But new hospitalizations are going down in Virginia, a key metric in deciding whether the northern part of the state can begin lifting restrictions on nonessential businesses next week.
Gov. Ralph Northam, who began a Phase 1 reopening in less densely populated areas of Virginia last week, has allowed Northern Virginia, Richmond and Accomack County on the Eastern Shore to hold off on lifting restrictions on nonessential businesses until at least Thursday, saying residents in those areas should not travel outside the region during the Memorial Day weekend.
“Unless it’s essential … we don’t expect people to be traveling,” Northam (D) said Friday.
Virginia officials have been ramping up testing in the state, while monitoring new hospitalizations and rates of covid-19 infections for signs that the spread of the virus is beginning to slow in harder-hit areas such as Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William counties.
The demand for testing in the region was apparent Saturday at Annandale High School, where Fairfax officials offered free testing to residents, including those without symptoms or a doctor’s referral. By 1:30 p.m., all 1,500 available tests had been claimed, prompting county officials to announce nearly five hours early that they would stop taking in more residents.
Saturday’s numbers for new hospital admissions offered some hope for Virginia.
The state’s rate of daily hospital admissions has dropped for three consecutive days, from 114 on Thursday to 36 on Saturday. The rate of positive test results has also dropped in the state, to 14.7 percent as of May 18, state figures show.
Meanwhile, the region’s covid-19 death count continued to climb. Northern Virginia accounted for more than half of the state’s 23 additional fatalities — with Fairfax adding five, Prince William and Arlington counties each adding four and Loudoun County adding one.
In Maryland, 17 of the 36 additional covid-19 deaths reported occurred in Prince George’s and Montgomery counties. Montgomery officials recently announced they may begin lifting some shutdown restrictions in the coming week.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) recently expanded testing to include people who have not shown symptoms, following complaints from local officials who’ve said a lack of testing has made it more difficult to join the rest of the state in gradually lifting shutdown restrictions.
That extra testing may account for some of the state’s 1,071 additional cases Saturday.
In the District, Metro shut down Orange and Silver line stations west of Ballston-MU on Saturday for repairs that will last through the summer. Officials said the project, which will stop all Silver Line service, will end sometime later in the summer. Free shuttle and bus service will be available at the affected stations.
The District recorded nine additional fatalities, four of whom were patients older than 70.
Given that the city has the highest covid-19 death rates in the region, Mayor Muriel E. Bowser recently extended the city’s shutdown order to June 8, though educational and academic retail shops, such as bookstores, can now seek waivers to reopen for curbside and front-door pickup sales.
Last week, Bowser (D) received a report from an advisory group for reopening that recommends lifting restrictions in four phases, with the fourth phase triggered when there is a vaccine or a cure for covid-19.
District officials have said the group’s recommendations would influence how the city reopens, but that Bowser is not required to adopt them.
Saturday’s warm weather nonetheless brought out local residents to local waterfront neighborhoods, bike trails and parks. Local frustrations with sheltering in place were underscored by an announcement from the Washington Nationals baseball team, informing fans that the players had elected not to receive their World Series rings until they could all be together. A virtual ceremony where the ring design will be unveiled will be held at 7 p.m. .
“When team leaders discussed the plan this week with the players, the players collectively decided they would prefer to receive their rings when the team could be physically reunited,” the team said in a news release.