Coronavirus in DC, Maryland, Virginia: What to Know on Dec. 10

Here's what to know about the coronavirus data, resources and reopenings across the D.C. area

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It's been nine months since the coronavirus pandemic changed every aspect of our lives, but there’s hope as the Pfizer vaccine approaches clearing a final hurdle before distribution.

An independent Food and Drug Administration Panel convened Thursday to examine the data from trials of the shot.

The preliminary review by the FDA found the vaccine is safe to use and has few side effects.

The advisory panel will make its recommendations by the end of the day and the FDA could grant emergency use authorization as soon as Thursday night or Friday.

The federal government has prepared 2.9 million vaccine doses to be distributed immediately after approval, which could begin rolling out over the weekend or early next week, CNBC reports.

Virginia is preparing for 480,000 doses by the end of December.

Maryland will receive 155,000 doses of the coronavirus in total with about 50,000 from Pfizer and 104,000 from Moderna, officials said. Distribution could begin next week for Pfizer’s vaccine, officials said.

Health care workers will be first in line as D.C. prepares for about 6,800 initial vaccine doses. News4's Mark Segraves reports that number is lower than officials had first thought.

D.C. is now planning for 6,825 doses of a vaccine in its first shipment, which will be given to health care workers and first responders. Less than 10% of health care workers can get the first dose from the initial allotment, so anyone who interacts with COVID-19 patients will be very first in line, officials said Thursday.

“Vaccinating health care workers first ensures we have a healthy work force to treat and care for sick people,” Nesbitt said. “It’s not just necessarily the doctors and nurses, but it also includes the techs, environmental services staff, et cetera.”

Despite the good news, the data points to a deepening crisis. D.C.'s daily case rate has soared to more than 40 per 100,000 residents, far above the phase two goal of 15.

Maryland and Virginia have more COVID-19 patients in hospitals than ever before. Case averages have been trending upward since October.

“While the latest COVID-19 vaccine news has given us a real reason for optimism, some of our darkest days are still ahead of us,” Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said. “The cavalry is coming, but we need to stay #MarylandStrong for a little while longer.”

As the coronavirus crisis worsens, our region’s leaders provided updates to the public on Thursday.

Northern Virginia Bureau Reporter Drew Wilder breaks down new coronavirus restrictions in Virginia.

Virginia will have a curfew starting Monday that will require most residents to stay home between midnight and 5 a.m, the governor announced at a press conference Thursday.

The state’s cap on public gatherings will also be reduced from 25 people to 10.

Northam is expanding the state's longstanding mask requirements to include outdoor areas where social distancing isn’t possible and all indoor areas shared with others, except for households. The current mask mandate requires only that masks be worn in indoor public settings.

Maryland's governor announced financial relief for small businesses, grants for residents with diabetes and the allocation of funds to build thousands of affordable housing units.

Gov. Larry Hogan issued an executive order Thursday to convert $75 million in loans for small businesses affected by the pandemic into grants in order to "help keep more people on their payrolls.”

Hogan said the state would also be committing $94 million in grants to help treat Marylanders with diabetes during the pandemic.  

“More than one out of every three Marylanders either has diabetes or pre-diabetes which puts them at a much greater risk,” Hogan said. “It is the number one [risk] for COVID-19.”

Maryland will be directing an additional $25 million to the construction of 2,000 affordable units in low-income housing projects, Hogan said.

“This is the largest number of units we have financed in a single year,” he said. 

Another $10 million will be invested for a wide range of initiatives, law enforcement and youth services, Hogan said.

New restrictions on Prince George’s County restaurants, stores and casinos will go into effect Wednesday, Dec. 16 as COVID-19 cases surge, officials announced Thursday. 

Indoor dining will be banned. Outdoor dining will be limited to 50% capacity. Curbside and takeout service will still be allowed. Casinos and stores will be limited to 25% capacity. 

Prince George's County is putting new COVID-19 restrictions in place. County Bureau Chief Tracee Wilkins reports.

County Executive Angela Alsobrooks asked residents and visitors to help businesses survive.

“Please continue to patronize our restaurants,” she said at a news conference.

The restrictions will go into effect at 5 p.m. Dec. 16 and remain in place at least through Jan. 16.

Fairfax County school leaders are set to meet Thursday night in hopes of working out a plan to get more students back in classrooms.

The latest surge in COVID-19 cases delayed some of the school system's youngest students from returning last month.

The district has been looking at ways to make schools safer, including by pulling together teams, lead by staff and retirees, who will spot check school buildings and make sure federal guidelines are followed.

The leaders of several of Maryland's largest counties joined Wednesday to talk about their handling of the pandemic.

During the meeting, Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich made a major announcement about new restrictions, proposing a ban on indoor dining and further capacity limits at religious institutions.

The Montgomery County Council needs to approve the proposal. Elrich aims to have it go into effect Tuesday at 5 p.m.

The leaders of several of Maryland's largest counties joined together to talk about their handling of COVID-19 Wednesday. During the meeting, Montgomery County Executive Mark Elrich made a major announcement about new restrictions. News4's Cory Smith takes a look at the county's plans to curb the spread of the virus.

What the Data Shows

Cases and hospitalizations are surging throughout our region, with all-time highs being reported across several metrics.

D.C. reported 244 new coronavirus cases and an additional four lives lost on Thursday.

The District’s seven-day average is at 276, a few cases lower than its all-time high of 287 reported Wednesday.

Maryland had 3,202 new cases – the state’s second highest 24-hour case increase – and 49 deaths.

Maryland’s seven-day average is at 2,922, breaking a new record. Hospitalizations are also at an all-time high of 1,720 Marylanders.

Virginia recorded 2,780 new cases and 54 additional deaths Thursday. The seven-day average surged to a record-breaking 2,850 – that’s more than 1,000 cases higher than last week.

Vaccination Plans in DC, Maryland, Virginia

  • Virginia: The Virginia Department of Health estimates there are up to 500,000 health care workers and long-term care facility residents in the state who are among top-priority for vaccines. The state announced Friday that 480,000 doses of vaccine from Pfizer and Moderna could arrive by the end of December.

    “We will focus initially on the groups that have been most at risk for severe illness from COVID-19 infections and those whose work puts them at greatest risk of contracting COVID-19 infections," Virginia State Health Commissioner Dr. M. Norman Oliver said.
  • Maryland: Maryland will focus its initial COVID-19 vaccinations on hospital-based health care workers, residents of nursing homes and first responders.

    The state is expected to receive 155,000 initial doses of COVID-19 vaccines, and distribution could begin as early as next week for the Pfizer vaccine and later this month for the Moderna vaccine. That initial figure includes 50,700 Pfizer doses and 104,300 Moderna doses.
  • Washington, D.C.: The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and Operation Warp Speed are planning to give 8,000 doses to D.C. in an initial distribution once a vaccine is available, D.C. Health Director Dr. LaQuandra Nesbitt said Monday. That’s just one-tenth of the estimated 80,000 doses needed to cover health workers, she said.

    The 8,000 figure includes 6,800 Pfizer doses, WTOP reported.

    Health care workers and first responders will top D.C.’s list for who will get a COVID-19 vaccination once it’s available, Nesbitt said. 

Local Coronavirus Headlines

Reopening Tracker

Although COVID-19 treatments have improved and a vaccine is on the way, even a mild case of the virus can cause long-term complications — including the possibility of erectile dysfunction. Infectious disease expert Dr. Dena Grayson joined LX News with a warning not to let our guards down as we wait for a vaccine.

How to Stay Safe

There are ways to lower your risk of catching coronavirus. Here are guidelines from the CDC:

  • Wear a snug-fitting mask that covers your nose and mouth. 
  • Avoid being indoors with people who are not members of your household. The more people you are in contact with, the more likely you are to be exposed to COVID-19. If you are indoors with people you don’t live with, stay at least six feet apart and keep your mask on. 
  • Wash your hands often, especially after you have been in a public place.
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