The governors of Maryland and Virginia have teamed up with four other states to create a testing compact, combining their buying power in hopes of stocking up on "cost-effective" supplies during the coronavirus pandemic.
The news comes as the most recent data suggests that a surge of coronavirus cases is becoming checked.
The six-state compact will try to compensate for the lack of a national testing program and concerns that fierce competition between states for supplies could drive up costs.
One of the group's first aims? Purchase 3 million rapid coronavirus tests — 500,000 per state — which can deliver results within 15 to 20 minutes.
Massachusetts, Louisiana, Michigan and Ohio are the other states in the compact for now. The group is lead by three Republicans and three Democrats representing more than 47 million citizens. More states could join in the future.
Washington, D.C., was not invited to join the compact but the District's "considerable buying power" could help the cause, Mayor Muriel Bowser says. Bowser says she would like to learn more to see if the group will have a real impact.
It's the first interstate testing compact of its kind and will create a cooperative purchasing agreement that will allow states to buy supplies "in a sustainable and cost-effective manner," Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said in a statement Tuesday.
“With severe shortages and delays in testing and the federal administration attempting to cut funding for testing, the states are banding together to acquire millions of faster tests to help save lives and slow the spread of COVID-19,” Hogan said in a statement.
Northam said states are leading the pandemic response and that the compact will help get rapid tests to communities.
The Rockefeller Foundation could step in to help fund the compact.
Many cases of the virus in Maryland are coming from people going to restaurants and family gatherings, the governor said last week. In D.C., travel is a major factor, officials said Wednesday.
D.C. is continuing to crack down on businesses that violate coronavirus-related restrictions. Dozens of restaurants and bars have been cited and officials took preliminary steps on Wednesday to suspend the liquor license of Lyve at U, off U Street NW. They were cited for having live entertainment and no social distancing. If the action is approved on Friday, the business would be the first to be closed for violating COVID-19 restrictions in D.C.
D.C. officials are closely monitoring tax payments to the city as the coronavirus pandemic continues to shake the economy.
There is “considerable uncertainty” over whether property tax payments will be paid, the chief financial officer said in a statement Wednesday.
The mayor said officials will watch “every bucket” of taxes and still be able to balance the budget. Additional budget cuts are possible.
What the Data Shows
D.C., Maryland and Virginia are each adding fewer cases a day now, on average, than they were for several weeks in July.
On Wednesday, the average new cases over the previous week were: Sixty-three in D.C. (down four from last week), 877 in Maryland (down from 940 on Friday), 968 in Virginia (down 78 from last week).
Virginia did report a high death count Wednesday when 30 lives were recorded lost.
Maryland is boasting about major gains in testing and a low rate of tests coming back positive. Overall, about 4.05% of coronavirus tests are showing the person tested was infected with COVID-19. That number is slightly higher in a potential emerging outbreak area, Worcester County, and among people under the age of 35.
In D.C., health officials are still trying to push against an increasing trend of community spread, but haven't reported a new peak in the last four reporting days. No new coronavirus deaths were reported on Wednesday.
The map below shows the number of coronavirus cases diagnosed per 1,000 residents.
Coronavirus Cases in DC, Maryland and Virginia
COVID-19 cases by population in D.C. and by county in Maryland and Virginia
Local Coronavirus Headlines
- Several parents are suing for the right to send their children to private school in person in Montgomery County, Maryland. Read more.
- A new study from the University of Virginia estimates that very few Virginians have COVID-19 antibodies. Read more.
- Some dealers at MGM National Harbor say between positive coronavirus cases and quarantines, the casino is losing employees. Read more.
- Anyone who recently attended services at one Catholic church in D.C. is being advised to self-quarantine after the pastor, who criticized coronavirus-related restrictions, tested positive for the virus. Read more.
- American Airlines says a flight out of Virginia was delayed after a passenger refused to comply with its policy requiring a face mask. Read more.
- D.C. health officials are urging anyone who attended a Catholic Church on Capitol Hill to quarantine for two weeks after the church's priest tested positive for coronavirus. Read more.
- Maryland said all 24 of the state's jurisdictions met the 10% testing threshold. Read more.
- Maryland strengthened its mask rules and advised against travel to nine states. Read more.
- Private and parochial schools in Maryland can choose when to reopen, the governor said Monday, after Montgomery County ordered all private schools to remain closed. Read more.
- Prince George's County is revising its phase two reopening executive order due to an uptick in coronavirus cases, according to the county executive's office.
- Virginia entered phase three reopening on July 1, loosening restrictions on restaurants, stores, gyms and pools. Northam said more restrictions could be implemented if cases continue to grow.
- Prince George's County entered full phase two on June 23, allowing the MGM Casino and gyms to reopen.
- D.C., entered phase two on June 22, allowing indoor dining, gyms, libraries and houses of worship to reopen with restrictions.
- Montgomery County entered phase two on June 19, reopening with restrictions gyms, houses of worship, indoor dining and retail.
- Maryland entered phase two of reopening on June 10, permitting indoor dining, outdoor pools and outside amusements to reopen.
How to Stay Safe
There are ways to lower your risk of catching coronavirus. Here are guidelines from the CDC:
- Anyone over the age of 2 should wear a mask or face covering. Keep it over your nose and mouth.
- Wash your hands often. When you do, scrub with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. As a backup, use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
- Avoid close contact with anyone who lives outside your home. That means staying six feet away from anyone outside your circle, even if you're wearing masks.
- Always cover coughs and sneezes.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces.
Sophia Barnes, Andrea Swalec and Anisa Holmes contributed to this report