New restrictions are being implemented as D.C., Maryland and Virginia await their first shipments of coronavirus vaccines, which could come as early as next week.
The D.C. region’s climb in cases slowed Friday with 5,436 new confirmed cases, lower than other days this week, but hospitalizations are sky-high. Maryland and Virginia both set hospitalization records on Friday.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan is warning that the state is starting to see a post-Thanksgiving surge, and the rise in cases spurred some jurisdictions to reintroduce COVID-19 restrictions.
All 24 Maryland jurisdictions are in the red zone for cases, Hogan said Thursday.
Starting at 5 p.m. Friday, Frederick County, Maryland, is limiting indoor gatherings of all kinds to no more than 15 people. In addition, large indoor recreation establishments will have their capacities reduced to no more than 50 people. This includes things like bowling alleys and skating rinks
Virginia Governor Ralph Northam announced several new and expanded restrictions that take effect Monday.
All Virginians must wear masks when outdoors and gatherings will be limited to ten people.
A curfew will be in place between midnight and 5 a.m. for everyone who is not going to work or leaving work.
"Nothing good happens after midnight. So we're asking individuals when our bars close, when restaurants close, unless they're working — traveling to or from — they need to be at home,” Northam said.
Northam says the requirement to wear masks outdoors as well as the new curfew will not be enforced but encouraged.
Northam says many people are ignoring the guidelines, especially in private, social gatherings.
The Fairfax County School Board discussed plans Thursday night for returning kids to the classroom in 2021.
The plan would gradually return students to a part-time hybrid learning model between Jan. 12 and Feb. 2.
Superintendent Scott Brabrand stressed the plan is still only a draft and not a final decision.
The school system says only 3% of students and staff who returned to school buildings have tested positive for the virus.
Contact tracing showed 90% of those positive cases came from community transmission outside the schools.
But the Fairfax County Federation of Teachers says it has observed safety violations in school buildings and that eight in 10 teachers lack confidence in return-to-school plans.
Meanwhile, Loudoun County Schools announced a return to 100% virtual learning starting Tuesday, Dec. 15.
LCPS says local and state health metrics are moving in the wrong direction. It's not clear when students in Loudoun might return to classrooms.
What the Data Shows
The precipitous climb of new cases in our region slowed somewhat on Friday, but the data is still painting a bleak picture overall.
The region reported a total of 5,436 new confirmed cases – the lowest single-day increase in over a week.
D.C. had 259 new cases and one additional death. For the second day in a row, the District’s seven-day average fell. It currently stands at 268.
Maryland recorded 2,616 new cases and 51 deaths. Maryland’s seven-day average also fell by about 200 cases down to 2,754.
Virginia reported 2,561 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 33 additional lives lost. The state’s seven-day average continued its week-long rise, coming just shy of 3,000 cases on Friday.
Maryland and Virginia broke new records for hospitalizations on Friday as well, with 1,749 and 1,729 people being treated for the virus, respectively.
D.C. recorded its highest hospitalization count (224) since early June.
Test positivity rates are high throughout the region. In D.C. a weekly average of 5.8% of COVID-19 tests are coming back positive. In Maryland it’s up to 7.49% and in Virginia the test positivity is at 10.8%.
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.: D.C. expects to receive its first 6,825 doses after Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine is cleared by the Food and Drug Administration and distributed, D.C. Health Director LaQuandra Nesbitt and Mayor Muriel Bowser said Thursday at a press conference.
It's "impossible to lay out an exact timeline, but the rollout will happen in phases in accordance with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance.
The very first vaccines will go to health care workers and first responders who come into contact with COVID-19 patients. The stages of vaccination are Phase 1A for about 85,000 health care workers and first responders, then Phase 1B for more than 310,000 essential workers and at-risk residents. During Phase 2, the vaccine will first become available to the general public.
Local Coronavirus Headlines
- Health officials in Virginia say they'll likely have to scale back on contact tracing because coronavirus transmission levels are rising so high.
- Maryland will focus its initial COVID-19 vaccinations on hospital-based health care workers, residents of nursing homes and first responders in the first phase expected to arrive as soon as next week, state officials said Tuesday.
- If federal regulators authorize two COVID-19 vaccine candidates, Virginia expects to receive enough doses by the year's end to begin inoculating nearly all of its health care workers and long-term care facility residents, officials said Friday.
- Help is available for thousands of D.C. residents who have fallen behind on rent payments.
- D.C. Public Schools is preparing for an ambitious pilot program in which it will regularly test some students and staff for the coronavirus.
- The initial wave of vaccines likely won’t come close to covering all health care workers in D.C., Maryland and Virginia.
- Despite rising COVID-19 cases in the D.C. region, thousands of Northern Virginia students returned to the classroom Tuesday and began hybrid learning.
- Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced measures on Tuesday to boost the number of available health care workers and plan for more hospital beds.
- Thousands of Northern Virginia students returned to classrooms in Loudoun and Prince William counties to begin hybrid learning.
- Some Fairfax County students have returned to all-virtual learning amid a rise in coronavirus cases.
- COVID-19 numbers continue to paint a dire picture for Black Americans, and there is an ongoing effort in the Black community to increase testing.
- Officials reversed a decision to cancel the annual Wreaths Across America event at Arlington National Cemetery. The event, held in December, will happen after all.
- Maryland released a new contact tracing app, and has reduced indoor operations for bars and restaurants from 75% to 50% in response to rising coronavirus cases and increased hospitalizations.
- Virginia planned to announce new coronavirus restrictions on Thursday.
- Montgomery County's executive has proposed suspending indoor dining, tighter capacity limits at religious institutions and other new restrictions that would take effect 5 p.m. Tuesday, if approved by the county council.
- Maryland tightened restrictions on businesses, bars and restaurants.
- All Smithsonian museums and the National Zoo closed because of rising COVID-19 cases, officials announced.
- Hours before some Fairfax County students were set to return to in-person learning, the school district said that they needed to delay the plan.
- Courts throughout Maryland partially shut down due to the pandemic.
- Virginia announced new measures to fight COVID-19 as cases of the virus have spiked across the country.
- Prince George's County tightened restrictions and required masks to be worn outdoors.
- Montgomery County reduced capacity limits at many businesses, including for indoor dining, to 25%. The county previously stopped giving waivers for alcohol sales after 10 p.m.
- D.C.'s mayor extended the city's coronavirus state of emergency to last through the end of the year.
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.