link copied
link

Maryland dentists recommend suspending nonurgent appointments for at least three weeks

Just ask yourself: How bad does it hurt?

The Maryland State Dental Association issued a release Tuesday recommending “all dental practices voluntarily suspend all nonessential and non-urgent dental care for at least three weeks.” The dentists said they were concerned about the safety, health and well-being of patients, staff and dentists in light of the possible spread of the coronavirus.

“The fluid activities at the state and federal levels,” the dental association said, “suggest the possibility that more stringent and mandated restrictions are possible. The MSDA recommends promptly making provisions for further disruptions to our dental practices in the near future. We will continue to closely monitor the situation, provide updates and statements as the situation evolves.”