The District’s tally of covid-19 deaths is 127, a per capita rate of 18.6 per 100,000 residents that is the highest in the region, according to a Washington Post analysis.
Bowser (D) is urging older residents and those who live in long-term-care facilities or group homes to get tested if they feel ill, particularly if they have underlying health problems. Although tests are in short supply nationally, the District currently has more available than people requesting them.
“We are concerned about people who have underlying conditions who could possibly not have very good outcomes with this virus, so people who have high blood pressure and asthma and diabetes, and everybody especially who falls in those categories who is over the age of 65,” the mayor said. “And that is why you see us asking those people to be very aware of how they feel, to reach out to their providers and to get tested.”
The overall tally of known coronavirus infections in the District, Maryland and Virginia climbed to 28,295 on Wednesday. There were a total of 1,185 known deaths.
Nearly a month into a general shutdown of schools, business and normal life, officials are still watching for signs that the pandemic is slowing down.
The restrictions have led to tens of thousands of layoffs in the region. Among them are 427 workers with the Inova Health System in Northern Virginia, officials there said Wednesday.
The workers are all “non-clinical” employees, many of them in management positions, who will be let go over the next two weeks, a spokeswoman said. She said the move will not affect Inova’s ability to treat covid-19 patients.
“Every decision will be made toward us being able to provide care to the patients,” J. Stephen Jones, president and chief executive of Inova, said in a statement. “So no one should be worried about us not having the people there to take care of you.”
The covid-19 fatalities in the District underscore the city’s long-standing geographic health disparities, with 29 deaths in Ward 8 in far Southeast Washington and only one in wealthy Ward 2, which includes Georgetown, Foggy Bottom and Dupont Circle.
The District has also had a host of deaths at institutions serving the vulnerable, including 14 at nursing homes and long-term-care facilities, eight homeless residents, eight disabled people, six patients at St. Elizabeths psychiatric hospital and one inmate at the D.C. jail. Some of the dead could fall into multiple categories.
Bowser said the city is trying to address the disparities by reaching out to Medicaid patients who are older or have underlying conditions that place them at greater risk of infection. Officials are also expanding the criteria for testing to include people without symptoms who are in high-risk groups and likely to have been exposed.
The District is adding a walk-through, drive-through testing site at the University of the District of Columbia Community College’s Bertie Backus campus across from the Fort Totten Metro station in Northeast Washington, officials said Wednesday. The site will be appointment-
only and open on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
About a dozen newly acquired rapid-testing machines will be used at homeless shelters, corrections facilities and care centers starting later this week, officials said.
And the city plans to begin antibody testing next month to detect people who have been exposed and have some level of immunity — a key factor in knowing how far the virus has spread.
Both Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) and Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) have announced similar plans to ramp up testing as part of what they say will be a collective decision in the region on when to lift the closures and stay-at-home restrictions that have crippled the local economy.
As part of that goal, a Hampton Roads hospital system has joined the federal effort to use the blood plasma of people who have recovered from a coronavirus infection to treat other covid-19 patients.
Bon Secours, which has several hospitals in Virginia’s eastern peninsula and the Richmond area, announced it is collecting samples from recovered patients that will be sent to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, where scientists will extract the plasma and antibodies that developed to fight the virus during the patient’s illness.
A single plasma donation has the potential to help as many as four covid-19 patients recover from the disease more rapidly, the hospital system said in a news release.
Officials are under growing pressure to find a way to control the virus and ease restrictions. The frustration some feel about the pandemic was on display again Wednesday in Richmond, where protesters in honking cars and trucks circled the streets around Capitol Square calling for the economy to reopen.
The demonstration was aimed at Northam and the Virginia General Assembly, which was meeting for its annual veto session with extraordinary social distancing measures in place.
Among other things, the Senate and House of Delegates were working to pare down the state budget to handle the loss of revenue resulting from the pandemic.
Earlier in the day, two Virginia Republican lawmakers filed a lawsuit on behalf of a group of Gold’s Gym franchises seeking to force Northam to allow those businesses to open.
The lawsuit — filed in Culpeper County’s circuit court by state Sens. William M. Stanley Jr. (Franklin) and Ryan T. McDougle (Hanover) — argued that Northam did not have the authority to close down fitness clubs under an executive order barring nonessential businesses from operating that is set to expire May 8.
“The doors of these health clubs should no longer remain shuttered,” Stanley said in a statement. “They . . . should be a part of the immediate solution as we move forward in overcoming this virus together.”
A judge in southwest Virginia earlier this month rejected a lawsuit arguing that the order’s ban on religious gatherings was discriminatory.
Maryland reported 46 new covid-19 fatalities Wednesday, bringing its total to 705. Prince George’s County, which has the most cases in Maryland, accounted for 14 of the deaths, its highest one-day tally so far.
Neighboring Montgomery County reported 10 new fatalities.
At a news conference at Laurel Medical Center in Prince George’s, which has been reopened as a full-service hospital for covid-19 patients, Hogan said the state signed a contract to hire about 750 contact-tracing workers to identify and potentially isolate new patients before they can spread the virus.
The contract is with the University of Chicago’s National Opinion Research Center. It was not immediately clear when the workers would be able to start, but their hiring will meet a state goal of having 1,000 such workers, officials said.
Hogan also said he will announce on Friday his plan to begin lifting social distancing restrictions in the state.
Prince George’s County Executive Angela D. Alsobrooks urged residents to hold steady and be patient — despite the fact that more than 30,000 local residents have filed jobless claims since the crisis started. She said there had been 141 deaths in the county as of Wednesday and that the mortality rate among men has been especially high.
“I know this is a lot to ask, but we are still in the thick of it,” Alsobrooks (D) said at a news conference, asking people again to practice social distancing.
Rachel Chason, Gregory S. Schneider, Steve Thompson and Rachel Weiner contributed to this report.