“We’re not going to do anything that’s going to put anybody in more danger,” Hogan said. “I want to get our economy back open just as soon as we can, but I want to do so in a safe way so . . . we don’t cause more deaths or an overloading of our health-care system.”
The District, Maryland and Virginia reported 53 new covid-19 fatalities Sunday, bringing the region’s death toll to 1,549, according to a Washington Post tally. The overall number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the District, Maryland and Virginia grew by roughly 1,500, to 35,436 cases.
Maryland, which reports both confirmed and probable coronavirus deaths, has the highest toll at 917, after adding 28 Sunday. The state also added 800 new cases, bringing its total number of infected to 18,596.
On Saturday, Maryland reported 76 new deaths, its largest single-day jump. Hogan had said last week that he was optimistic that plateauing hospitalizations and ICU bed use in the state meant he could lift his stay-at-home order as soon as early May. But in TV appearances Sunday, Hogan admitted the recent rising death and caseload counts were concerning. He called the spikes a delayed impact of the coronavirus’s spread, which he said had been slowed by effective social distancing measures.
The governor pointed out that Maryland has largely avoided a dramatic spike like those that overwhelmed hospitals in New York and New Orleans. He noted that Maryland has not seen an overflow of its health-care system, nor has it been unable to meet demand for intensive care unit beds and ventilators.
“We have dramatically flattened and lengthened that curve and lowered those numbers,” Hogan said on CBS News’s “Face the Nation.” But “you can’t stop the virus.”
Hogan did not directly answer a question about whether his May timeline for reopening the state remained feasible. He said his staff was continuing to monitor “certain metrics,” as well as “a pattern of numbers.”
He also reiterated that any reopening would be coordinated with Virginia and D.C. leaders.
Virginia disclosed another 12 deaths Sunday, bringing its fatality count to 453. Five of the new Virginia deaths were linked to Fairfax County, while three came from Arlington. The state also added 604 new cases, raising its total number of infected to 12,995.
The District reported 13 additional deaths — roughly the same number it added Saturday — bringing its number of covid-19 fatalities to 179. And it announced 142 new cases of infection, bringing its total number of patients to 3,845.
Some of the city’s added coronavirus cases came from the Department of Corrections, which houses 1,440 prisoners. Over the past week, the number of inmates in D.C. jails who have tested positive for the virus rose from 97 to 121, with 13 additional cases reported Saturday.
The D.C. government said 68 inmates had recovered from the virus and 792 remained in quarantine. The city said 32 jail employees also were in quarantine, while 37 have tested positive for the virus.
One prisoner and one Department of Corrections employee had died of covid-19 as of Saturday.
The D.C. Public Defender Service and the American Civil Liberties Union’s District-based affiliate are suing for the release of inmates, arguing that prisoners are at high risk of infection from the virus. A federal judge ruled that the D.C. jail system must overhaul its medical care, cleaning and social distancing procedures, but stopped short of demanding the release of inmates.
The weekend also saw the continuation of a coronavirus outbreak at a long-term care facility in Virginia: Sixty-five patients and 19 employees at the Dulles Health & Rehab Center in Herndon were sick with the virus as of Sunday afternoon, according to a spokeswoman. Fourteen residents have died of the virus.
Many of the 65 patients have tested positive for the virus or, based on their symptoms, are presumed to have contracted it. Seven employees have since recovered completely and have returned to work, said Jennifer Eddy, a spokeswoman for Commonwealth Care of Roanoke, which provides consulting services to Dulles Health & Rehab Center.
In a letter posted on the facility’s website last week, Leslie Ruffner, the administrator of the Dulles Health & Rehab Center, said the facility was screening and monitoring patients “very closely” and that staff members are evaluated before and after their shifts for fevers or respiratory symptoms. Any resident who tests positive, she said, is placed in a separate area of the building with dedicated staff to treat them.
The facility is also restricting in-person visitation, along with “window visits.”
Elsewhere in Virginia, a circuit court judge plans to issue a ruling Monday on whether an indoor shooting range shuttered by one of the governor’s pandemic orders can reopen while following social distancing guidelines.
SafeSide Tactical in Lynchburg is seeking a temporary injunction that would allow it to resume operations, arguing that Gov. Ralph Northam (D) exceeded his emergency authority and violated the state constitution by closing it along with other “nonessential” businesses in late March.
The order lasts until May 8.
Lynchburg Circuit Court Judge Frank Patrick Yeatts said he plans to make his ruling public before noon Monday, following a hearing that lasted more than an hour on Friday morning.
The range is one of at least two state businesses challenging the governor’s order in court. The owner of several Gold’s Gyms in the state is arguing in Culpeper County that the order irreparably harmed business.
David G. Browne, an attorney for SafeSide Tactical, said Northam had “crippled” the gun rights of thousands of Virginians by deeming indoor shooting ranges nonessential businesses, like theaters and music venues.
“There is no pandemic exception for the fundamental liberties that the constitution of Virginia safeguards,” Browne said.
Toby J. Heytens, who as the state’s solicitor general represents Northam, said the governor was well within his authority to shutter indoor ranges. He said it was a fallacy to argue that gun rights had been infringed upon since the governor has allowed gun shops and outdoor ranges to remain open. He also pointed out that the order is temporary.
“Their argument is that even during a highly contagious, global pandemic, the governor is powerless to order even a temporary closing of any category of lawful business,” Heytens said. “That argument is deeply flawed.”
SafeSide has been joined in its suit by the Virginia Citizens Defense League, Gun Owners of America, and the Association of Virginia Gun Ranges.
In his appearances Sunday, Hogan, who once considered a primary challenge to President Trump and has been unafraid to publicly criticize the president’s coronavirus response, said Trump’s recent remarks about disinfectant as a possible medical treatment spurred real concern among Marylanders, hundreds of whom flooded an emergency hotline Friday.
“People listen to these press conferences,” Hogan said. “They certainly pay attention when the president of the United States is standing there. . . . I think when misinformation comes out, or you just say something that pops in your head, it does send a wrong message.”
Ahead of Tuesday’s mail-in special election to fill the seat of the late congressman Elijah E. Cummings (D), Hogan said officials are weighing mail-in voting in the November election in addition to the June presidential primary. That decision, he said, would be based in part on how the Tuesday and June elections go.
Hogan said his aim is to ensure that citizens remain safe while exercising their fundamental right to cast ballots, although he is not completely confident in the efficacy of the proposed substitute for in-person voting. “Hopefully, it will work out well,” he said.
Another branch of the state’s efforts to help residents adapt to the pandemic hit a snag Sunday, when Marylanders trying to file for unemployment discovered that the state’s “one-stop” website, BEACON, wasn’t working.
State officials assured visitors to the site that the government was “working hard to quickly resolve” technical issues. Site staffers also posted an announcement that they had saved partial progress made in applications interrupted by the malfunction.
The state’s Labor Department announced via Twitter shortly after noon that the portal had to be taken down so that its vendor could fix the issues. The site was back online Sunday evening, but the department said additional maintenance could be required.
It was not the first BEACON-related snag: When the site first launched on Friday, it was practically overrun, prompting an apology from Hogan.
Ian Shapira contributed to this report.