The coronavirus toll in the District, Maryland and Virginia rose Tuesday to 1,712 deaths and more than 38,000 known cases. Maryland reported 71 new fatalities, its second-highest single-day increase, and published data for the first time showing that nursing homes are linked to nearly half the state’s confirmed and probable covid-19 deaths. Virginia added 34 deaths, and the District added five, including a 26-year-old man, the city’s second-youngest victim after a 17-year-old boy whose death was disclosed Monday.
House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) cited the local spread of the coronavirus as a reason congressional physicians urged against reconvening.
“I was concerned because the numbers in the District of Columbia are going up, not down,” said Hoyer, whose district is anchored in suburban Maryland. “They’re not flat. They’re not down. In addition, we do have, as you know, in Prince George’s County and Montgomery County, two jurisdictions with a very substantial number of cases.”
In a CNN interview before the House announced it would not reconvene, D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) said she hoped some staffers could work from home and that “appropriate social distancing” was in place.
The daily increase in deaths in the District, Maryland and Virginia has continued to climb, according to an analysis by The Washington Post. The jurisdictions reported an average of 88 new fatalities a day in the week leading up to Friday, compared with 72 in the prior week.
But the growth rates of cases have slowed, as has the rate of the increase of deaths in Maryland and Virginia. Maryland’s total new weekly deaths increased by 20 in the week ending Friday, after three consecutive weeks of triple-digit increases.
Virginia saw deaths increase by 39 percent in the week ending Friday, but that was down from a 64 percent increase the previous week.
Weekly deaths in the District have been level.
The rates of new hospitalizations in Maryland and Virginia have remained relatively flat day-to-day, even as the overall number of patients hospitalized continues to grow. Growth in D.C. hospitalizations has slowed, with 435 patients newly admitted as of Monday, compared with 402 the previous week and 295 a week before that. There were 124 patients in intensive care units on Monday, slightly up from 120 a week before, while the number on ventilators climbed from 59 to 84.
Maryland released data Tuesday showing how the virus has ravaged the state’s nursing home population, accounting for at least 471 deaths. Well over half the deaths in Montgomery County, 129 out of 201, are nursing home cases. Family members of residents had been calling on Maryland to release the data, warning that a lack of transparency could leave outbreaks undetected and shield facilities that respond poorly to the crisis.
The District started disclosing the number of deaths among residents served by the D.C. Department of Disability Services, which largely monitors adults with developmental disabilities and regulates group homes.
To date, 16 have died and 112 have tested positive for the coronavirus — the most covid-19 deaths reported by any city agency caring for the vulnerable. The city has also reported the deaths of at least 14 nursing home residents, nine homeless people and nine patients at the St. Elizabeths public psychiatric hospital. Some of those may be included among the 16 adults with disabilities who succumbed to the virus.
Sandy Bernstein of Disability Rights DC sent a letter to city officials last week calling for a new system to track infections among employees, and higher pay for direct service providers, while also urging the city to move patients with disabilities from institutional settings to residential facilities.
In a response email, Wayne Turnage, the deputy mayor for health and human services, said none of the disability clients who are in psychiatric facilities “have adequately stabilized” to move to community settings.
He assured Bernstein that city officials were monitoring the availability of personal protective equipment and potential staff exposure at facilities for adults with disabilities.
Bernstein said she was not satisfied with the response and urged D.C. Council members Monday to hold a virtual hearing on the treatment of city residents with disabilities. “DDS must establish a crisis team with competent DDS staff and doctors and nurses with expertise in supporting people with intellectual disabilities and expertise on how to proactively stop the spread in the residential placements,” Bernstein wrote in an email to council members Brianne K. Nadeau (D-Ward 1) and Vincent C. Gray (D-Ward 7), who oversee health agencies.
A spokeswoman for the Department of Disability Services did not immediately return a request for comment.
Bowser has focused testing resources, including rapid-testing kits, on institutions serving the vulnerable, including homeless shelters and nursing homes. On Tuesday, the Department of Forensic Sciences unveiled a mobile testing unit that can deliver results within minutes and will be deployed throughout the District to test residents of long-term facilities.
The mayor also eased standards for free coronavirus testing, allowing grocery workers and government employees who have been exposed to the virus but are not showing symptoms to join the priority groups.
In Maryland, voters in the deep-blue 7th Congressional District were given three places to cast in-person ballots in a special election upended by the coronavirus.
Officials mailed a ballot to every voter and urged people to vote by mail but operated three polling places — with a host of restrictions to curb infections — for voters who chose to come in person.
Virginia Attorney General Mark R. Herring (D) said Tuesday that the state will waive the requirement that a witness must sign off on ballots cast by mail in the June 23 presidential and congressional primary elections amid the pandemic.
The move is part of a preliminary agreement Herring made with the League of Women Voters of Virginia, after the group filed a lawsuit last week with the American Civil Liberties Union arguing that the witness requirement could disenfranchise voters.
As part of the deal, the state will instruct county and city elections officials to amend the printed instructions accompanying each absentee ballot, letting voters know — in bold print — that they can disregard the witness signature line on the absentee ballot envelope. The agreement will become official as soon as a judge approves it.
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) moved the June 9 primary to June 23 and encouraged voters to cast ballots by mail rather than go to polling places, where it could be difficult to maintain at least six feet of space from fellow voters.
Maryland reported the second death of a prison inmate from covid-19. Both were men in their 60s with underlying medical conditions incarcerated at Jessup Correctional Institution.
Fifty prison inmates and 157 state correctional officers tested positive for the virus in the state, according to figures released Monday. The prison system “is doing everything possible to combat the spread of covid-19 and protect its employees and those in its custody,” state officials said Tuesday.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) announced that the state had awarded $1.6 million to 20 companies that are producing masks, face shields, gowns and ventilators. The grants of up to $100,000 come from the state’s Covid-19 Emergency Relief Manufacturing Fund, a $5 million fund administered by the state Department of Commerce.
Members of the Maryland congressional delegation urged President Trump to expand the state’s testing capability by acting on a request by the Maryland Emergency Management Agency to designate the National Capital Region as a federally supported testing site. Such a move would make federal facilities such as Fort Meade and the National Institutes of Health available to help test Maryland residents for the coronavirus, the lawmakers wrote in a letter. The lawmakers cited Vice President Pence’s commitment to help every state ramp up testing.
Mike DeBonis, Dana Hedgpeth, Jenna Portnoy, Dan Morse and Rachel Chason contributed to this report.