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Washington region’s coronavirus death toll hits 51, a record 16 fatalities reported in one day

Workers put up a "no trespassing" sign Sunday outside the Pleasant View Nursing & Rehabilitation Center in Mt. Airy, Md., where at least 66 residents of the facility have tested positive for covid-19. One of them, a 90-year-old man, has died. (Alex Edelman/AFP/Getty Images)

The Washington region reported its single-deadliest day in the coronavirus outbreak, with 16 fatalities announced Sunday, bringing the total number of deaths to 51.

Outbreaks at nursing homes and eldercare facilities in Virginia and Maryland contributed to the spike, with Maryland also reporting its largest single-day increase in known infections with 246 new cases, by The Washington Post’s count.

Known coronavirus cases in D.C., Maryland and Virginia

Meanwhile, President Trump declared the District a “major disaster area,” allowing it to receive emergency federal funding to combat the spread and mitigate the effects of the novel coronavirus.

The designation means the city will receive an unspecified amount of money from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to support its efforts to recover from the coronavirus pandemic. The money will cover damage inflicted by the virus from Jan. 20 and extending through an indefinite period.

The total number of cases in Maryland stood at 1,240 Sunday evening. In an appearance on “Fox News Sunday,” Gov. Larry Hogan (R) played down the possibility of businesses reopening anytime soon.

Hogan warned that recent surges in Maryland, Virginia and the District indicate that the region may soon see an overwhelming spike similar to the one in New York. By The Post’s count, Virginia had 891 cases Sunday, and the District’s count was at 405, bringing the region’s total to 2,536.

“We don’t see any way that we’re going to be opening back up in a couple of weeks,” Hogan said. “The Washington metropolitan area has — Maryland, D.C. and Virginia — quadrupled in the past week and we see that continuing to grow exponentially, and we think in two weeks, around Easter, we’re going to be looking a lot more like New York.”

In Virginia, a Richmond-area long-term-care facility has quickly become home to the largest known coronavirus outbreak in the greater Washington area.

Thirty-seven residents and six health-care workers have tested positive for the virus at Canterbury Rehabilitation & Healthcare Center, the facility announced Sunday. Eight individuals connected with the center have died.

The Henrico County facility serves mainly elderly patients recovering from illnesses or injuries.

Some residents who have tested positive have been transferred to hospitals, while others are being treated at Canterbury in a separate wing. An undisclosed number of suspected cases have been separately isolated.

The county’s top health official warned last week that staff at the 190-bed facility lacked the protective gear needed to fully contain the spread among other patients who have shown no signs of illness.

Canterbury has been working with state and local health departments while following Centers for Disease Control and ­Prevention protocols to “help contain further spread of the virus,” Jim Wright, the facility’s medical director, said in a statement last week.

The facility has hired an industrial cleaning service to perform “daily deep cleaning” and installed six machines known as hydroxyl generators, which treat pathogens in the air and on surfaces.

Canterbury has been monitoring residents for symptoms and preventing employees with respiratory symptoms and fever from entering. The facility said it suspended new admissions and visitors before its first confirmed case two weeks ago.

Sunrise of McLean, an assisted-living facility in Northern Virginia, also announced Sunday that the novel coronavirus had been found at the center.

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Tom Kessler, Sunrise Senior Living’s regional vice president of operations, did not specify the number of individuals infected with covid-19, or whether the virus is among the staff, residents, or both.

The Fairfax County Health Department could not immediately provide information on coronavirus cases at Sunrise.

In a statement, Kessler said that in response to the virus, administrators have implemented a handful of containment measures, including “limiting ­non-essential visitors, deploying rigorous screening protocols to identify potential symptoms among residents and team members, restricting new resident move-ins, and shifting to individual resident engagement activities.”

Added Kessler: “We have also ceased communal dining and are serving meals in each resident’s suite to promote social distancing.”

Maryland’s weekend surge also was fueled by cases at an eldercare facility. The outbreak, at a facility in Carroll County, northwest of Baltimore, represented the county’s largest single-day increase, with 72 new cases, bringing its total to 82.

The outbreak, announced by Hogan late Saturday, was at the Pleasant View Nursing Home. At least 66 residents are infected, he said.

Coronavirus in the DMV: What you need to know

On Sunday afternoon, county health officials announced that one of the infected patients, a 90-year-old man, died late Saturday.

“This is extremely serious because of the vulnerable nature of the residents,” county Health Officer Ed Singer said. “We have 66 people with underlying medical conditions who are infected with this virus.”

Pleasant View, located in Mount Airy, is struggling to maintain its staff, Singer added.

Some employees have called in sick, while others are being isolated after coming into contact with patients. To help, the county has contacted temp agencies and put out a call for volunteers.

“They’re under a lot of stress right now,” Singer said, urging members of the public not to call the nursing home unless necessary. A majority of the infected patients are still at the nursing home and will not be moved unless they require a higher level of medical care.

As of Sunday, all residents have had their samples collected for testing, said Maggie Kunz, spokeswoman for the Carroll County Health Department. Slightly under a dozen individuals have tested negative, and a few more were awaiting test results.

Residents who have tested negative are being cared for in a separate area and starting this weekend, all employees are fully equipped with protective equipment, including face masks and gowns, Kunz said.

It is not immediately clear how the virus entered the facility. Pleasant View has restricted access to its campus to essential visitors and staff since March 10, Kunz said. During a site inspection last week, Carroll County health officials said the facility appeared to be following all the necessary guidelines for senior-living facilities.

“Everyone’s trying their best to fix this,” Kunz said.

At Liberty University, a recent graduate taking online classes who lives off-campus tested positive for the coronavirus, according to school officials and a doctor at the Lynchburg, Va., university. The school said at least one student is awaiting test results and at least four others are self-quaranting after possible exposure. The university has come under fire for opening last week as students returned from spring break.

The region’s public servants, including law enforcement officers, firefighters and Metro employees, continue to see their ranks hit by covid-19, as well.

Two more D.C. police officers have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, bringing the number of known cases within the 3,800-member department to five, Chief Peter Newsham said Saturday night.

The infected officers are quarantining at home and contact tracing is taking place.

On March 20, a D.C. police homicide detective became the first known officer to test positive. Last week, Arlington officials said a firefighter had contracted the virus, while Montgomery County officials said four personnel with the Fire and Rescue Service have tested positive.

Two more D.C. firefighters also have tested positive, the city said Sunday, bringing the department’s total to 14.

“Late yesterday we were notified of the 13th and 14th members from the department who have tested positive for covid-19,” Chief Gregory M. Dean said in a statement. “Both members are home on self-quarantine.”

Metro said Sunday that seven of its employees have tested positive for the coronavirus, including one who is hospitalized.

Several of Metro’s top leaders and the president of its labor union held a Facebook Live town hall, where they gave the agency’s more than 10,000 employees an update on operations and answered questions.

Metro officials said the employee who remains hospitalized is in stable condition, while the others are recovering at home. The employees who have tested positive are spread throughout the system, and officials said contacts have been made with anyone who had talked or worked with them at a vulnerable distance.

To further protect operators, Metro said it will begin keeping the first rail car on eight-car trains vacant as a buffer between operators and passengers. Additionally, Chief Operating Officer Joe Leader said Metro is receiving shipments of protective equipment that had been delayed, while also ordering more supplies.

Leader told employees that 600 one-gallon containers of sanitizer have arrived and are being split into small, individual-size bottles to give to bus and rail operators.

Officials with the D.C. Public Defender Service on Sunday called for the release of eligible D.C. jail inmates “as quickly as possible” following reports that four prisoners had tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

Advocates in Maryland and Virginia are making similar pleas.

The Public Defender Service has been concerned for a while that conditions at the jail would foster the spread of the virus, said the service’s special counsel, Janet Mitchell.

“We see cautionary tales from other jurisdictions and want to avoid being the next Rikers,” Mitchell said, referring to the New York jail where dozens have tested positive. “We are asking all the stakeholders to take action now and to start releasing as many persons as possible as quickly as possible.”

Mitchell suggested setting free “at minimum” those who are serving misdemeanor sentences, or awaiting trial on misdemeanors. She also urged judges who previously denied bond review motions — citing the then-absence of coronavirus cases within D.C. jails — to reverse their decisions.

On Monday, the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia plans to send a similar letter to Gov. Ralph Northam (D), demanding he reduce prisoner intake, free those whose sentences are due to end next year and release “vulnerable people” — meaning the elderly and those with compromised immune systems.

Authorities announced the diagnosis of the first reported case in the D.C. jail system, a 20-year-old, on Wednesday. Two days later, authorities said that a 44-year-old man housed in the Correctional Treatment Facility — the same place that held the 20-year-old, although the two inmates were not in the same unit — also had tested positive.

Officials announced three additional cases over the weekend: two 37-year-olds and a 38-year-old housed in the same treatment facility as the first two patients. They are being treated and have been isolated from other inmates, officials said.

As of Sunday afternoon, no virus cases had been reported in Maryland or Virginia jails.

And despite repeated calls for social distancing by local officials, at least one Maryland resident landed in jail over the weekend after ignoring an emergency order banning gatherings of more than 10 people.

Charles County police arrested Shawn Marshall Myers on Friday night after being tipped off by reports of a large gathering at his Hughesville home. When deputies arrived shortly before 11 p.m., they found roughly 60 people collected around a bonfire.

Officers told Myers, 41, that he was violating Hogan’s emergency order.

Myers had heard it before: Deputies responded to the same address on March 22 after receiving a similar complaint of an illegal gathering.

That time, Myers disbanded the crowd. But on Friday, he refused — leading Charles County officers to arrest Myers and charge him with violating the governor’s order.

“We gave him plenty of opportunities to comply,” said Diane Richardson, spokeswoman for the Charles County Sheriff’s Office. “And he just didn’t.”

Donna St. George, Justin George, Ovetta Wiggins, Hannah Natanson, and Keith L. Alexander contributed to this report.

Coronavirus: What you need to know

Vaccines: The CDC recommends that everyone age 5 and older get an updated covid booster shot. New federal data shows adults who received the updated shots cut their risk of being hospitalized with covid-19 by 50 percent. Here’s guidance on when you should get the omicron booster and how vaccine efficacy could be affected by your prior infections.

New covid variant: The XBB.1.5 variant is a highly transmissible descendant of omicron that is now estimated to cause about half of new infections in the country. We answered some frequently asked questions about the bivalent booster shots.

Guidance: CDC guidelines have been confusing — if you get covid, here’s how to tell when you’re no longer contagious. We’ve also created a guide to help you decide when to keep wearing face coverings.

Where do things stand? See the latest coronavirus numbers in the U.S. and across the world. In the U.S., pandemic trends have shifted and now White people are more likely to die from covid than Black people. Nearly nine out of 10 covid deaths are people over the age 65.

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