Scientists have tested people’s blood to see whether they may have antibodies that provide immunity to the novel coronavirus, but there is uncertainty as to how long that immunity lasts or whether people may just experience less severe symptoms.
A July study that included Virginia adults found that about 2.4 percent of residents in the state have coronavirus antibodies. That number jumped to 4.2 percent of residents in Northern Virginia.
Gov. Ralph Northam (D), a pediatric neurologist, said in a statement that children are “impacted by the disease in a different way than adults.” He added that the study will provide insight into how the virus spreads among different ages and demographic groups.
Northern Virginia was selected because of its number of pediatric covid-19 cases and because of the region’s socioeconomic and racial diversity, officials said. The data will also be used to determine how many children have been infected with the virus who might have had mild or asymptomatic infections.
“It’s important to recognize that more than 95 percent of Virginians have not yet been exposed to the covid-19 virus and remain at risk of infection,” Virginia Health Commissioner M. Norman Oliver said in a statement.
In Maryland, officials said Thursday that an earlier battle between the state and its largest jurisdiction over the reopening of private schools has produced few answers.
Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich (D) said the county is waiting for state officials to provide guidance for how private schools should safely reopen. Last week, County Health Officer Travis Gayles rescinded orders calling for online-only teaching at the county’s private schools, saying the state’s efforts to thwart an in-person ban gave him no option, despite his concerns about the pandemic.
The county has received reopening plans from some private schools, but there is no requirement for them to have their reopening plans vetted by the county, said Earl Stoddard, Montgomery’s emergency management director.
“Not all of them are coming to us,” he said. “We don’t know if there are schools operating. We just don’t know.”
The county also announced that it closed two coronavirus testing sites, citing complications with the processing of tests by Rockville-based lab AdvaGenix.
The sites at the Silver Spring Civic Building and White Oak Community Recreation Center, which collectively process about 1,100 tests each week, were closed out of “an abundance of caution,” Gayles said at a news conference. He said the county is still determining the problems AdvaGenix was experiencing in the processing of test samples.
According to the county, more than 19,000 AdvaGenix tests have been used over the past two months, which is about 8 percent of all coronavirus tests given to Montgomery residents. The county’s contract with AdvaGenix provided for self-administered tests primarily for those who were asymptomatic.
The company didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday afternoon.
In the District, masks used to protect against coronavirus transmission are at the center of a lawsuit filed recently under the city’s Whistleblower Protection Act.
A former high-ranking D.C. Housing Authority employee is suing the agency, saying she was illegally fired after discovering that it bought Chinese-made KN95 masks that were not approved by the Food and Drug Administration through a friend of the agency’s executive director.
According to the July 29 complaint filed in D.C. Superior Court, Chelsea J. Andrews started work at the Housing Authority in 2012, most recently serving as its senior executive vice president and general counsel.
Her complaint alleges that she was fired weeks after learning that the agency “sole sourced KN95 masks without following proper procurement rules,” and that the masks were purchased through a referral from agency Executive Director Tyrone Garrett’s college roommate.
When another employee provided FDA authentication certificates for the masks, Andrews continued to question them, according to the complaint. “The manufacturer of the masks was not on the list of approved vendors, and . . . the FDA did not issue registration certificates to medical device establishments,” the complaint says.
After further disagreements about the masks, Andrews was fired May 21 “without cause,” the complaint says. The suit alleges violations of D.C.’s Whistleblower Protection Act and seeks back pay, compensatory damages and Andrews’s reinstatement, among other relief.
Garrett’s attorney declined to comment. In a statement, Jose C. Sousa, a spokesman for the Housing Authority, said the agency “denies the allegations made in the lawsuit.”
“Contrary to the assertions in the Andrews complaint, its actions were appropriate and complied with all policies and procedures at the time of the alleged incident,” the statement said. “The DC Housing Authority has made, and will continue to make, the health and safety of our residents and employees a priority during this pandemic.”
Questions about the effectiveness of some masks have proliferated as the coronavirus pandemic stretches into its sixth month in the Washington region.
D.C., Maryland and Virginia reported 1,942 new infections Thursday, bringing the total number of cases since the start of the pandemic to 214,806. It’s the highest daily total in the greater Washington region since Saturday.
The three jurisdictions also added 20 fatalities.
D.C. added 65 cases and one death, Maryland added 776 cases and eight deaths, while Virginia added 1,101 cases and 11 deaths. Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) touted the state’s record-low seven-day average test-positivity rate, which dropped to 3.49 percent. In Baltimore, it dropped to a record low of 4.32 percent.
The greater Washington region continued to see jobless claims rise because of the pandemic, although the increase was slower than in recent weeks.
The U.S. Labor Department announced Thursday that 24,024 unemployment claims were filed in D.C., Maryland and Virginia for the week ended Aug. 8, down from 37,003 one week earlier. More than 1.5 million people in the region have filed for unemployment benefits since the start of the pandemic.
Nationally, about 960,000 workers filed jobless claims last week. It was the first time the number has dropped below 1 million since mid-March.
Antonio Olivo contributed to this report.