Here are the top stories for Wednesday:
D.C., Maryland and Virginia add 7,331 virus cases, 94 deaths
Coronavirus figures released by the District, Maryland and Virginia on Wednesday showed 7,331 additional cases in the region and 94 deaths.
The confirmed cases reported Wednesday are roughly three times the number of daily cases reported around the region in May and June, according to The Washington Post’s tracker.
More than 14,000 people from the District, Maryland and Virginia have died of covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. Those who have died include activists, writers, firefighters and pastors. They worked in grocery stores, drove public buses and taught children. Read about their lives here.
In the past seven days, the District has reported 1,462 new cases.
In the past seven days, Maryland has reported 14,206 new cases.
In the past seven days, Virginia has reported 32,962 new cases.
Read more about coronavirus cases in the DMV:
D.C. restaurants are hoping for a ‘Biden bump’
It was a post-church lunch stop, just one of thousands that take place every Sunday, even during a pandemic. But this one included a parade of black SUVs, an unknown number of Secret Service agents and the president of the United States tucked into the back of one of those well-protected vehicles.
President Biden’s Sunday afternoon order from Call Your Mother, a self-described “Jew-ish” deli, was more than a stop for takeout bagels. It was a signal to restaurateurs across Washington that, after four years of President Donald Trump keeping his distance from the majority-Democratic city, the new chief executive will engage with the food and restaurant community, to the potential benefit of an industry in desperate need of a morale boost, not to mention revenue.
Andrew Dana, co-founder and owner of the small Call Your Mother chain, left 30 minutes before the presidential motorcade pulled up at the Georgetown location, which is just around the corner from Holy Trinity Catholic Church, where Biden had attended Mass. Dana joked that the presidential visit was a “total sneak attack,” not one secretly arranged by Jeff Zients, a former partner in Call Your Mother, who joined the Biden administration to coordinate the coronavirus response.
The Smithsonian and National Gallery of Art are closed. Here’s what’s open now.
Washington tourist attractions have engaged in a seesaw battle with the coronavirus over the past year. After closing en masse in the space of a few days in March, they began to cautiously reopen over the summer — first the sculpture gardens and private museums, then the National Gallery of Art, which never reopened all of its galleries, and then the Smithsonian, with smaller museums in their wake.
But after a rise in positive cases in November, the Smithsonian and National Gallery announced they would close again. “We both expressed growing concern about the increased number of cases in the region and across the country and came to the conclusion that caution needed to prevail to protect our visitors and staff,” said National Gallery of Art Director Kaywin Feldman. Two private museums, Glenstone (in Potomac) and the Kreeger (on Foxhall Road), and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum followed, and have not announced reopening plans.
In December, D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) announced that all museums in the city would be closed from Dec. 24 to at least Jan. 22. After Bowser’s order, the National Museum of Women in the Arts announced it would be closed through March 2, “out of an abundance of caution for the well-being of our visitors, volunteers and staff.” Of Washington’s larger museums, only the International Spy Museum and the Museum of the Bible planned to reopen in January.
John Wall gets the best of the Wizards in their first game on opposite sides
John Wall’s vengeance came in front of a scattered, reduced-capacity crowd in Houston as he wore a cornflower blue uniform — one of the Rockets’ alternate jerseys — instead of classic red, white or black. But for the former Wizards point guard, it mattered not how Houston’s 107-88 win over Washington looked. What mattered was that it felt good.
“I just felt like the [Wizards] thought I was done, no matter how much hard work I put in over the summer; they came and watched me,” Wall said on the court after the game, in contrast to General Manager Tommy Sheppard’s and Coach Scott Brooks’s preseason statements about how fit Wall looked. “I thought they thought I was done. That’s why I came out here and did what I did.”
The Wizards’ first meeting with their former star was the story line that shrouded all else Tuesday night in Washington’s second game after resuming its season following a coronavirus pause. There were few positive takeaways for the Wizards (3-10), who are still discombobulated and have just 11 players available. Point guard Russell Westbrook, for whom Wall was traded in December, had his highest-scoring game since Jan. 6 with 19 points on 7-for-17 shooting, but he is still slowed by a left quadriceps injury.
More mopeds may be coming to the District this spring
More mopeds may be coming to the streets of the nation’s capital this spring.
Lime, one of the first operators of electric ride-sharing scooters in the United States, is adding mopeds to its fleet and says it has selected D.C. and Paris to test them.
The San Francisco-based company said it will be seeking a city permit to deploy as many as 600 motor-driven cycles in D.C. starting March 1, increasing options for riders using its growing platform of e-scooters and e-bikes.
“Mopeds are the natural next step for us as the company grows,” said Sean Arroyo, who is leading the moped launch at Lime. “This allows riders to choose the mode that works for them … and it gives the city access to more transportation options.”
Metro safety culture still needs work, board says
Metro’s safety culture came under scrutiny Tuesday as investigators disclosed that track workers were left vulnerable to train traffic or electric shock and other employees feared reprisal for raising concerns about safety.
The Washington Metrorail Safety Commission, an independent panel that Congress created three years ago to monitor safety at the transit agency, issued findings at its meeting from three investigations conducted last fall. The probes emphasized Metro’s need to create, update and reinforce safety standards — something the agency has pledged after the release of a September audit that described 21 safety failures or concerns within its Rail Operations Control Center (ROCC).
The commission’s audit listed several safety concerns that have gone unresolved for years, but it also noted cultural issues that investigators say created an atmosphere of racial and sexual harassment, willful ignorance of safety protocols, and low morale that has contributed to an understaffed control center.
Metro has restructured supervision of its ROCC and hired a new director for the center to combat problems. Safety Commission Chief Operating Officer Sharmila Samarasinghe said Tuesday the commission has approved 20 of 21 corrective action plans that Metro was required to submit after the audit.
But she said implementing many of the fixes could take years.
Perspective: A Black doctor made a mother’s #BlackMaternalHealth better
In a cellphone video taken by her husband, Folasada Butler lies in a hospital bed after giving birth to twins. The doctor who delivered them, Lynne Lightfoote, holds a newborn in each arm. Butler and Lightfoote are wearing protective masks, but you can hear their muffled expressions of awe.
“Oh my God,” they say, again and again.
That’s how childbirth is supposed to be. A blessed event.
For too many women, though, it’s a death sentence. Maternal and infant mortality rates in the United States are the highest among developed nations. And the racial disparities are stunning, with Black women three times as likely to die of pregnancy-related causes than White women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“As I prayed for myself during my pregnancy, I prayed for Dr. Lightfoote and her team,” Butler wrote on Instagram after the Sept. 29 birth. “In this time where #BlackMaternalHealth is experiencing major losses and tragedies, my level of gratitude for Dr. Lightfoote is at an all time high!”
Some Northern Va. police agree to investigate each other’s officer shootings
Eleven Northern Virginia police departments said Tuesday they have launched a Critical Incident Response Team to handle investigations of police shootings, in-custody deaths and officer suicides in one another’s departments, allowing a group of detectives unrelated to the involved department to take an independent look at each case.
But three of the largest law enforcement departments in Northern Virginia — the Fairfax County police, Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office and Alexandria police — have not joined the response team. Fairfax said it has confidence in its detectives’ ability to be fair and transparent. Loudoun and Alexandria said they work with the Virginia State Police when a deputy or officer is involved in a serious use-of-force incident.
When a police officer shoots someone, resulting in injury or death, that officer’s own department typically handles both the criminal investigation, to see whether the officer should be arrested, and the internal investigation, to see whether the officer broke any department rules. But many experts and activists feel that a police department investigating its own officer is potentially unfair: The investigator may know the officer involved and be biased for or against the officer, or may want to keep the department’s reputation clean.
Acting Capitol Police chief apologizes for ‘failings’ in Jan. 6 breach
The new acting chief of the U.S. Capitol Police offered House lawmakers a wide-ranging apology Tuesday for the “failings” that allowed rioters to storm the Capitol on Jan. 6, saying the department should have been better prepared for the attack and did not do enough to protect those inside.
Acting chief Yogananda D. Pittman cited a lack of manpower, an insufficient supply of “less-lethal” weapons, confused and garbled communications, and a possible failure in lockdown procedures for leaving the Capitol and its occupants exposed to the marauding crowds that swarmed into the building.
“We fully expect to answer to you and the American people for our failings on January 6th,” she told lawmakers in a closed-door meeting of the House Appropriations Committee, according to a prepared statement of her remarks obtained by The Washington Post.
But she also warned lawmakers that to prevent a similar incursion in the future, lawmakers will have to sacrifice public access to the building to bolster security measures.
“In my experience, I do not believe there was any preparations that would have allowed for an open campus in which lawful protesters could exercise their First Amendment right to free speech and at the same time prevented the attack on Capital grounds that day,” Pittman said.
Former Carlyle executive Glenn Youngkin joins race for Virginia governor
RICHMOND — Glenn Youngkin, a Great Falls business executive and political newcomer, will formally enter this year’s race for Virginia governor on Wednesday, bringing the number of Republican contenders to five.
Youngkin, 54, who retired in September as co-chief executive of the Washington private equity giant Carlyle Group, has never held elective office. He touts his outsider status as a selling point in a campaign video.
“I’m not a politician,” he says in the video. “I’ve spent the last 30 years building business and creating jobs … It’s going to take an outsider, a new kind of leader, to bring a new day to Virginia.”
Younkin, who is worth an estimated $254 million, has the personal wealth to self-finance his campaign. In the video, he plays up his modest roots, recalling his move as a boy from the Richmond area to Virginia Beach after his father lost his job. As a teen, Youngkin said, he helped support the family by washing dishes at a diner. A basketball scholarship was his ticket to college. After Rice University, he attended Harvard Business School.
As a newcomer, Youngkin has no voting record to defend, which some Republicans promote as a fresh start for a party that has not won a statewide Virginia race since 2009. Youngkin describes himself as a conservative in the video and refers to his faith but does not touch on policy.
Many of D.C. area’s nursing home workers say no to coronavirus vaccine
A large percentage of nursing home workers in D.C., Maryland and Virginia have declined to take the coronavirus vaccine, officials say, presenting a major challenge in the region’s plans to protect its most vulnerable residents.
Nursing home workers were first offered the vaccine in late December and early January, along with residents of long-term care facilities and other health-care workers. Their wariness, providers and union representatives say, is fueled by online misinformation about the vaccine and historical mistrust of the medical system of which they are a part.
In an internal document obtained by The Washington Post, Maryland health officials said that as of Tuesday, only about 58 percent of the doses allocated to nursing home staff and residents had been administered — even though vaccination clinics have been conducted at every facility. Tredonna Kum, an administrative organizer for 1199 SEIU, which represents nursing home workers in Maryland and D.C., estimated that up to 80 percent of members chose not to be vaccinated during the first wave of clinics.
“One of the surprises in the first three weeks was that in health care and in the nursing homes, there was about a 35 to 50 percent uptake. … We had expected closer to 80 or 90 percent uptake,” Maryland’s acting health secretary, Dennis R. Schrader, told state lawmakers this week.
Baby panda to make debut — online — at National Zoo
The National Zoo’s giant panda cub will make its debut Wednesday from the zoo. But unlike in normal times, the cute baby panda will do it online due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The zoo is closed because of the pandemic and has not said when it will reopen.
Officials at the zoo said Xiao Qi Ji can be seen on the facility’s live stream at 1 p.m. Viewers will also get a “virtual tour of the panda house,” and experts will answer some questions about the panda.
The viewing is free and does not require registration.
The live-stream viewing is expected to last only about five minutes, and the behind-the-scenes look at the panda house will last roughly 10 minutes. Officials said recordings of the event will be available on the zoo’s social media channels.
More vaccine access promised in Maryland
Maryland announced plans Tuesday for six new mass vaccination centers staffed by the National Guard on a day marked by the most coronavirus-related deaths reported in the region since the start of the pandemic.
Virginia, Maryland and D.C. reported 165 fatalities, breaking a record set two weeks earlier. Each jurisdiction had a death toll Tuesday that was well above its rolling seven-day average — a number that also reached a new high in the region Tuesday of 103 deaths. Virginia’s 93 new deaths set a daily record when excluding state reporting anomalies.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R), acknowledging that residents have struggled to find open appointment slots to get vaccinated, said the state will open its first mass vaccination sites next week and will distribute vaccine doses to more pharmacies, including some Safeway and Rite Aid stores.
As of Tuesday, the number of Maryland residents eligible for vaccination was roughly three times as large as the number of doses available. The governor also announced he would again broaden the pool of eligible residents starting Monday to include severely immunocompromised people, such as those undergoing chemotherapy.
Fairfax County adopts policy barring cooperation with federal immigration agents
Fairfax County on Tuesday formally adopted a long-standing practice of prohibiting county employees from cooperating with federal immigration agents — a step aimed at addressing reports that some undocumented immigrants in the county have avoided seeking help during the coronavirus pandemic, out of fear of being deported.
The “Trust Policy,” approved by the county’s Board of Supervisors on a 9-to-1 vote, prohibits county employees from sharing or seeking information about the immigration status of a county resident unless that action is mandated by a state or federal law, a court order or a judicial warrant.
“We need to be very clear about what our expectations are,” said board Chairman Jeff C. McKay (D-At Large), who co-sponsored the policy with Supervisors Dalia A. Palchik (D-Providence) and John W. Foust (D-Dranesville). “Immigration enforcement is done by others.”