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The number of known coronavirus cases in the District, Maryland and Virginia stands at 18,765 on Wednesday, with 10,038 cases in Maryland, 6,526 in Virginia and 2,201 in the District. The number of virus-related deaths was 413 in Maryland, 195 in Virginia and 73 in the District, for a total of 681 fatalities.

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

• D.C. extended its public health emergency and closure of schools until May 15. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) announced that other coronavirus restrictions in the city, including nonessential business closures, a stay-at-home order and a ban on gatherings of 10 or more people are also extended.

• Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) extended his shutdown order for nonessential businesses — which initially was set to expire April 23 — until May 8. A separate stay-at-home order for Virginia residents is in effect through June 10.

• Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said the state plans to hire 1,000 people to work in local health departments as investigators work to trace the path of the coronavirus.

• The District, Maryland and Virginia reported a record high of 93 confirmed deaths on Wednesday. They also reported 1,030 new infections, bringing the total caseload across the three jurisdictions past 18,700.

11:40 p.m.
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Fairfax County schools cancel virtual classes for almost a week after online harassment, technical glitches

Leia Surovell awoke Tuesday feeling hopeful. Although everything was still horrible in the world the coronavirus wrought, she was excited to embark on her first day of online learning since Fairfax County Public Schools closed a month ago.

But the high school senior’s hopes for a return to normalcy were shattered when anonymous users interrupted her 9 a.m. AP Environmental Science class with vulgar, homophobic and racist messages, a problem that plagued classrooms throughout the Northern Virginia district. It was just the beginning of a disastrous rollout of online education for Fairfax schools, whose 189,000 students constitute one of the largest districts in the nation.

The week started when parents and students throughout the system struggled to log in to Blackboard, the school’s virtual learning platform. Those technical problems persisted Wednesday, the second day of distance learning — and, in combination with online misbehavior, ultimately forced administrators to cancel school entirely for almost a full week.

Fairfax school officials are working to enhance security measures, spokeswoman Lucy Caldwell said, and have already identified some of the perpetrators — some of whom are students and may face disciplinary measures or counseling or both.

Late Wednesday, Superintendent Scott Brabrand emailed Fairfax families to announce he was pausing online school until next week — Monday April 20 — to allow officials time to address “a software issue” that was causing connectivity problems, as well as train teachers on software upgrades. Brabrand said staffers worked for weeks to debut the online learning program, and that there had been no indication the system would be “unable to handle the volume of participating users or ... susceptible to the security issues that many of our schools encountered.”

Still, some teachers and parents say the school district had a month to prepare its online offerings and should have done more to be ready on time.

“This,” parent Robb Watters said, “is just systemic failure.”

Read the full story here.

11:28 p.m.
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Workers at Whole Foods near D.C.'s Logan Circle test positive for coronavirus

Several Whole Foods employees at the grocery chain’s Logan Circle location in the District have tested positive for the coronavirus, the company said Wednesday.

A Whole Foods spokesperson declined to comment on how many infections the store has seen among its staff, but a report from WUSA (Channel 9) indicated at least six employees had tested positive for the virus. Customers had not been notified about the infections.

The store is in the 1400 block of P Street NW.

The store, which like other D.C. supermarkets has remained open throughout the public health crisis, hired outside companies to conduct multiple overnight deep cleanings of the store, the spokesperson said, adding these were done in addition to the store’s “enhanced” daily cleaning that typically take up to six hours. According to the WUSA9 report, the most recent employee who tested positive for the virus was last inside the store on April 9.

The store has limited the number of customers allowed inside at one time and requires employees to undergo daily temperature screenings and wear face masks, the spokesperson said. It was not immediately clear how the mask rules were being enforced. Whole Foods announced the installation of plexiglass barriers at check out counters earlier this month, but customers said at the Logan Circle store, barriers had not been constructed along the front wall of the building where employees ring up patrons with a small number of items.

Amazon, which bought Whole Foods in 2017, has guaranteed up to two weeks of additional paid time off for any employees who are quarantined or diagnosed with covid-19. The tech company’s chief executive, Jeff Bezos, owns The Washington Post.

Whole Foods is one of several major supermarket chains that have seen workers fall ill as the coronavirus continues to spread. Some have died. Leilani Jordan, 27, worked part time at a Giant supermarket in Largo, Md. She tested positive for the virus in late March and died on April 1.

Several chains, including Giant, Safeway and Kroger — which owns Harris Teeter — have given workers bonuses, pay increases or hazard pay for working through the pandemic. Safeway agreed to provide workers an additional $2 an hour — an agreement that expires Saturday, though the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union said the company has the ability to extend the period. Giant has given workers a 10 percent pay bump through May 2, and Kroger offered its employees bonuses of $300 for full-time workers and $150 for part-time employees.

Last month, workers with Whole Foods and the grocery delivery app Instacart staged a national strike to demand more protections and benefits. Spokespeople for Amazon, Whole Foods and Instacart said they have been taking appropriate precautions to protect their employees.

10:39 p.m.
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Virginia GOP lawmakers express impatience with Northam’s coronavirus plans

Republican leaders in the Virginia General Assembly expressed impatience Wednesday with Gov. Ralph Northam’s coronavirus plans, saying residents need to know there’s a timeline to reopen the economy.

“People need hope,” House Republican leaders, including Minority Leader Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah), said in a joint statement. “They need to know that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, that this nightmare is going to end. … Flattening the curve and getting back to work don’t have to be mutually exclusive."

Senate Republican leaders took a sharper tone, complaining that Northam (D) had not consulted them ahead of his emergency actions Wednesday to extend the shutdown of nonessential businesses until May 8. Northam or his Cabinet members have held twice-weekly calls with General Assembly members, but Republicans said the administration has used those to brief them on actions already taken, not to solicit their input.

“Virginia can’t go on like this,” Senate Minority Leader Thomas K. Norment Jr. (R-James City) and his leadership team wrote. “For the sake of our state’s economy and the quality of life of all Virginians, we need to prepare for a safely ‘Reopened Virginia’ as soon as possible.”

Senate Republicans said any businesses that can comply with social distancing guidance should be allowed to open. They said some that cannot comply — such as barber shops and salons — already adhere to stringent health and sanitation standards. If those standards were beefed up, those services could resume, perhaps on a “limited basis,” the Republicans said.

Senate Republicans also said Northam’s statewide order fails to “take into account the vast differences in Virginia’s regions, treating densely populated areas like Northern Virginia and sparsely populated ones like Southwest and Southside alike.”

Northam spokeswoman Alena Yarmosky said the governor “welcomes this input, and values his ongoing partnership with General Assembly members. He will continue to make decisions based in science, data, and public health — not politics. His top priority is and will continue to be keeping Virginians safe.”

9:49 p.m.
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VA Medical Center reports new cases of covid-19

The VA Medical Center in the District added six more cases to its list of covid-19 outpatients, bringing the total to 90, the Department of Veterans Affairs reported Wednesday.

The department disclosed no new virus deaths there. Ten people have died of virus complications at the medical center since March 27. The hospital has 24 inpatient cases, one less than the VA reported Tuesday.

9:38 p.m.
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Maryland plans to hire 1,000 additional disease investigators to trace the path of covid-19

Maryland plans to hire 1,000 people to work in local health departments as investigators to trace the path of the coronavirus, Gov. Larry Hogan (R) said Wednesday. Already, the state has 250 so-called contact tracers, according to Fran Phillips, the state’s deputy secretary of public health.

The additional workers, some of whom will be under contract with the state, will be critical for reopening the economy, Hogan said.

Contact tracing is triggered when a person tests positive for covid-19. The investigator does an extensive interview with the person about contacts and travel over the prior two weeks. Those who have had contact with a person who tests positive, and may have been exposed, are instructed to quarantine under monitoring by investigators.

As a result of the governor’s stay-at-home order, Phillips said investigators are finding that “the circle of contact has become smaller and smaller.”

Under current guidelines, a person who is exposed but shows no symptoms is not eligible for testing. As testing, including antibody tests, becomes more available, Hogan said, more people will be able to receive tests.

9:05 p.m.
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Four additional members of the D.C. fire department test positive for the coronavirus

Four more members of the D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department have tested positive for the coronavirus, the agency said Wednesday.

The new cases bring to 68 the total number of members who have contracted the virus. Thirty-three have recovered and returned to duty. A total of 129 members are under quarantine.

D.C. police say 59 of its members have tested positive, and seven have recovered and returned to work.

A total of 221 members of the police department are out on quarantine. Police say 489 members who had been quarantined have returned to work.

8:00 p.m.
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D.C. requires hotels, rideshare companies and grocery stores to provide masks for workers, certain facilities to conduct temperature checks

D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) on Wednesday ordered hotels, food retailers and transportation companies to provide masks and gloves for workers, and required all nursing homes and detention centers to check the temperatures of anyone entering their facilities.

The provisions were part of a broader order from the mayor extending the city’s public health emergency to May 15. The measures are meant to contain the spread of the virus at essential businesses and institutions serving vulnerable residents.

In addition to the existing requirement to wear masks while shopping for groceries in the District, people also must now cover their faces at hotels and when riding in taxis and Uber or Lyft cars. Those companies are required to procure masks and gloves for their workers, and ensure employees and independent contractors wear the protective gear.

The mayor also imposed a range of new requirements on nursing homes, facilities for people with intellectual disabilities, hospice and addiction treatment centers, shelters for homeless people and domestic violence victims, and for psychiatric hospitals and city-run detention facilities.

Those facilities must bar visitors and nonessential personnel. Anyone else must be screened with a temperature check and questionnaire. Group activities must be canceled and sanitizing products made available at all entry and exit ways.

The facilities must also permit covid-19 patients to return when they are discharged from the hospital. The order also says facilities should quarantine new or readmitted residents and designate a room, unit or floor for infected residents, but only if feasible.

To address staff shortages at these facilities, city agencies are directed to loosen regulations to allow for rapid hiring of temporary workers. The city government must also consider deploying members of the National Guard or the city’s volunteer medical reserve corps to temporarily work at short-staffed facilities.

Additionally, the order allows medical marijuana cardholders to continue purchasing cannabis if their cards expired after Feb. 28.

7:46 p.m.
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Virginia governor extends shutdown order for nonessential businesses until May 8

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) announced Wednesday that he is extending certain business restrictions for two more weeks.

On March 24, Northam banned public and private gatherings of more than 10 people. He also ordered the closure of recreational and entertainment businesses, as well as certain non-essential businesses such as barber shops and salons that are incompatible with social distancing. Those restrictions were due to expire next week, but on Wednesday, Northam pushed the deadline to May 8.

A separate order, mandating that Virginians stay home except to get food, medicine, medical care or exercise, remains in effect until June 10.

“When people say it’s time to stop what we’re doing and get back to normal, they’re wrong,” Northam said, even as he acknowledged that Virginians are eager to shake off the restrictions.

“I know this has been a frustrating time for all of us,” he said. “People are out of work. Businesses are closed. Our entire sense of normal life is out the window."

But he stressed the need to keep the measures in place, at least for the time being.

“I want everyone to know that the sacrifices that you have made have been necessary and they are helping,” he said. “They are slowing the spread; they are giving us time to plan and prepare."

Northam said he has been working closely with leaders in Maryland, the District and North Carolina to determine the best way to proceed.

“We want to move forward in a coordinated way,” he said.

7:31 p.m.
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Gov. Hogan requires all store patrons in Maryland to wear masks, says it is too soon to lift stay-at-home order

Gov. Larry Hogan (R) on Wednesday announced that face masks will be required to enter stores in Maryland, the latest effort to stem the spread of the coronavirus in the state.

Several counties in Maryland have already enacted similar orders in recent days, including Montgomery, Prince George’s and Anne Arundel counties. The District has also required shoppers to wear face coverings.

This month, the federal government reversed its previous position on face coverings and recommended people wear masks in public places. President Trump has opted against wearing one.

But some state and local governments have decided to make masks mandatory. Hogan began wearing a face mask this month, and the new statewide requirement will take effect on Saturday. It also applies to essential workers in stores.

“Wearing face masks is also something we may have to grow accustomed to in order to safely reopen our state,” Hogan said.

Baltimore’s mayor also issued a similar order.

“This executive order is an effort to protect the most vulnerable among us,” Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young (D) said in a statement. “This is a public health crisis and we must respond in kind. … I ask that all residents take this policy seriously and comply for the health and well-being of their families and themselves.”

Hogan said Wednesday that Maryland is still fighting an uphill battle against the coronavirus but that next week he will begin rolling out a plan to reopen parts of the state economy as conditions allow.

Hogan outlined four things that must be in place before the state could begin lifting stay-at-home orders: a dramatic increase in testing, a fully implemented expansion at hospitals, the acquisition of sufficient personal protection equipment, and a quadrupling of the state’s contact tracing workforce to deploy 1,000 people to identify and track every single coronavirus patient in the state.

Hogan reiterated that it is too soon to reopen and cautioned that doing so too soon could reverse gains from social distancing and ultimately prolong the economic shutdown.

“We’re not quite there yet, but we are seeing positive signs of cautious optimism,” Hogan said, pointing to hospitalization rates. “While we’re still heading up that curve instead of down, it is absolutely critical for Marylanders to continue staying home.”

6:34 p.m.
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Montgomery cases may peak this weekend, but officials say it’s too early to predict return to normalcy

Montgomery County may see a peak in covid-19 cases as early as this weekend, county health officer Travis Gayles said Wednesday. But officials are “not counting on" it, he said.

To determine whether Montgomery has turned the curve, county leaders are looking for trends demonstrating decreases in both new cases and fatalities. As of Wednesday, it is still too early to pin down the exact timeline, according to Gayles, or determine when the county of 1 million people will be able to return to normalcy.

“We are still in the midst of a pandemic,” Gayles said. “We’re going to see more cases, and unfortunately we’re going to see more people die.”

More than 10,000 individuals in Maryland have tested positive for covid-19, and 22 percent of them are hospitalized. Hospitals in Prince George’s County have started to see an influx of critically ill patients, but as of Wednesday, health providers in Montgomery have not reached capacity or had a critical shortage of beds or respirators, Gayles said.

Preliminary data suggests that the county’s social distancing efforts have helped slow the spread of the virus, Gayles added. As of Wednesday, Montgomery has 1,933 cases and 53 deaths.

Forty nursing homes and senior living facilities have reported cases. Even when the county starts to have a decrease in new infections, officials do not plan to immediately relax social distancing rules or reopen businesses, said County Executive Marc Elrich (D).

He emphasized that Montgomery will need to coordinate its transition with other jurisdictions in Maryland, as well as with Washington and Northern Virginia.

“All of us in the region have to step together,” he said. “If any of us does this wrong, it any of us is premature … we risk bringing it back into our communities."

5:54 p.m.
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D.C. extends public health emergency, closure of schools until May 15 to fight spread of the coronavirus

D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) announced on April 15 the city’s health emergency would be extended until at least May 15. (D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser)

D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) on Wednesday extended the city’s public health emergency until May 15, requiring residents to continue staying at home and keeping public schools and nonessential businesses closed through the new date.

Those restrictions, as well as a ban on gatherings of 10 or more, were originally set to expire after April 24. D.C. officials said they have been coordinating with the governors of Maryland and Virginia in deciding when to reopen society in the greater Washington region. Those governors have briefings scheduled Wednesday afternoon.

The mayor’s order also now requires people to wear masks or face coverings at hotels, during taxi and ride-share trips and for workers at food sellers. Grocery store customers were already required to do so.

Bowser said social distancing measures are paying off because infections are below original projections. But she said the city needs more time to flatten the curve and to prevent the health system from becoming overloaded.

“If we are concerned about black people dying from covid-19 in Washington, D.C., everyone needs to do their part,” said Bowser, referencing racial disparities in deaths. “If you want stores to continue providing your food, everyone needs to do their part.”

The mayor said she has the authority to extend restrictions further if necessary.

“I don’t know that that means we are going to be open on May the 16th, but it will be a point for us to check in and if we need to extend it beyond that, we certainly will,” Bowser said.

Bowser’s announcement came as the city also announced a host of measures to protect vulnerable residents from the coronavirus. The city plans to deploy newly obtained rapid-testing equipment for vulnerable populations, including at the D.C. jail, homeless shelters, nursing homes and for immigrants.

At the D.C. jail, where 56 have tested positive and one has died, surgical masks will be provided to all inmates and staff at the facility, and temperature checks will be taken upon entry. Inmate movement will also be restricted.

Nursing homes and skilled-care facilities will be required to check residents for symptoms every four hours and test them if they do. D.C. nursing homes have reported nine deaths and 78 infections, with half of the infections at the Lisner-Louise-Dickson-Hurt Home and three of the deaths and an employee death at Stoddard Baptist Nursing Home.

D.C. also disclosed the deaths of four homeless residents, two of whom were not hospitalized. The city is using five hotels to move people out of shelters, prioritizing high-risk groups such as the elderly and people with chronic medical conditions and anyone showing symptoms or requiring quarantine after close contact with a patient.

5:28 p.m.
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More than 100 virus cases confirmed at nursing care facility in Baltimore

Baltimore Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young said Wednesday there are 129 confirmed cases of the covid-19 virus at a facility in the northwest part of the city.

FutureCare’s Lochearn facility reported the cases among its residents, plus it has an “additional 41 confirmed cases among staff members,” he said.

In a statement, Young said the nursing care facility for seniors has put in a place “widespread surveillance testing.” That testing, officials said, “monitors the intensity and spread of the disease in a community with high transmission.”

Officials said that “many of the people who have tested positive are not symptomatic, but this proactive testing allows the medical staff to monitor, and also isolate positive patients.”

Young said the facility is working closely with the city and state health departments and experts at Johns Hopkins.

“The Baltimore City Health Department is aware of the confirmed covid-19 cases at the FutureCare — Lochearn location, and is working diligently with FutureCare management,” Young said in the statement.

Senior centers and nursing homes have been among the hardest hit in the covid-19 outbreak.

One of the state’s “strike teams” that’s been developed for nursing homes has been sent to the Lochearn facility. The teams are typically composed of National Guard members, along with medical staff. The facility also has personal protective equipment (PPE) from the state, officials said.

“FutureCare’s highest priority continues to be the safety and well-being of our staff and residents, and we will continue to work diligently with the state and local health departments, our LifeBridge Health partners, and our Johns Hopkins infectious disease consultant, to protect our staff and residents,” said Holly O’Shea, a spokeswoman for FutureCare.

4:30 p.m.
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Schools task force to try to figure out how to help schools reopen

School experts from 16 states are going to create a regional task force to help states figure out the best ways to reopen public schools.

According to the Southern Regional Education Board, the task force will be co-chaired by James F. Lane, who is the Virginia state superintendent of public instruction, and Stephen L. Pruitt, the president of the Southern Regional Educational Board.

The group plans to hold its first meeting next week, and members will also be appointed at that time, officials said. Educators and state education officials or their appointees will be on the task force.

At least 32.5 million students across the United States have had their schools closed because of coronavirus. Here's how some students are coping at home. (The Washington Post)

“States will benefit from the task force’s collective expertise as each state strives to make the best proactive decisions for our students, now and for the coming school year,” said Lane, a former county schools superintendent, in a statement.

School systems in the D.C. region have been closed since mid-March as the coronavirus outbreak has hit the area. Officials have been trying to get necessary online tools, computers and other equipment to students for distance learning at home.

“How schools reopen is much more important than how they closed,” Lane said.

Pruitt, who previously served as the state education commissioner in Kentucky, said in the statement: “We must ensure each student has every opportunity to learn, and that the crisis doesn’t hinder states’ improvement in education and strengthening of the workforce.”

Officials said the task force will work on a “playbook for states, school districts and individual schools as they consider how to reopen schools when states deem it safe.”

3:40 p.m.
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Virginia House speaker seeks remote voting to hold virtual legislative session

Virginia House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn (D-Fairfax) is working on a plan for the House of Delegates to use remote voting and hold virtual legislative sessions to protect against spreading the coronavirus.

The General Assembly is scheduled to return to Richmond on April 22 to consider amendments proposed by the governor to legislation passed during this year’s regular session.

Filler-Corn has already announced that the House will meet outside on the grounds of the Capitol, with face coverings and hand sanitizer available for members, who will be spaced more than six feet apart under social distancing guidelines.

The state Senate plans to meet indoors at the Science Museum of Virginia.

If the House takes up and approves her proposal for remote voting, it’s possible the lawmakers would adjourn, go back to their homes and resume that session electronically, Filler-Corn said.

The reconvened session technically lasts for three days, if needed, and can be extended another seven.

“It’s important that … at the very least we give ourselves the option for this remote voting,” Filler-Corn said. “Our members should not have to choose between participating and safety.”

The House clerk’s office and IT staff are working to determine what technology is available to make it practical, she said. Filler-Corn said she has been in contact with Republican leadership and other members about the idea.

“If it can be done for us to use on the 22nd, we want it done,” she said. “My actions are all based on falling on the side of safety.”

The House minority leader, Del. Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah), said in an emailed statement: “While I appreciate the Speaker’s concern for everyone’s health and safety, I have expressed a number of questions and observations to her and to the clerk about the legalities and logistics that might be involved. Members still need to be assured that they can effectively carry out their constitutional duties.”

In addition to next week’s session, Gov. Ralph Northam (D) has signaled he will call the legislature back later this year to take up issues related to the coronavirus, the budget and the state economy.