The region also saw jobless claims grow as the federal government reported 6.6 million Americans applied for unemployment benefits in the week ended April 4.
The number of claims filed in the District, Maryland and Virginia reached 272,559 during that time. Nonessential businesses have been closed in all three jurisdictions for three weeks as leaders scrambled to contain the spread of the virus.
The three jurisdictions now have a combined 11,766 confirmed coronavirus cases and 280 deaths.
Experts say official tallies do not reflect an accurate snapshot of the virus’s toll on communities. People infected today may not show symptoms for days and may take weeks to receive positive test results. Many will not be tested at all as health authorities and doctors prioritize tests for high-risk groups and first responders.
Authorities are monitoring the death counts to see whether the region will turn into a hot spot like New York City or succeed in slowing the spread of the disease.
Virginia reported 34 fatalities Thursday morning — more than the previous six days combined. Officials said the single-day jump is partially because of delays in adding deaths at a Richmond-
area long-term care facility to the state tally.
Officials Thursday reported the deaths of six more residents at the Canterbury Rehabilitation & Healthcare Center, the site of one of the worst outbreaks in the country with 39 dead. Those victims make up a large share of Virginia’s 109 fatalities.
The District reported five new deaths and Maryland reported 14 new fatalities. Neither marked a significant increase.
In a court filing Thursday, District health officials announced the covid-19-related death of a 69-year-old patient at St. Elizabeths public psychiatric hospital. It is the first known death of a person at a city facility for the vulnerable.
Kenneth Ellison, who was admitted to the hospital in 1975, after being found not guilty by reason of insanity on rape and burglary charges, was found dead Thursday morning, according to a letter signed by a clinical administrator at the hospital.
Ellison had been admitted to George Washington University Hospital on April 2 and tested positive for the coronavirus, the letter said. He was discharged to St. Elizabeths on April 3.
As of Wednesday, 29 St. Elizabeths employees had tested positive and 73 were under quarantine, while 14 patients had tested positive and 142 were in isolation, according to city statistics.
District officials also reported 22 residents of homeless shelters had tested positive for the coronavirus as of Wednesday. City officials said they were using three hotels as remote quarantine sites for nearly 150 people who lived at shelters.
On Thursday, Maryland for the first time also released racial demographics of its covid-19 cases and fatalities, confirming that black residents are disproportionately affected in all three jurisdictions.
Maryland is about 30 percent black, but African Americans made up half of the deaths and cases where race is known. That includes 55 of 103 fatalities where officials have demographic information.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) said the “data shows troubling disparities and points to a persistent public health challenge that we must address.”
He did not directly answer a question during a virtual town hall on WJLA about how he would use the data to help African Americans.
States and localities across the country have seen similar racial disparities. Experts say it is a reflection of how generations of discrimination and income inequality have left African Americans more likely to have chronic medical conditions that make them more vulnerable to covid-19 and less likely to have access to health care.
Prince George’s County Executive Angela D. Alsobrooks (D) said she was not surprised to learn that the coronavirus was disproportionately affecting African Americans, saying that health disparities are a reality that residents in the majority-black county experience every day.
“When we heard that the aggravating factors for the coronavirus included those with diabetes and high blood pressure and lung disease and kidney disease, I can tell you that our first reaction was, ‘Oh, my God, that is us,’ ” Alsobrooks said at a Thursday news conference.
Prince George’s leads Maryland in reported cases and fatalities, with the state Health Department reporting 1,476 cases and 35 deaths in the county as of Thursday morning.
In the cases where the race of the victim is known, 13 have been black and five white.
Rep. Anthony G. Brown (D-Md.), whose district includes parts of Prince George’s, said the data shows the need to steer more resources into black communities.
“Marginalized and vulnerable populations need more testing, and doctors in these communities need more resources,” Brown said in a statement. “We need to act now to ensure these disparities don’t become worse during this public health crisis, and work to close these gaps moving forward.”
In the District, all five of the new victims disclosed Thursday are black. In a city that is less than 50 percent black, more than 60 percent of the 33 fatalities are African American.
D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) said the disparities exposed by the pandemic show the urgent need to address inequality embedded in all aspects of American society.
“This is a question not just for the coronavirus, but this is a question that has plagued African Americans for decades if not centuries,” Bowser said at a Thursday morning news conference.
“I think the larger question and the most important question is how do we look at the spotlight that this virus has put on these poor conditions and change our systems — our health-care systems, our food access systems, our housing systems, our education systems — to change the trajectory of African American health in our country,” Bowser said.
In Virginia, officials know the race of only about half of coronavirus cases and fatalities. In a state where about one-fifth of residents are black, African Americans make up 31 percent of coronavirus infections for which demographic data is available. Officials have not seen a similar disparity in deaths.
Fairfax County, Virginia’s largest jurisdiction with more than 1 million residents, has not reported covid-19 data by race.
Fairfax reported 120 new infections Thursday, the highest single-day increase — which officials attributed to increased testing capacity. Virginia also disclosed the deaths of seven Fairfax residents, mostly elderly.
Officials in the District, Maryland and Virginia said they are taking steps to gather more complete demographic data, including by requiring commercial labs and doctors to collect the information.
Some have invoked racial equity in calls to free inmates from incarceration.
Maryland Del. Jazz Lewis (D-Prince George’s) said the coronavirus racial data provides further evidence for Hogan to release inmates from the state’s correctional facilities, where the inmate population is 70 percent black and at least 57 have tested positive for the virus.
“We cannot afford to overlook how densely populated our prisons are and how overwhelmingly black they are, to put it bluntly,” Lewis said.
The ACLU of Virginia and more than 40 other groups called Thursday for the swift release of any nonviolent inmates in the state’s prisons and jails and greater transparency from officials as the coronavirus spreads among incarcerated populations.
To date, 42 inmates and staff have tested positive for the coronavirus at Virginia state correctional facilities, according to the state Department of Corrections. Five inmates have been hospitalized.
Racial disparities are also apparent in unemployment claims.
A breakdown of census data and claims filed by county shows that at least 7 percent of Maryland’s African American and 5 percent of its white workforce have filed for unemployment insurance.
In the Washington suburbs, at least 5 percent of the workforces in Prince George’s and Montgomery filed for unemployment. Additional data obtained and analyzed by The Washington Post also shows that while African Americans make up about 26 percent of the state’s workforce, they made up 32 percent of unemployment claims.
In Montgomery, black residents make up at least 16 percent of the workforce and a quarter of unemployment claims.
In the District, city officials also announced new relief measures for residents.
Events DC, the city’s tourism arm, announced it would provide $5 million in assistance to undocumented immigrants who do not qualify for unemployment insurance or stimulus checks.
The mayor also said the District would launch a hotline to deliver essential items, including groceries, at no-cost to those under self-quarantine or unable to leave their homes.
Bowser said the city would also start distributing groceries at meal distribution sites for D.C. Public Schools. The city will have a rotating schedule across 10 sites, with groceries available on a first-come, first-served basis.
Bowser said the distribution is “geared toward vulnerable families in areas of our city where it’s more difficult to access groceries.”
The mayor's announcements came the same day her order took effect placing restrictions on grocery stores and open-air food markets to limit close contact between customers. Bowser said residents should cover their faces while shopping for food, and businesses should enforce the rule.
Montgomery health officials said Thursday evening that the county will require shoppers to wear face coverings in grocery stores, pharmacies and other retail establishments starting Monday.
State officials in Maryland and Virginia had not announced major new containment or relief efforts as of Thursday evening.
Gregory S. Schneider, Erin Cox, Rebecca Tan, Rachel Chason, Justin Moyer, Laura Vozzella and Dana Hedgpeth contributed to this report.