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Montgomery weighs added restrictions as coronavirus infections tick upward

With Montgomery County Health Officer Travis Gayles by his side, Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich (D) discusses the coronavirus pandemic in April. County leaders said Wednesday that additional restrictions could be needed.
With Montgomery County Health Officer Travis Gayles by his side, Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich (D) discusses the coronavirus pandemic in April. County leaders said Wednesday that additional restrictions could be needed. (Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)

Montgomery County officials warned Wednesday that additional pandemic-related restrictions might be needed if a rise in infections continues across Maryland’s most populous jurisdiction.

County leaders said they are monitoring a slight increase in cases that began earlier this month. While caseloads across the county have generally held steady for four months, Montgomery’s seven-day rolling average of new infections in recent days has hit 113 — the highest level since July 31.

If numbers continue to increase, the county could reinstate restrictions that were lifted in recent months. The seven-day average in new cases recently has exceeded 10 new infections per 100,000 residents.

“It’s not a good place to be,” Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich (D) said during a news conference Wednesday.

Contact tracers have found that the virus is spreading at social gatherings, including those among family members, and at religious institutions, officials said.

County Health Officer Travis Gayles urged residents not to “let their guard down” with physical distancing or mask-wearing when gathering with relatives or close friends.

Recent data also shows that an increase in young residents testing positive has plateaued, giving way to a slight uptick in older adults contracting the virus. The trend “gives us pause,” Gayles said, as older adults are susceptible to more serious effects of the virus.

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

Nursing homes, however, have not seen a resurgence of the virus, he said.

“We don’t want to walk anything back,” Gayles said. “[But] if the numbers don’t improve . . . we’ll likely need to have closures.”

While the county has seen a slight rise in infections, the number of new cases across Maryland, Virginia and D.C. has ticked downward for about a week.

The greater Washington region on Wednesday recorded 1,563 new coronavirus cases and 38 additional deaths. Virginia added 1,018 new cases and 30 deaths, Maryland added 492 cases and eight deaths, and D.C. added 53 cases and no deaths.

The rolling seven-day average of new infections across the region stood at 1,692 cases on Wednesday. That’s down from a recent peak of 1,801 average daily cases on Oct. 14.

The number of new reported fatalities across the region tied Tuesday’s death toll — the most in a single day since Sept. 22 — led by statewide increases in Virginia. Virginia Health Department officials this week said the increase isn’t evidence of a surge in new deaths, but rather the result of waiting for death certificates to be prepared and for the data to be entered into a state database.

As the pandemic rages on, museums in the nation’s capital continue to slowly reopen for the first time in months. The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum announced Wednesday that it will reopen to the public Monday.

The museum closed March 13 because of the pandemic but will open with limited visitation, face masks, temperature checks and social distancing. Admission will be free, with timed tickets. Visitors can reserve tickets online at ushmm.org/visit.

Dana Hedgpeth and Michael E. Ruane contributed to this report.

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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