D.C., Maryland and Virginia surpassed 10,000 coronavirus-related deaths on Thursday, leaving thousands of families grieving more than 10 months into the pandemic.
A total of 10,003 residents have died of COVID-19 in the region, including 90 people reported in the past day, according to state and city data.
It’s a positive sign that the rate of new infections is slowing. Over the past week, seven-day averages of new cases have fallen region-wide.
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An independent Food and Drug Administration advisory committee appears likely to recommend Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine be granted emergency use authorization.
If the panel endorses the vaccine, it would effectively clear the way for a second shot to the available in the U.S.
D.C. Health Director LaQuandra Nesbitt joined five D.C. Fire and EMS members in getting coronavirus vaccines on Thursday.
The first responders have been dubbed “The First Five” as city leaders and physicians work to build trust and encourage others to get the vaccine.
One of those firefighters said she was hesitant about the vaccine at first, but she changed her mind after her best friend, a nurse, became infected.
Health officials are working to build trust in the vaccine, before it becomes available to the public this spring.
Washington, D.C., increased the maximum number of people allowed inside houses of worship under coronavirus-related rules after the Washington Archdiocese filed a lawsuit two weeks before Christmas.
Mayor Muriel Bowser’s office issued a mayoral order late Wednesday that went into effect early Thursday. The order removes a 50-person limit on gatherings at houses of worship and says the facilities may host 250 people or operate at 25% capacity, whichever is fewer people.
Along with that, D.C. is also limiting grocery stores, gyms and recreation centers to 25% or 250 people.
The changes seek to achieve “parity” among rules that apply to different activities, including what’s allowed at restaurants, the mayor’s order says.
Indoor and outdoor dining will continue in Anne Arundel County despite the county's attempts to suspend both.
A District Court judge approved an injunction to prevent the ban.
Restaurants can continue to serve, until a hearing is held on Dec. 28.
Currently, restaurants are allowed 25% capacity indoors and 50% capacity outdoors.
County Executive Steuart Pittman, who called for the suspension of indoor dining, said the proposed restriction was in the interest of public health.
"We believe the science from public health experts is clear and it shows that taking actions to limit situations where people gather without masks will prevent the spread of this virus and ultimately save lives,” Pittman said in a statement.
What the Data Shows
The region passed a milestone Thursday in reporting coronavirus death toll had hit 10,003.
Deaths reported Thursday, including five more in D.C., 49 in Maryland and 36 in Virginia, pushed the total over the 10,000 mark.
D.C. counted 228 new coronavirus cases on Thursday. The daily case rate per 100,000 residents remains in the red zone.
Nearly 11% of D.C.’s hospital beds are filled with COVID-19 patients, who numbered 246.
The average test turnaround time has fallen back to 2.5 days and the positivity rate is now 5.5%.
Maryland added 2,217 new coronavirus cases on Thursday as the number of people hospitalized fell to 1702, down 60 from the day before.
The positivity rate has dipped slightly to 7.73%.
Virginia added 2,828 new coronavirus cases on Thursday. The state has the highest test positivity rate in the region, 11.6%.
Coronavirus-related hospitalizations are still at a very high level. A total of 1,989 COVID-19 patients are hospitalized in Virginia. On Wednesday, Virginia broke a record with 1,990 hospitalizations.
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. Within two weeks, most hospitals are expected to have received some shots.
The state is expected to receive 155,000 initial doses of COVID-19 vaccines, including 50,700 Pfizer doses and 104,300 Moderna doses.
The National Guard will assist with distribution and eventually setting up vaccination clinics throughout the state.
- Washington, D.C.: George Washington University Hospital nurses were among the first in our region to receive COVID-19 shots on Monday. 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 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
- All Maryland hospitals are expected to receive some COVID-19 vaccines in the next two weeks to begin vaccinating critical frontline staff, a state health official said Tuesday.
- A professor is using the trust Black Americans have in barbers to make them more comfortable with taking the COVID-19 vaccine.
- Meet "The First Five," the group of D.C. emergency responders who will be the first members of the D.C. Fire and EMS Department to get the COVID-19 vaccine this coming week.
- A rapid antigen test might seem like a great idea when you're in a hurry and don't have time to wait a few days for results, but those tests are really designed for people with COVID-19 symptoms and in asymptomatic patients can deliver false positive results.
- News4 has obtained a list of two dozen Maryland hospitals expected to receive the first shipment of Pfizer vaccines once it receives emergency authorization from the Food and Drug Administration.
- Health officials in Virginia say they'll likely have to scale back on contact tracing because coronavirus transmission levels are rising so high.
- 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.
- Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced measures to boost the number of available health care workers and plan for more hospital beds.
- 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.
- 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.