Maryland’s most populous county said Wednesday that it may lift some social distancing restrictions within the next week, another tentative step toward reopening the Washington region as the rates of novel coronavirus infections and deaths show signs of slowing.
The District and its suburbs have been reluctant to take part in the reopening launched last week by Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam for areas that have not been hit as hard by the coronavirus pandemic.
But that reluctance appears to be softening in some places, even as the tally of known coronavirus infections in Maryland, the District and Virginia climbed to 82,782 on Wednesday and Children’s National Hospital reported it is treating 23 children with an inflammatory syndrome linked to the virus.
Northam (D) said Wednesday that some Northern Virginia leaders have asked him about loosening the shutdown in their communities, but he wants to keep the region on a unified footing.
“We are in daily communication with the leaders” in Northern Virginia, Northam said, adding that there is no timeline yet for reopening. “They are following the data just as we are.”
In Maryland, Gayles said Montgomery has been monitoring the three-day average of new coronavirus infections, deaths and hospitalizations as key metrics for reopening. In nine of the past 14 days, the three-day average for new cases has declined, along with the average number of emergency room visits and hospitalizations tied to covid-19, Gayles said.
“I look at this data every single day . . . [but] we’ve got to get this right,” Elrich (D) said. “We’re going to move, hopefully, as soon as possible.”
Officials in neighboring Prince George’s County, Md., have not made statements about being close to easing restrictions.
D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) on Thursday is set to receive a report from a task force on how to manage the city’s reopening. The decision on when to reopen will be shaped by the city health department, Bowser says.
Officials said Wednesday that the community spread of the coronavirus has declined for 10 days, four days short of meeting the metrics the mayor has set for reopening.
The greater Washington region recorded 82 more deaths Wednesday, bringing the total number of covid-19 fatalities in the District, Maryland and Virginia to 3,604.
Virginia recorded 33 new fatalities, nearly a third of them in Fairfax County, bringing the total number of covid-19 deaths to 302 in that state’s most populous jurisdiction.
The District added seven fatalities.
D.C. health officials also reported that three children have developed the same inflammatory syndrome associated with covid-19 that has been linked to the Saturday death of a 15-year-old girl from Baltimore County. Three cases of the syndrome have been reported to Maryland’s health department and one to Virginia’s so far, spokespeople for Hogan and Northam said Wednesday night.
Beth Riggs, a spokeswoman for Children’s National, said the hospital was treating 23 young patients for the syndrome. The discrepancy in numbers from the hospital and jurisdictions was not immediately clear.
The illness, known as multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C), is a recently discovered complication of the coronavirus.
Across the region, government officials continue to expand testing options as part of their fight against the virus.
Virginia’s Loudoun County offered free, drive-up, no-appointment testing in Leesburg, and had enough people lined up in their cars by 3 p.m. to account for all its 1,700 available tests, even though the site was supposed to operate through 6 p.m.
Cars lined up at Philip A. Bolen Memorial Park hours ahead of the 10 a.m. start time, and some people had to wait for two to three hours before they could get tested, said David Goodfriend, Loudoun’s health director.
“In terms of the volume, it very much exceeded our expectations,” he said in a phone interview.
The goal of the day-long event was to help determine how many asymptomatic county residents may risk inadvertently infecting people and to test people who had no other options, Goodfriend said. The results are expected back this weekend.
“For some it was a very frustrating experience. For some they were just grateful to have this opportunity,” Goodfriend said.
Northam said the state health department will hold similar events across Virginia in the coming weeks, an effort to better gauge how much and where the virus has spread.
“While people who have symptoms are a priority, everyone is welcome at testing events as long as there are tests available,” Northam said.
Virginia is near its goal of 10,000 daily tests, with 9,782 coronavirus tests reported on Tuesday, the governor said.
D.C. officials said they have scheduled new mobile testing drives for hard-hit neighborhoods, after the first deployment of no-appointment walk-up testing resulted in 281 tests in the 16th Street Heights neighborhood over the weekend.
Officials have scheduled Friday testing in Columbia Heights, which has 454 known infections, the most of any D.C. neighborhood. The 16th Street Heights neighborhood had the second-most infections, at 408.
Hogan (R) announced universal testing inside Maryland state prisons and juvenile detention facilities, a hub of coronavirus infections.
The move followed an outbreak detected Friday inside the 60-bed Silver Oak Academy juvenile detention facility in Carroll County, where about 40 staff members and children have tested positive.
The virus has also spread throughout the prison system, infecting more than 100 of the state’s approximately 20,000 inmates and killing five. In addition, 220 corrections officers have also tested positive, prompting union officials to accuse the Hogan administration during a Tuesday protest of not doing enough to protect those essential workers.
Hogan said the state is halfway toward its goal of testing 10,000 people per day. He did not outline when the expanded testing inside detention facilities would start.
The governor promised a month ago to launch universal testing in the state’s nursing homes. The state is now delivering 20,000 tests per week to nursing homes, he said, and tests should have been administered at all 227 nursing homes by the end of next week.
There are about 16,000 nursing home patients in the state and 36,000 nursing home workers, according to Joseph DeMattos Jr., president and chief executive of Health Facilities Association of Maryland.
So far, 1,135 residents and staff members of long-term care facilities in the state have died of covid-19.
Still, many jurisdictions around the state have begun to reopen. On Wednesday, State Comptroller Peter Franchot (D) urged the Hogan administration to “move as quickly as possible” to allow restaurants in those areas to offer outdoor dining — an amenity that is part of Virginia’s “phase one” reopening but not Maryland’s.
Franchot, who is running for governor in 2022, said he was advocating for outdoor dining to prop up a key part of the economy. He said he believes many social distancing and safety restrictions should stay in place, and reiterated that the pandemic is far from over.
“This idea that we can just be cavalier and take our shirts off and walk down the boardwalk, like this virus has been defeated, that’s just wrong,” he said at a meeting of the state Board of Public Works. “I want people to understand that we’re trying to protect their safety, and if they’re not safe, they’re not going to have any economic prosperity.”
Even when the region does reopen, many summer activities are unlikely to happen, a round of announcements on Wednesday showed.
Officials in Baltimore said all special events are canceled through Aug. 31, including the city’s Fourth of July celebration and three-day Artscape festival that was scheduled to begin July 17. The city’s summer jobs program for youth will be held remotely.
The District’s National Independence Day Parade down Constitution Avenue has also been called off. And Arlington County announced Wednesday that summer camp activities have been canceled, joining Fairfax County in that decision.
Arlington officials said they considered whether the camps could be safely held with proper social distancing, appropriate cleaning protocols and other safety measures. But they concluded the risk of infection for the camp participants and county staff is still too great.
“We recognize how important camps are to our residents, and we are truly saddened to have to cancel for the summer,” Jane Rudolph, director of Arlington’s Department of Parks & Recreation, said in a statement.
Residents who have already paid for summer camp will receive a credit for future camp activities, county officials said.
Dana Hedgpeth, Ann Marimow, Fenit Nirappil, Jenna Portnoy, Gregory S. Schneider and Fredrick Kunkle 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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