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The number of known coronavirus cases in the District, Maryland and Virginia was 21,579 on Friday, with 11,578 cases in Maryland, 7,521 in Virginia and 2,480 in the District. The number of virus-related deaths was 499 in Maryland, 233 in Virginia and 86 in the District, for a total of 818 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. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) announced Friday that school buildings will remain closed through the academic year and instruction will end late next month, rather than June 19. In Maryland, officials announced that schools will remain closed through May 15.

• The total number of covid-related deaths surpassed 800 in the District, Maryland and Virginia on Friday as case numbers reached 21,579.

• Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) said Friday he expects the surging caseload of coronavirus patients to peak and start to decline soon, a key turning point in plans to reopen the state economy.

April 17, 2020 at 7:56 PM EDT

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Please read The Post’s continuing coverage here.

By Tom Jackman
April 17, 2020 at 7:37 PM EDT

Get me to the Internet on time: D.C. to resume issuing marriage licenses through the Web

The D C. Superior Court said Friday it will “immediately” resume issuing marriage licenses through the Internet. The court ceased processing the applications in late March when it halted all nonemergency court proceedings.

The court’s Marriage Bureau will process the licenses remotely via the website dccourts.gov/form/marriage-application. Once an application is completed, an employee from the bureau will contact the applicant to complete the process.

Individuals who do not have access to the Internet can contact the Family Court Call Center at 202-879-1212 to apply. Individuals who need a marriage license for an “emergency matter,” such as health insurance, child birth or immigration, can email the clerk of the court’s office at emergencycertifiedcopies@dcsc.gov or call the office at 202-879-1400.

By Keith L. Alexander
April 17, 2020 at 7:05 PM EDT

Northern Va. loses massive shipment of N95 masks when it is outbid by federal government

A shipment of about half a million N95 respirator masks that was expected to arrive in Northern Virginia from Holland this week never showed up, a coalition of local governments and public safety agencies said Friday.

The nonprofit Northern Virginia Emergency Response System, which ordered the masks on behalf of 23 local governments and volunteer fire departments in the region, said the supplier informed the group that it was outbid by the U.S. government amid a scramble by the Trump administration to procure more protective gear for other parts of the country.

As a result of the shipment going awry, emergency workers and some hospital workers in Northern Virginia will have to wait until at least late June for a new shipment to arrive, said Kristin Nickerson, executive director of the coalition, which helps coordinate emergency response efforts in the region.

“And that’s priority shipping,” Nickerson said, about the wait. “That’s putting us above others on the list.”

Nickerson said the $2.7 million that would have gone toward the masks was never taken out of the coalition’s escrow account.

A new shipment, priced at about half the original cost, won’t arrive until the summer under a system being employed by U.S. manufacturers that gives higher priority to masks meant for health care workers, the coalition said.

“During most emergencies, people take for granted that our first responders will have necessary supplies and equipment they need,” Nickerson said. “But the ripple effect of this global pandemic on everyday life — in which everyone is scrambling for the same level of protection — has made that incredibly challenging,” she said. “So, to then have a situation like this is all the more frustrating.”

David Rohrer, a deputy Fairfax County executive and president of the regional response system’s board of directors, said Friday that the region has faced procurement challenges throughout the pandemic and has sought answers from various agencies, without success. “We’ve had orders, both county and large regional ones, either canceled, diverted, or impounded,” Rohrer said. “All we know for certain is that orders went in, were confirmed, and that we then do not receive the most critical supplies.”

Rohrer added, “County and regional procurement officers are working hard to source PPE and chasing every lead, but it is a significant concern and frustration as localities strive to protect our health workers, first responders, clinicians, etc., as they work to protect and serve the community … Hospitals also have similar challenges and concerns. Hopefully, we’ll get more answers, or a more coordinated strategy from somewhere, but in the interim we will continue our efforts.”

By Antonio Olivo and Tom Jackman
April 17, 2020 at 6:52 PM EDT

Coronavirus count continues to rise in D.C. jail

D.C. jail officials on Friday reported 12 new cases of inmates testing positive for the novel coronavirus, raising the total number at the facility to 75 inmates. That number includes Deon Crowell, the jail’s first inmate to die from covid-19.

A spokeswoman for the jail said 43 of the inmates who tested positive have recovered and have been returned to the general population. The rest of the inmates remain in isolation.

The 12 new cases were the highest one-day increase of positive inmate tests since the jail reported its first positive case nearly a month ago. Defense attorneys in the District have worked swiftly to secure the release of inmates to reduce the number of those exposed to the virus.

Last month, the District’s Public Defender Service and the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in hopes of getting a federal judge to facilitate the release of inmates charged with misdemeanor offenses or nonviolent crimes. At a hearing in federal court Wednesday, jail officials reported its inmate population has dropped about 22 percent from about 1,850 in March, and all but nine of 94 inmates convicted of misdemeanors have been released under D.C. emergency legislation.

Nearly all those remaining, about 1,442 prisoners, are held in connection with District or federal charges brought by U.S. prosecutors, or detained under federal authority.

At Wednesday’s hearing, a detailed report by two jail inspectors who made unannounced visits was disclosed. The report revealed numerous challenges, including that staff shortages prevent the jail from keeping inmates six feet apart to limit the spread of the virus. The report also detailed how inmates with the virus were isolated and prohibited from showering or cleaning their cells. The inmates were also barred from contacting loved ones or attorneys, the inspectors said.

By Keith L. Alexander
April 17, 2020 at 6:32 PM EDT

Five Fairfax County sheriff’s deputies have tested positive for covid-19

Five Fairfax County Sheriff’s Office deputies have tested positive for the coronavirus, the Sheriff’s Office said Friday, the first tally the agency has released of covid-19 cases among its ranks. One of the deputies has returned to work and four remain on sick leave.

The sheriff’s office provides security at the Fairfax courthouse and jail. The sheriff’s office did not release where the deputies worked.

The sheriff’s office also said Friday that a total of four inmates had tested positive for the coronavirus, a number that has remained the same for the past week. The sheriff’s office declined to release details on how many inmates and staff had been tested for the coronavirus, or how many had been isolated.

The sheriff’s office had previously declined to release a count of staff members who had been sickened by the coronavirus but changed its policy this week. A number of public safety agencies, including police and fire departments in Alexandria and Arlington, have declined to release tallies of coronavirus cases, often citing privacy concerns.

Read more here.

By Justin Jouvenal
April 17, 2020 at 6:04 PM EDT

As virus surges in Prince George’s, shuttered Laurel hospital will reopen

It took almost four years to downsize the beleaguered Laurel Regional Medical Center, which went from a hospital to a walk-in medical center at the end of 2018.

It took only four weeks for the hospital to reopen as a destination for covid-19 patients.

“It’s monumental,” said Joseph Wright, who leads the University of Maryland Medical System’s regional hospitals. On Friday morning, he toured Laurel after visiting the system’s facility in Cheverly, which he said was “very busy and very stressed.”

Prince George’s, just outside the District, appears to have been hit harder by the coronavirus than any other county in Maryland, with 2,966 cases and 87 deaths reported as of Friday. Some hospitals have had to send patients elsewhere because their critical-care units were full.

The reopening of parts of the Laurel hospital will “redistribute the surge,” Wright said.

Starting next week, Laurel will have 10 critical-care beds with ventilators and 36 “intermediate” beds without them. The facility aims to ultimately have 135 beds available, with 400 contracted medical workers.

By Rachel Weiner
April 17, 2020 at 5:21 PM EDT

Montgomery schools superintendent unhappy with incremental closures

The leader of Maryland’s largest school system reacted with dismay Friday to State Superintendent Karen Salmon’s announcement that schools would be shuttered until May 15, questioning the idea of another short-term extension of school closures at a time when many want greater certainty.

“I’m perplexed by it; I can’t say I understand it,” said Jack R. Smith, superintendent in suburban Montgomery County.

Smith said that while educators will continue to provide distance learning to the school system’s 166,000 students, the incremental approach creates ambiguity for parents, students and educators.

“I agree with the decision to not to open schools right now; I don’t understand why doing it in three- or four-week increments makes more sense than making the decision that half the country has made, which is that we would continue on in this program we’re in for the rest of the year,” he said.

“I feel this is one of those decisions that we need to make incrementally to see where we are in another month,” Salmon said at a news conference Friday in Annapolis. “We don’t know what’s going to happen, and I certainly don’t want to dash the hopes of many children and parents that there might be some other ways to do public school going forward. That’s the reason I decided to do that.”

Smith said the state also did not make clear whether graduations will be feasible. Some parents and students have harbored hopes for year-end commencements, in spite of the rising number of coronavirus cases.

Salmon said graduation events would not be the same this year and mentioned creative approaches, but Smith said she was not definitive.

“Given this announcement today, we’re going to start working on that and not wait for the state,” he said.

The decision not to shut down for the rest of the school year drew mixed reactions, with debates flaring on Facebook and Twitter.

Craig Rice (D-District 2), a Montgomery County council member long involved in education on the county and state levels, pointed to decisions not to reopen schools this school year in Virginia and the District, saying those jurisdictions had certainty, which would allow better plans to be created.

While Gov. Larry Hogan (R) has shown strong leadership amid the crisis, his administration has faltered on education, Rice asserted. He noted Maryland’s increasing number of positive cases and deaths.

“To say, ‘We’re going to come back in a month,’ how do you then develop a long-term plan to educate our kids?” he asked. “You can’t have a plan that is supposed to be long-term and then tell folks that they’re coming back on May 15. It’s one way or the other.”

This post has been updated.

By Donna St. George
April 17, 2020 at 4:53 PM EDT

Six additional members of the D.C. fire department test positive for the coronavirus

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

That brings to 74 the number of members who have contracted covid-19. Thirty-three of them have recovered and returned to duty. A total of 119 members are under quarantine.

D.C. police say 74 of its members have tested positive, and 17 of them have recovered and returned to work.

A total of 196 members of the police department are out on quarantine. Police say 559 members who had been quarantined have returned to work.

By Peter Hermann
April 17, 2020 at 4:30 PM EDT

Hogan, Northam and Bowser plan to work together when reopening the D.C. metro region

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) said he discussed reopening the economy with Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) and D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) during a Friday conference call. He said the three agreed it was premature to lift any restrictions now and pledged to do so in concert when the time cones.

“All three of us are in a similar situation in that our numbers are all going up, rather than down,” Hogan said, referring to rising deaths, hospitalizations and intensive care unit bed use.

“We’re all in some part of a phase of talking about the gradual reopening but not able to start that right yet. And we all are in agreement that we want to do that in a way that’s cooperative,” Hogan said. “We understand that while each state, each area, is unique, there are certainly things that we have to do together as a region.”

The governor did not offer specifics on which steps the leaders would take together, but he added that nothing would happen until numbers declined for 14 straight days, under federal guidelines issued Thursday by the Trump administration.

By Erin Cox
April 17, 2020 at 4:08 PM EDT

Hogan plans to unveil the state’s recovery plan next week

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) on Friday described the federal guidelines for reopening states across the country as a “pretty good outline” that the state’s coronavirus task force is reviewing. Hogan said he intends to release details surrounding the “Maryland Strong: Roadmap to Recovery” plan late next week.

Hogan said he will be watching three things to determine whether to consider reopening: hospitalizations, ICU bed usage and deaths. Until the daily tally of each of those has declined for 14 days straight, strict social distancing measures will stay in place, he said.

The governor also said he will not lift restrictions until there is increased testing capacity and contact tracing. He also wants to ensure that the state has enough PPEs and hospital beds to deal with a surge.

“Our numbers are going up,” Hogan said. “No matter who you talk to it’s not the right time … We have to do it in a safe manner.”

Hogan also addressed criticism he has received in recent days from Republican lawmakers in rural parts of the state who have questioned his call for residents to wear face coverings when they enter stores or ride public transportation. The order takes effect Saturday.

Hogan said some have said that wearing masks infringes on their rights, but added that not wearing it “infringes on your neighbor’s rights.”

The governor also objected to recent letters that have been sent from advocates, members of the state’s congressional delegation and others calling on him to use his executive powers to reduce the prison population to stem the spread of the virus.

Hogan said the state has taken steps to lessen potential spread of the virus in the state’s prisons. He said that before the pandemic, the state, through its Justice Reinvestment Act, reduced its prison population.

“We’re obviously concerned about potential outbreaks,” he said. “But I’m not sure how many more letters we need to get to help us along in that process.”

By Ovetta Wiggins
April 17, 2020 at 3:21 PM EDT

Trump tweets support of protests against stay-at-home orders

President Trump on Friday seemed to side with protesters in Minnesota, Michigan and Virginia who are defying social-distancing orders to rally against the states’ safety measures intended to stop the coronavirus spread.

In back-to-back tweets Friday morning, Trump wrote: “LIBERATE MINNESOTA” and then, “LIBERATE MICHIGAN” and then, “LIBERATE VIRGINIA, and save your great 2nd Amendment. It is under siege!”

The safety measures in place across the country come from the recommendations laid out by the White House coronavirus task force. The guidelines Trump unveiled Thursday for how states can begin to reopen phase out those restrictions slowly, which conflicts with the protesters’ demands to lift them now.

In Virginia, Gov. Ralph Northam (D) was asked about Trump’s tweet and said: “As the governor of the commonwealth of Virginia, I along with my staff are fighting a biological war. I do not have time to involve myself in Twitter wars. I will continue to do everything that I can to keep Virginia safe and to save lives.”

By Colby Itkowitz and Gregory S. Schneider
April 17, 2020 at 3:04 PM EDT

Maryland extends closure of schools through May 15 to fight spread of coronavirus

Maryland’s public schools will remain closed through May 15, Schools Superintendent Karen Salmon announced on Friday.

The announcement extends the closure order from April 24.

The state’s latest effort to halt the spread of the coronavirus comes as the number of cases and deaths in Maryland continue to climb. On Friday, Maryland added 787 new cases and raised its death toll to 425 after reporting 33 deaths overnight.

Maryland schools have begun distance learning and Salmon has recently raised the possibility of remote learning continuing in the fall, telling a group of state lawmakers that she was “not sure that we are going to be doing school in the same way going forward.”

Salmon opted to shut down for additional month, instead of closing for the rest of the academic year. “This is one of those decisions that we need to make incrementally,” she said.

Gov. Larry Hogan (R), who is coordinating with officials in Virginia and the District on a regional response to the coronavirus crisis, has taken a more measured approach on school closures than D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) and Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D).

Before Friday’s order, Salmon initially closed schools from March 16 to March 27, then extended the closure through April 24.

Salmon said she recognizes that the crisis has “created much anxiety” for graduating seniors but added that local superintendents are working on “creative” ways to make sure high school seniors get appropriate recognition.

She said the state will use the next month to decide how to move forward and will continue to develop plans for additional digital learning and ways to recover lost instructional time during the summer. “State and local school officials are actively preparing for a number of scenarios depending on when our educators and students would be able to reenter school buildings,” Salmon said.

By Ovetta Wiggins
April 17, 2020 at 2:51 PM EDT

ACLU sues Virginia over absentee ballot witness rule

The American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia and its national counterpart sued Virginia in federal court in Lynchburg on Friday, challenging the state’s requirement that absentee voters must open and fill out their ballots in front of a witness.

The ACLU wants the court to block the state from enforcing the “witness requirement” while coronavirus emergency orders are in place and the virus is spread through community transmission, or risk disenfranchising voters avoiding contact with others.

“Removing the witness requirement during the covid-19 pandemic is a common-sense solution that protects people’s health and their right to vote during this crisis,” Davin Rosborough, a staff attorney with the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project, said in a statement. “No one should be forced to choose between staying safe and casting a ballot.”

Charlotte Gomer, a spokeswoman for Attorney General Mark Herring (D), said Herring’s office will decide how to proceed in the interest of protecting “free and fair elections."

”No Virginian should have to choose between their health and exercising their right to vote," she said.

Gov. Ralph Northam (D) is encouraging voters to cast ballots by mail to avoid crowded polling places. He recommended the legislature move May local elections to coincide with the November presidential election, and he postponed primary races from June 9 to June 23.

The “witness requirement” will disproportionately affect Virginia residents who are older, disabled or African American, according to the ACLU. The case was filed on behalf of the League of Women Voters of Virginia and several individuals.

By Jenna Portnoy
April 17, 2020 at 2:28 PM EDT

Northam moves to boost Virginia health-care workforce with volunteers, med students

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) issued an executive order Friday aimed at boosting the state’s health-care workforce, including allowing fourth-year medical students to practice in hospitals without direct supervision.

Earlier in the week, Northam called for 30,000 volunteers to assist in Virginia’s hospitals, health departments and long-term care facilities as they grapple with an influx of coronavirus patients. Friday’s steps will allow someone with a valid health-care license in another state to practice in Virginia as long as that person is supporting the coronavirus effort at a hospital, long-term care or other facility that has the same corporate parent as the home-state facility where the practitioner is licensed.

The order also expands options for telemedicine, makes it easier for licensed nurse practitioners to prescribe or treat patients and lets interns and residents with temporary training licenses practice without supervision.

The order goes into effect immediately and runs through June 10.

“This pandemic is placing extraordinary demands on our doctors, nurses, and nurse practitioners, and these policies will enable us to expand our health care workforce so more trained medical professionals can step in and help,” Northam said in a statement announcing the action.

By Gregory S. Schneider
April 17, 2020 at 2:16 PM EDT

Virginia’s jail population declines 17 percent as officials release inmates

Virginia’s jail population has dropped 17 percent as officials across the state have moved to release low-level offenders in response to the coronavirus crisis, Gov. Ralph Northam (D) announced Friday. Virginia has also seen a 67 percent decline in the number of people being admitted to jails on misdemeanor charges, Northam’s office said in a news release.

Prosecutors, judges and public defenders in the state have been working for weeks to reduce jail populations to mitigate the spread of covid-19 behind bars. On March 19, Northam issued a directive to local criminal justice officials to try to reduce jail populations, while maintaining public safety.

Northam’s office said since late February, the number of new commitments to local and regional jails has declined from approximately 10,000 during a two-week period to just over 4,000. The jail population was about 24,000 on April 7, down from roughly 29,000 on March 1.

Northam has also proposed a budget amendment allowing the director of the Department of Corrections to release individuals with less than a year left to serve on their sentences during the state of emergency for the coronavirus crisis. The state legislature is slated to reconvene on April 22 to consider the amendment and others. It would be effective immediately if adopted.

Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney Steve Descano announced earlier this week he has supported the release of 73 inmates from the county jail, where there has been an outbreak of the coronavirus. Officials in Alexandria say the jail population has declined about 40 percent, while the figure in Arlington is roughly 25 percent. Neither of those jails have reported cases of the coronavirus.

Loudoun County Commonwealth’s Attorney Buta Biberaj said earlier this week that the county’s juvenile detention center had briefly reduced its population to zero. The facility normally holds around 10 inmates.

Biberaj was one of eight Commonwealth’s Attorneys who sent a letter to Virginia Secretary of Public Safety Brian Moran this week pressing for the release of juvenile inmates. Descano, Arlington Commonwealth’s Attorney Parisa Dehghani-Tafti and Alexandria Commonwealth’s Attorney Bryan Porter also signed the letter.

By Justin Jouvenal
April 17, 2020 at 1:40 PM EDT

D.C. to use convention center for coronavirus patient overflow

D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) said Friday that the city would be constructing 500 beds for coronavirus patients in the city’s Walter E. Washington Convention Center in the coming weeks. Materials may start moving into the center as soon as this weekend.

With elective surgeries on hold, the city’s hospitals are not at capacity, and the extra beds are intended for a worst-case scenario. The beds are intended for patients who do not need to be in the intensive care unit.

“We will be prepared for the worst-case scenario but our goal is never to use the convention center,” Bowser said.

The city has the capacity to test 300 people per day. John Falcicchio, the mayor’s chief of staff, said that the city often has far more people call to schedule testing than who show up.

Falcicchio said the city tested 113 people Wednesday. He said the city hopes to be able to test for virus antibodies at its hospitals in May.

By Perry Stein
April 17, 2020 at 1:23 PM EDT

D.C. school system to end academic year early, canceling instruction May 29 and turning focus to summer and fall

D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) said Friday that she would end the academic year three weeks early, on May 29, and that students would continue with remote learning until then. The mayor said this would allow the city to “preserve” three weeks of instruction time, indicating that the 2020-2021 academic year could start early for at least some students.

The school district’s buildings will also stay closed, the mayor said.

The District has more than 2,400 known cases of the coronavirus and 86 virus-related fatalities — numbers that have surged in recent weeks.

Teachers in the school system work on 10-month contracts, and D.C. schools Chancellor Lewis D. Ferebee said he has been communicating with the union as the city makes calendar changes. Bowser said learning would continue in the summer, though it is unclear whether that would be in person or remotely. She said she would announce more on summer school on May 15.

While school leaders have said that large numbers of students have engaged in distance learning, Bowser said that there are still students with whom schools have not connected since they closed. “I don’t know what the number is, but there are a number of students that we want to make contact with,” she said.

While Bowser said the city’s charter schools — which educate about 47 percent of the city’s 100,000 students — would follow a similar schedule, some charter schools have said they plan to continue remote learning beyond May 29. KIPP DC, the city’s largest charter network, will continue distant learning this academic year until June 12.

By Perry Stein
April 17, 2020 at 11:36 AM EDT

Hogan: Maryland’s coronavirus peak expected ‘in the next week or so’

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) said Friday he expects the surging caseload of coronavirus patients to peak and start to decline soon, a key turning point in plans to reopen the state economy.

“We have some hopeful signs, but the numbers are rising,” Hogan said during a webcast interview with David Rubenstein, president of the Economic Club of Washington. “We believe that we are getting close to the peak in the next week or so, but time will tell.”

Hogan said he agreed with many elements of the plan laid out by President Trump Thursday for governors to control when to reopen commerce in their states, including the guidance that social distancing measures should not be lifted until a state sees 14 days with declining numbers of new confirmed cases.

“We have increasing numbers right now, so we’re not quite ready,” the governor said, emphasizing that any return to normal will happen slowly and incrementally.

“None of the governors believe you can just flip a switch and get everything back to normal” said Hogan, who is chair of the National Governors Association. “Just like we shut things down on a gradual basis … I think we’ll gradually start easing things up and start gradually opening things up when we believe its safe to do so.”

Hogan said that while leaders want to reopen businesses as soon as possible, doing that too soon or too broadly could prompt a resurgence of the virus. He said Maryland was “getting close” to having all the medical and hospital supplies necessary to handle the peak of hospitalizations.

By Erin Cox
April 17, 2020 at 11:26 AM EDT

Fatalities exceed 800 in DMV region, as Virginia reports record jump in case numbers

The number of coronavirus-related deaths surpassed 800 in the District, Maryland and Virginia on Friday as case numbers reached 21,579.

The Washington Post’s tally differs slightly from state-reported totals because The Post includes cases and deaths that are abruptly dropped by officials without explanation.

The District reported 126 new infections and five new deaths: two patients in their 60s, a 72-year-old woman, an 82-year-old man and a 91-year-old woman. The racial disparities in fatalities also continued to widen: As of Friday, black residents represent 47 percent of total cases but 77 percent of total deaths.

Virginia added 602 new infections, its highest single-day increase. Cases in the Central Shenandoah health district, which covers eight counties, increased by nearly 50 percent from 229 to 343.

Northern Virginia also continued to see big jumps in its health districts: Alexandria reported a record 46 new infections, while Fairfax and Arlington added 103 and 32 cases, respectively.

Virginia also reported 23 new deaths, including six in Fairfax and five in the Henrico health district, where the state’s deadliest cluster of covid-19 cases is located.

Maryland added 787 new cases, its highest number in nine days. Prince George’s County continued to lead Maryland in infections with 244 new cases, followed by Montgomery County and Baltimore City, with 147 and 113 new cases, respectively.

Total fatalities in Maryland swelled to 499, with eight new deaths in Prince George’s County and seven new deaths in Queen Anne’s County.

By Rebecca Tan
April 17, 2020 at 9:57 AM EDT

Johns Hopkins University launches county-by-county map of U.S. covid-19 infections

After what one person behind the project called “a lot of sleepless nights” and an effort drawing from departments and programs across campus, Johns Hopkins University this week launched a new app tracking covid-19 cases across the United States on a county-by-county level.

The map is a complement to Johns Hopkins’s world map, a resource that has become critical for policymakers, public health officials and anyone else trying to make sense of the virus’s spread.

“We saw this as an incredible opportunity to start to zoom in and really understand the impact covid-19 is having on a local level,” Beth Blauer, executive director of the university’s Centers for Civic Impact, said Tuesday during a webinar explaining the new tracker.

“You can look at the map and toggle between different views. So you’ve got the ability to look at the confirmed cases by population, the total death counts for each individual county, and the death rate,” she said.

The tracker is informed by data from the university’s ongoing global tracker, as well as information from the Red Cross, the Census American Community Survey and the Bureau of Labor and Statistics.

Besides information on the virus, the new tracker also provides a snapshot of race and ethnicity breakdown for each county, as well as the county’s health care infrastructure, including hospital bed capacity and the number of ICU beds. The more comprehensive analysis provided by pairing these streams of data with the reported covid-19 cases could help predict the true impact of the virus’s spread, Jennifer Nuzzo, a senior scholar at the university’s Center for Health Security explained during the webinar.

“One of the challenges from the beginning has been getting access to data to help us to understand the case numbers that are being reported and to figure out where we may be headed based on these case numbers,” Nuzzo said. “But the raw case numbers alone are not enough for us to understand what’s really going on.”

The U.S. map will be updated once a day.

According to a university spokesperson, the variances between the new Johns Hopkins tracker and data relayed by other databases may occur “due to differences in data sources, changes in how source data report out, as well as time lag between updates.”

By Kyle Swenson
April 17, 2020 at 7:15 AM EDT

Nightmares, flashbacks, uncertainty: A 29-year-old recovers after coronavirus brought him near death

He had been in the hospital for seven days when doctors declared he might not make it out alive.

His blood oxygen levels sank. His lungs struggled. The ventilator helping him breathe, doctors at Virginia Hospital Center said, did not seem to be doing much good.

Nurses called his family. His family called a priest. They wanted to make sure Francis Wilson, 29, received last rites before the end.

Wilson, a Georgetown University law student, was among the first wave of coronavirus patients admitted to a Washington-area hospital last month. He was an outlier — young, healthy, no preexisting conditions. But by the time he called an ambulance, he could barely stand up without gasping for air.

He was also one of the first cases in which doctors watched a patient come so close to death — and live.

By Marissa Lang
April 17, 2020 at 6:52 AM EDT

Inova bans hospital workers from wearing PPE they bring from home

Inova, which operates Northern Virginia’s largest hospital, has prohibited employees treating covid-19 patients from wearing N95 respirator masks that they bring from home, despite national shortages of the protective equipment and workers’ concerns about contracting the virus.

In a statement, an Inova spokeswoman said the health-care system’s procedures ensure only “hospital-grade, quality-assured products” are available to workers and that it cannot guarantee that personal protection equipment obtained elsewhere will prevent exposure.

However, three employees who work at Inova Fairfax Hospital said the policy is enforced inconsistently and comes with the threat of dismissal.

“It made me feel like I wanted to cry,” said one of the employees, who like the others spoke on the condition of anonymity because they feared retribution. “It was either choosing between my safety or my job.”

As the nation faces shortages in personal protective equipment (PPE) and the U.S. death toll approaches 31,000, hospitals are faced with a dilemma: Give health-care workers unlimited access to gear and risk running out when a surge hits.

The lack of masks in some parts of the country exacerbates the risks to health-care providers caring for coronavirus patients, and returning home to elderly relatives or susceptible family members.

By Jenna Portnoy
April 17, 2020 at 6:19 AM EDT

With picnic baskets and few masks, demonstrators protest Virginia stay-at-home orders

RICHMOND — As acts of civil disobedience go, this was oddly pastoral: Gary Golden spread a blanket on the grassy lawn by Virginia’s Executive Mansion, opened a wicker picnic basket and offered strawberries to strangers.

As fellow protesters took him up on the offer Thursday, coming up to the edge of the blanket, sticking their hands right into his container of sliced berries, Golden was defying Gov. Ralph Northam (D), who has ordered Virginians to keep their distance from one another to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Golden, a 55-year-old from Fredericksburg whose insurance business has suffered from the crisis, suspects the social distancing mandates are an unnecessary burden — and a moneymaker for hospitals.

“Society’s shut down and locked down so that the hospital systems don’t have to invest more and care for their patients,” said Golden, who had a model of the coronavirus, crocheted out of yarn, attached to a backpack. “And they’re clever because the government’s doing it for them now. The government’s saying, ‘Here, we’ll bring in the Army, we’ll bring in the National Guard, we’ll build this for you, we’ll do that for you.’ These hospitals are making out.”

By Laura Vozzella and Gregory S. Schneider