Bowser (D) said a model on which city officials are relying estimates that about 93,000 people could contract the coronavirus in the city, a cumulative figure over the course of the public health emergency. The projection includes people who have been infected and have recovered.
“This is a tough number to have to report,” Bowser said. “But we think that we’d rather be on the side of underestimating the impacts of social distancing than presenting too rosy a picture.”
She predicted the District would see a peak in hospitalized patients from late June to early July.
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) appeared to be citing a more optimistic scenario this week when he said the state expects a peak of infections between late April and late May. Northam did not release projected numbers of patients or fatalities.
“The point that I would make to Virginians is, if you don’t abide by our guidelines . . . you’re going to get it,” Northam, a physician, said Friday. “I’ve been in this business for over 30 years. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a pathogen . . . that is as contagious as this is.”
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) has not released formal projections, and the state’s deputy public health secretary, Fran Phillips, said Friday that authorities are still studying models to determine when Maryland is likely to hit its peak.
“It is not something that we have clarity [on] at this point,” Phillips said. “We are trying to understand if these models somehow converge and what their meaning is for us here in Maryland.”
Hogan said officials “simply don’t know just how bad things are going to get or exactly how long this is going to last.”
Bowser said estimates predict that hundreds of people will die of the virus in the District, which so far has 761 confirmed cases and 15 fatalities.
“We expect that we could experience a range of loss of life in our city,” Bowser said. “The mild estimate is that 220 people would succumb to the disease. A moderate would be 440, and the severe estimate would be more than 1,000 people.”
City officials said they need more than 2,700 new intensive-care-unit beds for the summer. The District had 116 available as of Friday afternoon. Officials said they are pushing hospitals to make plans to exclusively serve people with severe coronavirus cases while patients with more mild symptoms and other illnesses are treated at alternate facilities.
“This is certainly a global pandemic of proportions that none of us could have predicted, but we will get through this,” Bowser said. “And we will get on the other side of this, and we will get back to life in our beautiful, thriving city.”
She said the city based its projections on a computer model that is more pessimistic than others, with assumptions that social distancing will be less effective than hoped at reducing new infections, in part because some people won’t comply.
The model is different from one used by White House officials, who said this week that the outbreak would peak later this month.
Private consultants, universities and others have offered competing models projecting the trajectory of the coronavirus outbreak. Two, in particular, appear to be shaping government policy.
The University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, or IHME, was cited by the White House and is the source of many graphs and projections that made their way around the Internet this week. That scenario says that the peak will come April 15 — and that the District will have enough hospital beds and ventilators at that time.
The D.C. government instead used the COVID-19 Hospital Impact Model for Epidemics, or CHIME, developed by Penn Medicine.
D.C. officials say they have scoped out 39 facilities including hotels and arenas that could be used to care for patients, cautioning that they would not open large-scale facilities until closer to the medical surge.
The city’s model also shows that D.C. hospitals would need more than 1,000 additional ventilators at the end of June, while the IHME model says the District would not need any more than it has.
The mayor said she has not made a final decision on whether to extend the public health emergency and the associated restrictions that are in place through April 24. But she said that based on current modeling, D.C. Public Schools will not reopen as planned April 27.
Northam announced Friday that he has chosen three convention centers around the state to expand hospital capacity for an expected surge in coronavirus patients. They are the Dulles Expo Center, which can accommodate 315 acute or 510 non-acute beds; the Hampton Roads Convention Center, which could hold 360 acute or 580 non-acute beds; and the Richmond Convention Center, which could house 432 acute or 758 non-acute beds.
The state is stepping back from a plan to use a former ExxonMobil campus in Fairfax County, Northam said, because the Dulles Expo site can be prepared more quickly. He also said officials are still searching for places that could be used for patients in the western and southwestern corners of the state, if necessary.
Working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Northam said, the next step is to complete contracts, design and construction, a process that he said could take six weeks. “These will be to free up capacity in the existing hospital system,” he said. “Our models look at May as the time when the surge is most likely to occur.”
Nearly three dozen caregivers for the elderly in Maryland wrote to Hogan asking him to mandate that coronavirus testing take place inside nursing homes and assisted-living centers and that they be given more masks and other protective gear.
Nursing homes in Montgomery County, Maryland’s most populous, have 10 reported cases of the coronavirus and only a two-week supply of protective equipment, officials said.
Hospitals are also feeling the strain. The county has put out an urgent call for more gloves, masks and surgical gowns for health-care providers. Twice in recent days, ventilators have had to be transported between hospitals or from the county’s emergency management service to a hospital because of a surge of patients with breathing problems, officials said.
In Virginia, staffers at a Richmond-area rehabilitation facility that reported its 17th coronavirus death this week are having to reuse masks and other protective gear because of persistent shortages.
“We’ve had to adapt what we call crisis-time use of PPE,” said Danny Avula, director of the Richmond and Henrico County health districts, referring to personal protective equipment. “It’s an extreme challenge.”
Confirmed cases of the coronavirus continued to grow at a rapid rate Friday, with the death toll reaching 105. The District added 104 new cases, its largest single-day increase so far. Maryland added 427 cases and reported seven new deaths. Hogan said that 43 percent of the 416 people who are hospitalized with the virus in Maryland are in intensive care.
Based on the increases, it is clear that Maryland “is on the beginning of a curve,” Phillips said. “The curve is going up, and we are accelerating the percentage of new cases.”
In Virginia, health officials reported five new deaths — including one at the Canterbury Rehabilitation & Healthcare Center outside Richmond — and 306 new infections for a total caseload of 2,015.
As the region scrambles to expand testing capacity, George Washington University Hospital said it will begin drive-through testing for people with doctor’s orders Monday in Foggy Bottom. The hospital launched a website — www.GWCovid19Testing.com — to help patients and doctors access the testing.
Hogan took another step toward addressing the economic suffering caused by the outbreak, signing an executive order that prohibits mortgage lenders from initiating foreclosures and banning the repossessions of vehicles and mobile homes.
Hogan said 70 banks and financial institutions have agreed to provide a 90-day grace period on mortgages. Homeowners must contact their banks to participate.
All state agencies will also suspend debt collection activities.
With the region’s residents under stay-at-home orders, Metro will cut back its operating hours beginning Monday, ending service on Metrorail at 9 p.m. and on Metrobus at 11 p.m.
This weekend, Metro will run the same schedule it ran last weekend, with Metrorail running from 8 a.m. until 11 p.m. and waits of between 10 and 30 minutes for trains on all lines. Metrobus will runs until 11 p.m., operating just 27 of its most used routes.
Kyle Swenson, Rebecca Tan, Ovetta Wiggins, Justin George and Darran Simon contributed to this report.