Coronavirus in DC, Maryland, Virginia: What to Know on Dec. 12

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

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It's the news we've been waiting for since the pandemic began in March: The Food and Drug Administration has approved the Pfizer vaccine for emergency use.

The emergency use authorization sets in motion a months-long rollout to vaccinate millions of Americans.

Doses of the nation's first COVID-19 vaccine are set to ship in UPS and FedEx trucks beginning Sunday. They will arrive the next day at 150 hospitals and other sites with ultra-cold storage, Army Gen. Gustave Perna of Operation Warp Speed, said Saturday.

Vaccines will be given to 24 Maryland hospitals as early as next week, including Adventist Healthcare Shady Grove Medical Center, The Johns Hopkins Hospital and University of Maryland Medical Center. Six D.C. hospitals including Howard University and Children’s National are also in line to get boxes containing nearly 1,000 shots.

Virginia has not released a list of hospitals that will get the first doses. The Inova health system told News4 they expect a shipment next week and will vaccinate eligible employees.

News4 has learned the names of 24 Maryland Hospitals that will be first in line to receive the Pfizer vaccine. News4's Scott MacFarlane reports.

The first shots will be given to medical workers and first responders who are exposed to coronavirus patients, leaders have said.

Furthermore, federal veterans’ hospitals in D.C., Baltimore and Richmond will get the first round of vaccines. Just how many doses will be available is unknown, but these are some of the largest Veterans Affairs hospitals in the nation, with dozens of deaths from the virus among patients.

FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn told the public that the vaccine was safe but will take time to roll out. He urged people to continue taking precautions against the virus.

“We remind the public to remain vigilant as inoculation will take time. Wear a mask, wash your hands and remain socially distant when possible,” FDA Commissioner Dr. Steve Hahn said.

Gen. Gustave Perna, the chief operating officer of the White House’s Operation Warp Speed, on Saturday said distribution of the vaccine had begun. “We expect 145 sites to receive vaccines by Monday, another 425 sites on Tuesday. and the final 66 sites on Wednesday,” Perna said.

Two more school districts are scaling back in-person learning.

Fairfax County Public Schools are notifying parents that many children will return to all-virtual instruction.

Group 3 students, including some English Language Learners and special education students, will return to online learning on Monday. The goal is to bring students back after winter break, officials said.

Fauquier County Public Schools also announced all students will return to a fully virtual learning model on Monday. Online learning will continue, until winter break.

At this point, hybrid learning may resume in January, when the second term begins.

What the Data Shows

If the current rate of diagnosis continues, the region is set to fly past 500,000 known coronavirus cases when data is released on Sunday.

More than 4,000 Virginians have died of coronavirus, including 32 reported Saturday.

Hospitalizations continue to rise. A total of 1,779 Virginians were hospitalized with COVID-19 on Saturday, breaking a record-high set the day before.

On Saturday, 3,116 new cases were counted. Nearly 11% of people tested over the past week were positive for coronavirus.

The seven-day average stands at 2,984, the highest it’s ever been.

D.C. added 286 new coronavirus cases and reported four more residents died of the disease. Nearly 6% of people tested are positive for COVID-19.

Hospital capacity is now in the red zone, with 91.3% of hospital beds occupied.

After 10 days of steadily rising, the seven-day rolling average of cases has fallen for two days in a row. Now, it’s 253.

In Maryland, 3,538 more residents tested positive for coronavirus before Saturday, the second-highest increase over a single day. The positivity rate is 7.42%.

Another 36 Marylanders died.

Hospitalizations dipped by 10.

The seven-day average is 2,804 cases per day, down from an all-time high on Thursday.

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

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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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