But area officials provided only limited information about where the region’s hospitals stand in terms of capacity.
The District said 70 intensive-care beds are available in the city out of a total stock of 405, with 258 ventilators available. Officials in Virginia, where 83 covid-19 patients were hospitalized as of Friday afternoon, said 1,500 hospital ventilators are available across the state; they did not provide details on the number of available intensive-care beds.
D.C. officials did not say how many coronavirus patients are hospitalized in the city, and Maryland did not offer any details about hospital capacity.
But the Maryland Department of Health urged hospitals to reuse respirator masks whenever possible — a practice sanctioned by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention amid the national shortage, which has seen hospitals in New York, Washington state and elsewhere overwhelmed.
“We are hearing that some hospitals are requiring all their employees to wear masks or requiring all EMS teams and law enforcement officers to wear masks upon entering the hospital,” the health department said in a letter sent Friday to hospital executives. “Please ensure that your facility is following the [CDC] guidelines and making every effort to conserve this precious resource.”
Officials urged residents to stay mostly indoors this weekend and take the pandemic more seriously, as the tally of reported cases in Virginia, Maryland and the District climbed to 1,688, and the number of deaths reached 29.
Authorities cautioned that the surge of positive coronavirus tests announced this week for the most part represented infections contracted weeks earlier, given the number of days it takes for symptoms to develop, for a person to get tested and for the tests to be processed. Still, the mounting caseload is taxing local health systems.
“The issue is very simple: We do not have enough testing materials or personal protective equipment for our medical staff and first responders,” Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) said during a briefing for reporters. “If we act like this doesn’t apply to us, we will literally see more cases. We’ll see our hospitals overwhelmed.”
Maryland added 194 cases Friday morning, its third consecutive day reporting record numbers of confirmed infections. In the past three days, the caseload in Maryland has more than doubled, to 775, with the state on Friday reporting its fifth death, a resident of Anne Arundel County.
Virginia announced 144 new cases, bringing the state’s total to 605.The state added five deaths Friday. Among them: two more residents at the Canterbury Rehabilitation & Healthcare Center just outside Richmond — bringing that facility’s total to six deaths in the largest-known coronavirus outbreak in a long-term-care facility in the greater Washington region.
The District reported 37 new cases Friday night, bringing its total to 308. On Friday, Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) said the city had recorded its fourth coronavirus death: George Valentine, deputy director of the mayor’s office of legal counsel. Bowser said Valentine was admitted to a hospital on Wednesday after testing positive for the virus and died Friday morning.
Bowser said the nation’s capital is preparing for when community spread and infections require more people to be hospitalized.
“We’re all using pretty sophisticated models to put inputs in to get our best guess of when that’s going to happen and what the level of impact on our system will be,” she said.
Bowser, Northam and Hogan have all shut down schools and most businesses and banned group gatherings in an effort to slow the spread of the virus. Looking toward May, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund said Friday that its annual Memorial Day commemoration will be webcast and will not held on the Mall or at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
D.C. officials announced that the city will curtail most in-person voting for the June 2 primary elections, which include the presidential nominating contest and several city council races.
Just 20 precincts in the city will be open for voting, with at least two operating on Election Day in each of the city’s eight wards, officials said. But election officials are encouraging voters instead to request mail-in ballots, either over the phone or by visiting the election office. The city may try to stagger in-person voting throughout the day based on last name but said these measures are voluntary.
“No voter will ever be turned away,” said Michael Bennett, the chair of the D.C. Board of Elections.
As the region headed into another weekend with warm weather in the forecast, Hogan warned people to stay home and maintain social distancing when outside. The governor aimed his message particularly at younger people, noting that 32 percent of Maryland’s reported cases are in people in their 20s and 30s.
“Some people think they’re bulletproof and it’s only going to affect older people,” Hogan said in a Friday appearance on a 98 Rock morning radio show. “That’s not true at all. People gotta be careful out there.”
Hogan said that in the next few months, he hopes to know whether the various measures taken to contain the virus — including closing schools and all nonessential businesses in the state — have been working. But, he warned, there is likely to be more bad news before that happens.
“We know a lot of people will get sick, and we’ll lose some people,” the governor said. “Hopefully everything’s going to come out okay.”
Hogan, who in 2016 survived a battle with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, added that for his own health, he is being careful to keep his distance from others.
Meanwhile, area hospitals worked to stay ahead of the still-rising curve of infections amid continued national shortages of respirator masks and other protective gear.
“We are continuously monitoring our supply chain and following all CDC guidelines for PPE reuse and conservation,” said Tracy Connell, spokeswoman for the five-hospital Inova Health System in Virginia, where nine patients so far have been hospitalized with covid-19. “As you know, this is an evolving situation.”
At MedStar Washington Hospital Center, supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE) remain “adequate . . . for all clinicians and team members,” said So Young Pak, the hospital’s director of media relations.
She said the hospital projects that it will keep up with demand, and is “constantly working on how to ensure our teams will have what they need when they need it.”
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Baltimore said it is searching the region to identify “existing large spaces” that can be converted into care sites.
Some groups are jumping in to help fill potential shortages. The staff and faculty at Marymount University’s Malek School of Health Professions in Arlington County donated 550 surgical masks, 110 isolation gowns, 60 full-body suits and seven reusable goggles to the county’s Virginia Hospital Center.
The donations were prompted by an intensive-care unit nurse in the hospital who is also an adjunct lab instructor in Marymount’s nursing program.
In Maryland, Bloomberg Philanthropies, founded by billionaire Mike Bloomberg, agreed to help fund research at Johns Hopkins University into using blood plasma from patients who have recovered from the covid-19 to treat other infected patients and boost the immune systems of health-care providers and first responders.
Bloomberg Philanthropies is donating $3 million, while Maryland is giving $1 million toward the research, which is also being done in New York and other parts of the world.
Montgomery County lawmakers will consider a proposal next week to provide local hospitals with $10 million in funding geared toward building up capacity.
“Our hospitals are strained,” said Montgomery County Council member Hans Riemer (D-At Large). “They’re getting crushed with expenses.”
Economists at the Federal Reserve Bank in Richmond said the pandemic and its related shutdowns are having a significant impact on the economies of Virginia and Maryland, which are normally resistant to national slowdowns because of their work with the federal government and its contractors.
“The challenge is that the best way to stop the virus is to halt the things that drive our economy, so of course you’re not going to see things return to normal until we as consumers are confident that we can go out,” said economist Sonya Ravindranath Waddell, who leads the regional economics group at the Richmond Fed.
Last week alone, initial unemployment claims in Virginia topped 46,000 — about double the next highest level on record, in 1989, the Fed economists said. Even during the financial crisis of 2008 and 2009, the state’s weekly unemployment peaked at just under 22,000, they said.
In Maryland, which had a healthy unemployment rate of 3.3 percent in February, the more than 42,000 jobless claims filed last week point to a bleak economic future, at least in the short term, Fed economists said.
With 10 percent of the state’s workforce tied to leisure and accommodations, which are devastated by virus-related shutdowns of nonessential businesses, “these are challenging times,” said Alex Marré, regional economist in the Baltimore office of the Richmond Fed. “It’s a serious situation.”
Gregory S. Schneider, Laura Vozzella, Patricia Sullivan, Rebecca Tan, Keith L. Alexander, Kyle Swenson, Dana Hedgpeth and Darran Simon contributed to this report.