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Coronavirus caseload falls again in D.C. region as Maryland marks testing milestone

A medical worker tests people for the coronavirus at Annandale High School in Virginia earlier this summer. (Jacquelyn Martin/AP)

The daily coronavirus caseload in the greater Washington region tumbled again Thursday, hovering at a multiweek low, while Maryland officials celebrated a milestone in the state’s declining test positivity rate.

The seven-day average number of new infections in D.C., Maryland and Virginia fell to 1,531, a number last recorded in mid-July. That is down from 2,083 average daily cases earlier this month, as officials were announcing new restrictions to avoid the kind of caseload spikes being recorded elsewhere in the country.

Maryland reported Thursday that each of its 24 jurisdictions notched a seven-day test positivity rate below 5 percent for the first time — a breakthrough reached after Prince George’s County dropped to 4.93 percent.

Coronavirus caseload across Washington region drops to lowest level in a month

The county’s average number of new cases has also tumbled in recent days, falling to 108 on Thursday. Prince George’s has been Maryland’s hardest-hit jurisdiction during the pandemic, but it is recording its lowest number of average daily cases in more than a month.

“While we are encouraged by this important milestone, this crisis is far from over,” Gov. Larry Hogan (R) said in a tweet. “It is absolutely critical that we continue taking strong precautions to slow the spread of #COVID19.”

The pandemic was to blame for the cancellation of two Annapolis events that organizers say bring more than $100 million combined each year to businesses in Maryland’s capital.

Annapolis officials announced Thursday that two annual boat shows planned for October — events that typically attract tens of thousands of visitors and bring nearly $500,000 to city coffers — won’t happen this year.

City leaders and event organizers were in discussions for months with Anne Arundel County health officials regarding how the city could safely host the United States Powerboat Show and the United States Sailboat Show amid the pandemic. In the end, city officials said it wasn’t possible to assure the public’s health during such large events.

“This was a hard call,” Mayor Gavin Buckley (D) said in a statement. “No one wanted to have boat shows in Annapolis more than I did.”

One company’s response to the lifting of restrictions this summer prompted D.C. to file a lawsuit Thursday.

The D.C. attorney general’s office announced it sued the parent company of Washington Sports Club, alleging that the business failed to freeze gym memberships and credit customers for dues paid while facilities were closed at the start of the pandemic.

The complaint says that when gyms were closed in April, Town Sports International, which owns Washington Sports Club, agreed to freeze memberships until facilities reopened. Those concessions came after D.C. Attorney General Karl A. Racine (D) wrote a letter to the company — also signed by attorneys general in New York and Pennsylvania — alleging that it was taking advantage of consumers during the pandemic.

After gyms in D.C. reopened June 22, according to the complaint, the company failed to credit customers for dues paid during the shutdown, charging full memberships for July and August after failing to process cancellation requests.

The lawsuit, which says the company is “continuing to engage in deceptive and unlawful trade practices,” seeks restitution and unspecified damages.

Town Sports International officials did not respond to a request for comment.

Racine said in an interview that the lawsuit was triggered by “dozens and dozens” of complaints, calling Town Sports International a “repeat offender.” His office entered into a settlement agreement with the company in 2016 after allegations that it violated the D.C. Consumer Protection Procedures Act by misrepresenting cancellation policies, then sued last year after it allegedly violated the terms of that settlement.

“The company is making misrepresentations to consumers and requiring them to make complaints, which means we must sue to vindicate the rights of consumers,” Racine said. “We’re happy to do that.”

The pandemic’s economic toll continued to be felt among the region’s unemployed.

The number of people in the Washington area who filed for jobless benefits rose for the week ending Aug. 15, according to figures released Thursday by the Labor Department. There were 27,067 claims filed in Maryland, Virginia and D.C., up from 23,954 a week earlier.

More than 1.5 million people in the region have filed for unemployment claims since the pandemic hit earlier this year.

Coronavirus cases and metrics in D.C., Maryland and Virginia

D.C., Maryland and Virginia added 1,498 new cases and 26 deaths Thursday. D.C. had 55 new cases and one new death, Maryland reported 580 cases and eight deaths, and Virginia reported 863 cases and 17 deaths.

The latest numbers bring the region’s caseload since the start of the pandemic to 225,520 infections, while the death toll stands at 6,697.

Coronavirus news in D.C., Virginia and Maryland

The latest: More than two years into the pandemic, covid cases in the D.C. region are rising again, , while liberal Montgomery County asks who deserves credit for its robust covid response. Meanwhile, Black funeral directors still face a daunting amount of deaths from covid and the omicron wave has had an unequal toll in the DMV.

At-home tests: Here’s how to use at-home covid tests, where to find them and how they differ from PCR tests.

Mapping the spread: Tens of thousands have died in the local region and nationwide cases number in the hundreds of thousands.

Omicron: Remaining covid restrictions in the D.C.-area, plus a breakdown of variant symptoms and mask recommendations.

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