“Pam and I were deeply saddened to learn that a Virginian has died from COVID-19, and we grieve for everyone this virus has touched around the world,” Gov. Ralph Northam (D) said in a statement. “This is a public health crisis—we must all treat it as such. Again, I urge Virginians: take this seriously.”
The death was the first known fatality in the District, Maryland or Virginia from the virus. It came as the number of cases in the region grew by more than two dozen to at least 85 on Saturday.
Maryland announced nine new cases since Friday night, bringing the state’s total number of known infections to 27.
That overall tally includes a health-care provider at Johns Hopkins Hospital, the hospital announced Saturday.
The case is the first confirmed infection of a health-care provider in Maryland, Virginia or the District.
Kim Hoppe, senior director of public relations at Johns Hopkins Medicine, declined to say how and when that person may have contracted the virus or how many people at the hospital came in contact with the individual. She did say that all patients, clinicians and staff who may have been in contact with the provider have been identified and have been instructed to self-quarantine.
Virginia announced 11 new cases Saturday, bringing its total to 41.
Four of those new cases were in Fairfax County, which has now reported 10 people who have tested positive. Arlington County added two more cases, for a total of seven. Loudoun County reported two more cases, bringing its total to five. James City County has one more case, for a total of eight.
The Fairfax County cases include a teacher at Lynbrook Elementary School in Springfield. The county said it is working to identify and contact anyone at risk of exposure.
Another new case was an 80-year-old man in Virginia Beach who recently returned from a trip to a heavily affected country. He tested positive on Saturday after developing symptoms, officials said.
An overseas trip also led to the first case in Chesterfield County, where a male resident in his 60s tested positive Friday night.
The District announced Saturday evening that six additional people had tested positive for the coronavirus, bringing its number of cases to 17.
The new cases include a 28-year-old man and 45-year-old man who had contact with a previously confirmed patient; a 41-year-old man who traveled internationally; a 67-year-old man who went on a Nile River cruise linked to multiple cases in the region; and a 42-year-old man who attended the same Episcopal conference in Kentucky linked to the city’s first case — the rector of Christ Church Georgetown. It is not known how the sixth person, a 55-year-old woman, contracted the virus.
The virus made its first known appearance in the region on March 5, with three travel-related cases in Montgomery County. Those first patients have since recovered and passed their quarantine phase.
The following week, the number of reported cases in the area doubled every 48 hours, spreading to nearly two dozen jurisdictions in and around the nation’s capital.
The Washington Post count differs slightly from the official counts in the District, Maryland and Virginia. In Maryland, for example, The Post’s count includes a Montana resident who is visiting, while the official count does not.
The uptick came as state and county officials warned that the climbing number of cases would lead to less information on individual infections.
In a conference call Friday, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) told county executives that his office would focus on hospital preparedness as the number of cases rises, according to Chris Trumbauer, a spokesman for the Office of the County Executive in Anne Arundel.
“Not just in Maryland but around the nation, you’re probably going to stop seeing updated case counts every day,” said Mary Anderson, a spokeswoman for Montgomery County’s Department of Health and Human Services. “It’s going to become impossible in some ways to keep that up to date.”
Around the region, officials also stressed efforts intended to limit the spread of the virus while warning that the number of confirmed cases was probably a fraction of the true count.
The D.C. Council is scheduled Tuesday to take up a host of emergency coronavirus measures to protect residents from evictions and utility shut-offs while the public health emergency is in effect and to offer financial assistance to small businesses losing money.
“We are thinking of every way that we can to help individuals with the financial burden that’s coming from the loss of wages and for businesses,” said Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D). “This has happened so suddenly, and nobody has had time to plan or prepare.”
The latest draft of the bill released Saturday would ease requirements for workers affected by the coronavirus to access benefits. Those who lose hours, their jobs or pay while quarantined because of the coronavirus would be able to receive unemployment benefits without proving that they are applying for other jobs or the usual waiting period. People asked to quarantine would have job protections under the city’s medical leave law, even if they have not hit the one-year or 1,000-work-hours requirement.
In a special session Saturday, the Arlington County Board approved a state of emergency declaration signed Friday by County Manager Mark Schwartz. The unanimous vote allows the county to hire more staff, bring in more resources and more easily access state and federal funds geared toward a response to the coronavirus outbreak.
“This is going to be with us for a while,” board Chair Libby Garvey (D) said, as the other members sat several chairs apart. “Everyone, please be safe and gentle with each other.”
Alexandria officials also declared a state of emergency.
Hogan, who announced Thursday that all Maryland public schools will be closed from March 16 to 27, said Saturday that he was temporarily suspending a host of child-care regulations so that the Maryland State Board of Education can create temporary child-care facilities for school-age children of police, emergency responders and health-care workers.
In Anne Arundel County, officials used the first in what they said would be a weekly series of virtual town halls to detail their emergency plan.
County Executive Steuart Pittman (D), who said the virus would certainly spread in the county, said he felt compelled to respond to social media posts downplaying the crisis.
“There are still people saying well, a lot more people die of cancer, a lot more people die of gun violence or car accidents than have died from covid-19,” he said. “That’s true. But the scientists who we should really be listening to and should trust have seen it coming. They’ve seen it spread in other counties.”
Many of the questions in the town hall were from residents asking when and where they would be able to get a test. But Nilesh Kalyanaraman, Anne Arundel County’s health officer, said testing all residents was not practical.
“We are prioritizing tests for those in the hospital or with severe symptoms,” he said. “That means in this present moment, if you have mild symptoms, we ask you to stay home.”
More important than widespread testing, he said, was widespread “social distancing,” or limiting contact with others. Asked what the county would do if its hospitals became overwhelmed with covid-19 patients, Kalyanaraman said there were “disaster plans” in place, but he did not detail them.
“We’re trying not to get to that point,” he said.
The James City resident died shortly before noon, said Jim Icenhour, chairman of the county’s Board of Supervisors, adding that he did not know the man’s name. The man lived in the Stonehouse portion of the county, which is home to many older residents.
Icenhour said several of the county’s eight cases stem from two residents who returned from an overseas trip with symptoms. Those two individuals, who tested positive earlier this last week, have since relocated to Dallas, where they are being treated, he said.
Icenhour said the eight cases in the sleepy community of 75,000 residents have caused deep concern.
“We’ve shut down everything — the schools, the libraries, the rec center,” he said. “The only things left open are the parks and trails and such.”
Erin Cox and Rachel Weiner contributed to this report.