Virginia Department of Health spokeswoman Tammie Smith said the state’s count was partially due to an increase in data entry Monday after offices were closed for the holidays. Virginia’s single-day high of 96 fatalities on Sept. 15 also was the result of a reporting backlog.
The seven-day average number of new fatalities in the region stood at 76 on Tuesday. That’s down slightly from a week ago, but about four times higher than in early November.
As caseloads hover at an elevated level, efforts continued across the region Tuesday to distribute vaccines to members of priority groups.
Montgomery County received 4,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine from the state of Maryland that it will administer to health-care workers and first responders this week, officials said. The county is opening a vaccine clinic Wednesday at the White Oak Recreation Center, where officials hope to vaccinate 1,000 health-care workers, Health Officer Travis Gayles said.
He said there is no established date for when the county will begin vaccinating those in the second phase of the highest-priority groups, but Gayles urged residents to be patient.
“We’re moving as quickly as possible,” he said, adding that Montgomery expects to receive several thousand more doses from the state next week.
New daily infections in Montgomery have decreased slightly over the past two weeks, with the seven-day average dropping from a high of 472 in mid-December to fewer than 400 on Tuesday. But officials warned against complacency.
“It’s lower than it’s been, but not low,” said County Executive Marc Elrich (D). The county’s test positivity rate, he noted, is above 7 percent, nearly double what it was over the summer.
Gayles said recent air travel in the region and nationwide has been concerning. The “unknown factor,” he said, is how people are behaving during and after they travel. If they adhered strictly to mask-wearing and physical distancing, for example, they might not contribute to community transmission in January.
Maryland, Virginia and D.C. reported 6,193 new infections Tuesday. The seven-day average number of new cases has dipped slightly in recent days, but experts say caseloads could rise again after holiday social gatherings and travel.
Montgomery County’s head of emergency management, Earl Stoddard, added that officials hope recent restrictions on indoor dining and gathering sizes will blunt any potential surge.
In Anne Arundel County, testimony continued Tuesday in a lawsuit brought by four restaurant owners hoping to roll back the county’s ban on indoor dining.
Circuit Court Judge William Mulford II said he expected to issue a ruling Wednesday, a schedule that would allow restaurants to continue indoor dining at least another day.
Testimony from restaurant owners and health officials was echoed in similar cases in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties, as well as in Baltimore City, all of which saw their bans on indoor dining challenged in court this month. Judges in those jurisdictions upheld the bans, saying local officials were acting in the interest of public safety.
In D.C., an online reservation system for residents and workers to sign up for vaccinations went live Monday.
As of Tuesday, only health-care workers whose jobs qualify them for early vaccinations can sign up. Reservation slots eventually will open for senior citizens, teachers, grocery store workers and others.
Those who qualify can schedule appointments at a Giant or Safeway pharmacy, or at one of the D.C. nonprofits administering the Moderna vaccine.
Among those who received the vaccine Tuesday was Vice President-elect Kamala D. Harris, who got her first dose of the Moderna vaccine at United Medical Center in Southeast Washington.
“When you’re able to take the vaccine, get it,” Harris tweeted. “This is about saving lives.”
Julie Zauzmer and Teddy Amenabar contributed to this report.