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The number of known coronavirus cases in the District, Maryland and Virginia stood at 11,766 on Thursday, with 6,186 cases in Maryland, 4,053 in Virginia and 1,527 in the District. The number of virus-related deaths was 138 in Maryland, 109 in Virginia and 33 in the District, for a total of 280 fatalities.

Here are some of the most significant and recent developments as the region responds to the pandemic of the novel coronavirus, which causes the disease covid-19:

• Maryland released coronavirus data by race for the first time Thursday that shows black residents are disproportionately being hit by the virus — a trend that has shown up in data elsewhere. The state is about 30 percent black, but black residents make up more than half of the deaths in cases in which a person’s race is known.

• Applications for unemployment benefits in the Washington region spiked again Thursday as the covid-19 outbreak continued to severely rattle the local and national economies. The number of claims filed in the District, Maryland and Virginia reached 272,559 over the last week.

• The District, Maryland and Virginia added 53 new fatalities on Thursday, the region’s largest single-day increase in fatalities, bringing the national capital region’s death toll to 280.

April 9, 2020 at 8:13 PM EDT
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Montgomery County to require shoppers to wear face masks

By Rebecca Tan

Montgomery County, a suburb of 1 million, announced on Thursday evening that starting Monday, all shoppers must start wearing face coverings in grocery stores, pharmacies and other retail establishments.

Under the order, businesses must also limit the number of customers in the store and enforce social distancing among patrons while they wait. Those that fail to do so could face a $500 fine, the county said in a statement.

The new requirements in Montgomery come one day after D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) announced a similar order on social distancing and face masks for patrons shopping for food.

It also comes after the Montgomery County Council announced plans to pass a regulation that would have mandated face coverings by April 23. County Council member Hans Riemer (D-At Large) said that in light of Montgomery’s health officer, Travis Gayles’ order, council members do not intend to pursue further regulation.

“Good news,” he said. “Now we have a nice, strong policy — and earlier than we wanted.”

April 9, 2020 at 7:02 PM EDT
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Events DC will give $15 million in relief to hospitality workers, undocumented immigrants

By Marissa Lang

The District’s tourism arm announced Thursday that it will distribute $15 million to help hospitality and service workers, restaurateurs and undocumented immigrants who were left out of a relief package the D.C. Council approved earlier this week.

Events DC, which oversees the District’s convention center, tourism marketing and sports, said the money will be available before the end of April to expedite the recovery process for District residents unable to work amid a shutdown meant to slow the spread of the deadly novel coronavirus.

The $15 million package will be split into several parts: $5 million for restaurant recovery efforts; $5 million to help hotels and those who work in them; and $5 million for undocumented immigrants who may be ineligible for unemployment benefits and other forms of government assistance.

April 9, 2020 at 6:00 PM EDT
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Virginia judge rules 10-person-limit order does not violate religious freedom

By Tom Jackman

A Virginia judge ruled Thursday that Gov. Ralph Northam’s executive orders banning gatherings of more than 10 people can be fairly applied to religious gatherings, meaning Easter services this weekend are likely to be shuttered.

Larry Hughes, a former coal miner and college professor in his 60s, sued Northam (D) in Russell County Circuit Court on Monday seeking a temporary restraining order against the executive orders Northam issued last month, saying it had “a chilling effect on [Hughes’s] right to religious freedom.”

Hughes, who is Christian, said the order forced him “to choose between fidelity to his religious belief and punishment, and thereby bringing unlawful coercion to bear on his choice.”

The governor, defended by the office of Attorney General Mark R. Herring (D), responded that the executive orders do not require places of worship to close or prevent public access. But they do prohibit more than 10 people from being inside a place of worship at any time. “The Governor’s chosen strategy for slowing the spread of covid-19 and saving lives warrants deference,” the attorney general argued in his brief.

Russell County Circuit Court Judge Michael Moore ruled in favor of the governor Thursday. “The equities do not weigh in [the petitioner’s] favor based on this pandemic,” the judge said, according to the attorney general’s office. “And to say that this injunction to be granted would be in the public interest is not defensible. So the court is going to deny the request for temporary injunction.”

Herring issued a statement saying: “I’m really pleased we were able to successfully defend Governor Northam’s Executive Orders. Science tells us that social distancing is the most important thing we can do to save lives and prevent the spread of covid-19, and that’s exactly what these orders are doing.”

Terrence Shea Cook, Hughes’s attorney, said he would continue to seek a permanent injunction against the governor’s orders, saying they violate the U.S. Constitution and Virginia Constitution’s protections for the free exercise of religion.

“This case has never been about whether churches should have specific numerical limitations,” Cook said. “The issue is who makes that decision. My position is the church makes the decision, not the governor. Mr. Hughes and I realize the impact of covid-19. But when you start taking the clearly constitutional freedoms away from the church, it really represents a policy determination over a fundamental right.”

April 9, 2020 at 5:23 PM EDT
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D.C. police limit access to headquarters

By Peter Hermann

D.C. police is limiting public visits to its headquarters building at 300 Indiana Avenue NW as the city deals with the spread of the coronavirus. Employees and members of the public with confirmed appointments will be allowed inside, the department said Thursday.

“It is necessary that MPD maintains a healthy workforce so we may continue to provide police services across the District,” the agency said in a statement. Appointments for the public can be made weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

For appointments for traffic and crime reports, criminal history reports, firearms registration and fingerprints, call 202-671-6705. Police ask people not to schedule appointments or arrive at the building if they are exhibiting flu-like symptoms or feel ill. Everyone who enters is subject to a temperature check.

April 9, 2020 at 4:42 PM EDT
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Seventeen state senators push Hogan to provide relief on car insurance premiums

By Ovetta Wiggins

A group of state senators is calling on Gov. Larry Hogan (R) to give Maryland residents a break on car insurance premiums during the coronavirus pandemic that has upended the economy.

Sixteen senators signed onto a letter by Sen. Jill P. Carter (D-Baltimore City) asking Hogan to issue an executive order to give Maryland drivers a rebate on car insurance premiums, a reduction in monthly premiums and a ban on cancellations for nonpayment. Hogan has issued executive orders to ban evictions and vehicle repossessions, and to prohibit the initiation of a foreclosure process.

“We applaud your efforts to address income insecurity with mortgage loan forbearance and eviction prohibition,” the letter reads. “Beyond housing matters, people are being forced to take stock of all of their bills to decide what must be paid immediately and what can wait.”

Carter noted that some insurance companies have already decided to take the action, but the lawmakers are urging the governor to formalize it. Last week, 107,408 unemployment claims were filed in Maryland, according to the Labor Department. In the past month, 241,014 unemployment claims have been filed, more than all the claims that were filed last year.

April 9, 2020 at 4:23 PM EDT
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Six more covid-19 deaths reported at Richmond-area rehabilitation facility, bringing total to 39

By Laura Vozzella

Six more residents of a Richmond-area rehab facility have died of covid-19, bringing the death toll there to 39. In all, 148 residents and staff have tested positive for the virus at Canterbury Rehabilitation & Healthcare Center, the location of Virginia’s largest known outbreak of the coronavirus.

The Henrico County facility, which announced the latest deaths Thursday, serves patients recovering from illness or injury, many of them elderly. The 190-bed rehab center tested all of its residents and staff last week, regardless of whether they showed signs of illness. Some test results for staff members remain outstanding. Thirty-five residents have tested negative.

April 9, 2020 at 4:03 PM EDT
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The District confirms coronavirus death at St. Elizabeths Hospital

By Justin Wm. Moyer and Fenit Nirappil

A 69-year-old patient at the District’s public psychiatric hospital died of coronavirus complications Thursday, officials said, days after advocates sought a court order to secure the release of some patients from the facility because of covid-19 concerns.

In a court filing Thursday, health officials announced the death of Kenneth Ellison, who was admitted to the hospital in 1975 after being found not guilty by reason of insanity on rape and burglary charges. Ellison died at St. Elizabeths Hospital on Thursday after being found unresponsive around 6:50 a.m., said a letter signed by a clinical administrator at the hospital on Department of Behavioral Health letterhead.

Ellison had been admitted to George Washington University Hospital on April 2 and tested positive for coronavirus, according to the letter. He was discharged to St. Elizabeths on April 3.

Department of Behavioral Health officials and Ellison’s guardian were not immediately available for comment.

Ellison’s death follows a number of confirmed coronavirus cases among staff and patients at St. Elizabeths. As of Wednesday, 29 employees have tested positive and 73 were under quarantine, while 14 patients had tested positive and 142 were in isolation, according to city statistics.

“The virus is already spreading quickly through the hospital,” Andrea Procaccino, a staff attorney at Disability Rights DC, which advocates for patients at St. Elizabeths, said in an email Thursday. Procaccino said she had been told that patients and staff do not have access to or do not consistently use personal protective equipment, such as N95 masks, and that the situation is “chaotic and deteriorating.”

“DBH must take more action immediately to stem the spread and prevent unnecessary illness and death,” she said.

April 9, 2020 at 3:44 PM EDT
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Fairfax fire department reports first covid-19 case

By Tom Jackman

The first member of the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department has tested positive for covid-19, the department announced Thursday. The individual has experienced mild symptoms and is recovering, the department said. The person’s duty assignment was not released.

Fire officials believe the person was not exposed to the novel coronavirus on the job and said that no one else at the person’s station or shift had reported any similar illnesses. The person began feeling sick on March 18, was tested for covid-19 on March 26, and the positive test was returned this week, the Fairfax department said. Officials said 17 other Fairfax fire department members were under quarantine due to unrelated exposures.

Fairfax Fire Chief John S. Butler has ordered all of his fire and rescue personnel to don complete personal protective equipment in response to any covid-19 related call, and is limiting the number of first responders who actually come in contact with patients during the pandemic.

Fairfax health officials reported 690 confirmed covid-19 cases and 16 deaths in the county as of Thursday.

April 9, 2020 at 2:54 PM EDT
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More than 40 groups call for release of Virginia inmates

By Justin Jouvenal

The ACLU of Virginia and more than 40 other groups called Thursday for the swift release of any nonviolent inmates in the state’s prisons and jails and greater transparency from officials as the coronavirus spreads among incarcerated populations.

The groups called for conditional pardons for anyone one year or less away from release, a moratorium on new admissions to jails and prisons except for violent offenders and more detailed information about covid-19 cases behind bars. The groups want correctional centers to publicly release the number of covid-19 cases at their facilities, the number of inmates tested and what measures were being taken to stop the spread of the virus.

Virginia lacks a coordinated response to the pandemic in prisons and jails from the top, the groups said. “The actions so far from the governor and his administration do not go nearly far enough in addressing this pandemic within Virginia prisons, jails and custodial facilities,” Ashna Khanna, legislative director of the ACLU of Virginia said at a news conference.

To date, 42 inmates and staff have tested positive for the coronavirus at Virginia prisons, according to the Virginia Department of Corrections. Five inmates have been hospitalized.

The call for action came one day after a group of inmates sued Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) and other state officials in federal court, arguing their potential exposure to covid-19 in correctional facilities amounts to cruel and unusual punishment. The lawsuit claims inmates are unable to maintain social distance, prison staff are not using protective gear and inmates have been forced to manufacture face masks without the benefit of using them.

State facilities have barred visitors to inmates, increased cleanings and distributed personal protective gear to inmates and guards in some instances to try to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Northam said Monday he has no plans to take executive action on the issue.

“We have protocol that we work through with parole, and my folks are working around the clock,” Northam said at a news conference. “A number of individuals have been released, and we will continue to work around the clock. But we have to follow our protocol and as far as an executive order, I don’t plan on releasing an executive order.”

Separately, Fairfax County prosecutor Steve Descano announced Thursday he would begin reviewing the cases of every single inmate incarcerated at the county jail — more than 600 — to see if each would qualify for early release.

His office had previously recommended the release of three dozen nonviolent offenders. He said his office would also review all pretrial release decisions made before the coronavirus outbreak to see if additional inmates might be released. Fairfax County’s Public Defender has criticized Descano for being too slow to release nonviolent offenders amid a pandemic.

April 9, 2020 at 1:59 PM EDT
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Infections at Montgomery nursing homes continue to spread as tests remain scarce

By Rebecca Tan

Infections continue to spread through Montgomery County’s nursing homes as tests remain scarce. Officials announced a week ago that 10 of the county’s nursing homes have reported cases of the novel coronavirus.

As the county rushed to pack and send protective equipment to the facilities, the number of infections at these nursing homes grew. New cases also popped up at other facilities, including Riderwood senior community in Silver Spring, a 2,530-member community where three residents and five staff members have tested positive.

At Brooke Grove Retirement Village in Sandy Spring, employees struggled to obtain personal protective equipment (also called PPE) until one of its 300 residents tested positive for the virus on Friday, company leaders said in a statement. Before that point, “all resources were being redirected to hospitals, and our medical supply chain was rationing our supply,” they added. Employees used volunteer-made fabric masks as an alternative.

Brooke Grove staff members are now adequately equipped with PPE, said spokeswoman Toni Davis, but, “like everyone else,” are working on getting more supplies. On Wednesday, four more residents tested positive for covid-19.

Althea Woodland, a 50-bed nursing home in Silver Spring, has also faced shortages in equipment and staff, said owner Philip Meyer. The nursing home did not know that one of its employees had tested positive for the virus until the county announced it Friday. Since then, six residents and two other employees have contracted the virus.

One resident, a woman, died while hospitalized. Three of the remaining infected residents are being treated on-site and have been isolated in private rooms, Meyer said. Other residents are being monitored, but, like many other nursing homes, Althea has not been able to gauge the full scale of the outbreak because it has not been able to request tests for asymptomatic patients.

“We’ve not received the tests that were promised,” he said. “To be honest with you, we really don’t have any tests we can give out.”

Althea has had enough masks for employees but was only able to equip staff with eye protection this week following a delivery of PPE from the county’s health department. With three of its employees infected with covid-19, and another two who were advised to stay home because they are pregnant, the nursing home is struggling to fill its shifts, Meyer said. Managers and department heads have started to help with nonclinical care, such as bringing food to patients.

“Health-care institutions often have challenges with staffing, we’re resilient in that way,” Meyer said. “But I don’t think anyone has ever experienced anything on the scale of this. … It’s a challenge.”

April 9, 2020 at 1:11 PM EDT
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Prince George’s executive isn’t surprised virus is affecting African Americans more

By Rachel Chason

The executive of Prince George’s County, Angela D. Alsobrooks (D), said Thursday that she was not surprised to learn that the coronavirus is disproportionately affecting African Americans, saying that health disparities are a reality that residents in the majority black county experience every day.

“When we heard that the aggravating factors for the coronavirus included those with diabetes and high blood pressure and lung disease and kidney disease, I can tell you that our first reaction was, ‘Oh my God, that is us.’”

Prince George’s leads Maryland in reported cases and fatalities, with the state health department reporting 1,476 cases and 35 deaths in the county as of Thursday morning.

Alsobrooks said that of the fatalities for which they have information, 13 have been black residents and five white residents.

Maryland released coronavirus data by race for the first time Thursday that shows black residents are disproportionately being hit by the virus — a trend that has shown up in data elsewhere. The state is about 30 percent black, but black residents make up more than half of the deaths in cases in which a person’s race is known.

Alsobrooks said that after the pandemic ends, there needs to be a serious conversation about health inequity, including the lack of healthy foods in Prince George’s, which has long struggled to attract healthy grocers and restaurants.

“We hope we never do business as usual, ever again.” she said.

Prince George’s health officer Ernest Carter said the county’s hospitals have already added 175 beds and have plans in place to add an additional 479 beds, including at Laurel Medical Center. Joseph Wright, interim chief executive at the University of Maryland Capital Region Health, said the new beds at Laurel will include 10 critical care beds and are on track to be added by April 25.

April 9, 2020 at 1:03 PM EDT
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More members of D.C. fire and police departments test positive for coronavirus

By Peter Hermann

Three additional members of the D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department have tested positive for the coronavirus, the agency said Thursday.

That brings to 49 the number of firefighters, paramedics and emergency medical technicians who have contracted covid-19.

Ten of them have recovered and returned to duty.

Fire officials said the number of members under quarantine is 248. An additional 270 members who had been quarantined have returned to work.

D.C. police have 36 members who have tested positive for the coronavirus, and 325 out on quarantine. Police said 247 members who had been quarantined have returned to work.

District officials say the police and fire departments can each lose several hundred members without impacting service. The city said it has contingency plans in place.

April 9, 2020 at 1:02 PM EDT
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Maryland school officials raise possibility of remote learning for fall 2020

By Donna St. George and Ovetta Wiggins

Amid continuing uncertainty about how the pandemic plays out, the Maryland state superintendent of schools raised the possibility of schools needing to rely on remote education this fall.

“I’m not sure that we are going to be doing school in the same way going forward,” Superintendent Karen Salmon told a panel of state lawmakers Wednesday, in an update about how educators are managing the unprecedented public health crisis.

Salmon mentioned that she and other state officials were taking their cues from epidemiologists, but emphasized the importance of distance learning.

“We’re not sure that this is going to be something that we’re not going to revisit in the fall or in the winter,” she said in a meeting by video conference. “So I am really focusing much of our resources on the expansion and the accountability wrapped around online learning and distance learning.”

Other state officials said Salmon had not meant to indicate when schools will open or what might happen next fall. They were focused on the importance of building up capacity for distance learning.

“To be clear, we have not made any new determinations related to the school calendar,” tweeted Mike Ricci, a spokesman for Gov. Larry Hogan (R). “At the same time, we are taking active steps now to prepare for potential future needs, and this includes a focus on enhancing distance and online learning.”

Schools in Maryland are closed through April 24, and Salmon said a decision would be announced before then about whether the closures would continue. The school year ends in mid-June.

On Fox News’ “America’s Newsroom” Thursday, Gov. Larry Hogan (R) said the state school superintendent is working with the 24 local superintendents on school closures and distance learning.

"We haven’t really made the final decision on schools,” Hogan said. “We’re going to wait and see over the next couple of weeks exactly where we are, how much we’re able to flatten this curve and what happens. ... We’d love to get them back open but we don’t want to do that if it’s not safe.”

Hogan has said that Maryland’s experience of the outbreak is about 10 days to two weeks behind states like New York and Louisiana, which may have have reached their peak and appear to be flattening out.

“Our numbers continue to rise fairly rapidly,” Hogan said. “We’re hoping to not nearly be as bad because we took actions several weeks earlier than they did."

Over the past month, Hogan has closed schools and many non-essential businesses, banned large gatherings and issued a stay-at-home order.

"We’re hoping that’s going to dampen some of these numbers, but we’re definitely at the beginning of the climb,” he said.

April 9, 2020 at 1:00 PM EDT
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Virginia hospitals are not getting shipments as expected, Kaine says

By Jenna Portnoy

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) touched on some of the most troubling elements of the coronavirus pandemic in a call with reporters Thursday, including the lack of medical and protective equipment for hospitals.

He said hospital administrators tell him that when they place their regular orders, materials are often more expensive than they were before the crisis, and less arrives than expected because “FEMA has commandeered part of their order without telling them.”

Kaine said he understands prioritizing areas experiencing a surge but said hospitals need to be told in advance what to expect when they are relying on orders to treat patients and protect their front-line workers.

Hospitals have tried to stay ahead of infections while dealing with a continued national shortage of respirator masks and other protective gear.