The data mirrors a spike in jobless claims nationwide as restaurants, movie theaters and other businesses are closed by government officials desperate to contain the virus.
“This battle is going to be much harder, take much longer, and be much worse than almost anyone comprehends,” Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) said on social media after his state reported 157 new cases of infection — another record single-day tally that more than doubled Maryland’s previous record on Wednesday.
The region had 1,313 known cases of infection, with 22 deaths, as of Thursday evening. Maryland’s total was 581. Virginia reported 69 new cases of covid-19, the disease caused by the virus, for a total of 461. The District reported 36 new cases, for a total of 271.
“We are only at the beginning of this crisis, in our state, in the National Capital Region, and in America. As I have repeatedly stressed, we should continue to expect the number of cases to dramatically and rapidly rise,” Hogan said in his statement.
Hogan, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) and D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) have implemented measures that have left the local economy at a near-standstill. Virginia schools are closed through the end of the school year, while in Maryland and the District, they are closed until at least late April.
Nonessential businesses — such as movie theaters, many stores, gyms and hair salons — have been closed in Maryland and the District. Virginia allows some nonessential businesses to remain open if they limit their service to 10 or fewer people at a time. Restaurants in the region are restricted to takeout and delivery service only.
The Library of Congress closed all of its buildings to the public Thursday. Metro, which has seen sharp drops in ridership, had closed 19 train stations as of Wednesday night, and shut down two more Thursday — Van Ness and Tenleytown on the Red Line — after learning that a contractor working in those stations had tested positive for the virus. The contractor worked overnight, when Metro was closed and not carrying passengers.
Interviewed Thursday night on MSNBC’s “Meet the Press,” Bowser acknowledged that the efforts to contain the coronavirus has “shut down our economy and put millions of people across our country and thousands in Washington, D.C., out of work.”
“But we believe, as all the experts say, that it will get us to the other side much faster,” the mayor said.
In another attempt to slow the virus, Maryland State Superintendent of Schools Karen B. Salmon ordered most child-care centers in the state to shut down at the end of this week.
Salmon said that if licensed facilities are willing to care for children of essential employees — such as health-care workers or firefighters — they may reopen March 30, provided that they thoroughly clean their sites and do not take in other children.
Bowser slammed Congress for not sending enough economic aid to the nation’s capital in a $2 trillion federal stimulus package, which passed the Senate and is set to be voted on by the House. The bill treats the District as if it were a U.S. territory and would steer about $500 million to local relief efforts — about $750 million less than what each state is guaranteed. Normally, the city is treated like a state in terms of federal funding.
“It’s infuriating, it’s wrong, it’s outrageous,” Bowser said at a Thursday news conference. “We are not a territory. We pay more taxes, unlike the territories, than 22 states.”
Worsening the pain for some area residents is an apparent increase in illegal price-gouging, D.C. officials said.
D.C. Attorney General Karl A. Racine (D) has sent five cease-and-desist letters to businesses for jacking up prices on items such as latex gloves, hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes.
Racine’s office said it has received 25 complaints so far about price-gouging, an offense that is punishable by a fine of up to $5,000. The letters went to three convenience stores in Northwest and Southeast Washington, a beauty supply store in Southeast Washington and an online seller on Amazon, Racine’s office said.
In one instance, an online seller nearly doubled the cost of dispensing stands for sanitizing wipes, tripled the cost of bulk packs of hand sanitizer, and more than quadrupled the cost of touch-free foam hand sanitizer dispensers, officials said.
Meanwhile, reports of the virus’s steady march into virtually every crevice of the region continued. Officials said two emergency workers and a police officer in Baltimore have contracted the virus. D.C. jail officials said a 20-year-old male inmate in the Correctional Treatment Facility building has tested positive, potentially exposing other inmates and correctional workers.
D.C. fire officials said two more firefighters have tested positive, bringing the department’s total to 12; and Montgomery County reported four members of the Fire and Rescue Services had contracted the virus. Officials said 124 D.C. firefighters were under self-quarantine Thursday, a contrast to nearby Arlington County, where the local firefighters union questioned why a similar precaution was not taken after a firefighter in that department was confirmed to have the virus.
“We have members who think they should be self-quarantined, but they’re being told they’re okay to come to work” said the fire union’s president, Brian Lynch.
Fire officials said they did an in-depth investigation of the infected firefighter’s contacts before assessing that it was safe for all others to keep working.
Elsewhere in Virginia, a fourth patient from Canterbury Rehabilitation & Healthcare Center, outside Richmond, died of the virus Thursday, while more residents and staff tested positive.
Over the past 12 days, 17 Canterbury patients and six workers have tested positive for the virus, representing the largest known outbreak in a long-term-care facility in the greater Washington region. Two residents remained hospitalized, and workers are caring for the rest in a wing separate from other patients. An undisclosed number of suspected cases have been separately isolated.
A top local health official said Wednesday that Canterbury does not have enough protective gear for employees working with other patients in the facility, who are not showing symptoms of the virus but still could have been exposed.
Seven other Virginia communities reported their first cases Thursday: Fauquier County, Amelia County, Pittsylvania County, the cities of Lynchburg, Hampton and Poquoson, and the town of Washington.
Health officials in Alexandria — which had reported 14 cases as of Thursday afternoon — said a patron had tested positive and they are searching for people who spent time in the popular Murphy’s Irish Pub in Old Town on three dates earlier this month, when that patron was there.
Health officials said anyone who was at the pub on March 10 between 6 p.m. and 2 a.m., on March 14 between 11 a.m. and 6 p.m., and on March 15 between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m., should self-quarantine at home, avoid visitors, stay at least six feet from other household members and call the city’s covid-19 information line at 703-746-4988.
Loudoun County, which had 28 known cases, reported the death of a county schools employee. The woman died Wednesday night, according to an email sent to families and staffers by Loudoun Superintendent Eric Williams.
The woman, whose name was not released, was in her 70s, the county Health Department said. She is among at least six employees within the 84,000-student system who have tested positive for covid-19 and the first reported death from within a Virginia school system. Williams said the school system would refrain from any “specific remembrances,” because he believes the woman would not have wanted that.
But, in his email, he echoed the grief being felt by a widening group of area residents as the number of fatalities climbs.
“She is someone who loved and was loved,” Williams wrote. “She is someone who felt joy and sorrow. She is someone who poured her whole self into contributing to our community.”
Hannah Natanson, Dana Hedgpeth, Donna St. George, Jenna Portnoy, Rebecca Tan, Patricia Sullivan, Keith L. Alexander, Gregory S. Schneider, Rachel Weiner and Ovetta Wiggins contributed to this report.