Coronavirus in DC, Maryland, Virginia: What to Know on Dec. 2

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

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While the rapid rise in coronavirus case numbers has been leveling off this week in D.C., Maryland and Virginia, hospitalization numbers persist as an area of concern.

Over the past month, hospitalizations have increased 3.5 times in Maryland, more than doubled in Virginia and jumped 70% in D.C.

The D.C. government has $10 million in assistance for D.C. residents who have fallen behind on rent payments as the pandemic devastates the economy. 

Renters can qualify for up to $2,000 a month in back rent. The program is open to affordable housing units and landlords with apartment buildings of 20 units or less. The grants can cover unpaid rent from this April through November. 

If you need help, take note of this: You only have until Dec. 11 to apply. Much of the grant money comes from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act and must be distributed before the end of the year. 

Go here to apply. 

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said Tuesday that the state had lost its youngest patient to COVID-19. A 1-year-old boy died of the virus, Hogan said.

The governor also says the state is bracing for a surge of COVID-19 patients in hospitals by making more beds available. According to models, the state could hit a record-high number of hospitalizations in the coming days. Currently, 1,578 Marylanders are hospitalized with COVID-19.

Hogan called on colleges and universities to allow students to get credit for hands-on work during the pandemic. He also encouraged allowing students who have fulfilled graduation requirements to take an “early exit” into the workforce.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced new guidelines that shorten the amount of time some people need to quarantine after being exposed to COVID-19.

Before Wednesday, anyone exposed was told to self-isolate and cut contact with others for 14 days. The new guidelines cut that time to 10 days, or just seven days if an exposed person also receives a negative COVID-19 test result. Those recommendations only apply to people without symptoms.

Fourteen days is still the safest amount of time to quarantine because that's how long it takes for the virus to incubate, health officials say.

However, the shorter amount of time could help those who need to return to work for pressing financial reasons. It could also help health care workers get back to their jobs faster, which would alleviate stress on the health system.

Last month, more than 36,000 Americans died from COVID-19. In comparison, 22,000 people died from the flu throughout last year’s season, the CDC says.

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam said the commonwealth is expecting 70,000 doses of Pfizer’s vaccine in the first wave. Virginia will follow the CDC's guidelines of a phased-in approach and give the vaccine to health care workers and people in long-term care first — an estimated 500,000 people.

A process is in place to determine how to divide that into smaller groups, Virginia Office of Epidemiology Director Dr. Lilian Peake said. She expects to have it at the end of the week.

“We don’t initially have enough vaccine doses for the entire priority group,” Northam said. “We have plans in place for determining who goes first based on medical ethics and protocols created by the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association and our Virginia disaster and medical advisory committee.”

He said it will take several months to get everyone vaccinated but he urged everyone to get vaccinated when it’s available.

“I strongly encourage every Virginian to get the vaccine,” he said. “That is the only way to get back to the near normal.”

Virginia is partnering with doctors’ offices, CVS, Walgreens and other pharmacies for distribution.

Northam said distribution will be fair and equitable.

Northam also said he is monitoring the possibility of a post-Thanksgiving surge.

A CDC advisory committee on Tuesday voted that the first rounds of coronavirus vaccines go to health care workers and residents of long-term care facilities such as nursing homes.

However, the first batch of vaccines distributed to D.C., Maryland and Virginia likely won’t be enough to vaccinate all the health care workers in the region.

Maryland expects to get 155,000 shots at first, about half what’s needed for health care workers, Gov. Larry Hogan said.

D.C. expects about 8,000 doses initially.

Hogan said leaders face “difficult decisions” regarding who to vaccinate first. He also said that distribution may start slowly but will accelerate.

Prince George’s County is the latest local school system that decided to delay in-person learning due to the rising number of COVID-19 cases in our area.

Prince George’s County Public Schools says it will continue distance learning until further notice.

It delayed sending to parents a survey on reopening schools.

In October, a survey indicated that nearly 70% of parents were uncomfortable with a return to the classroom.

Thousands of students returned to classrooms Tuesday in Prince William and Loudoun counties amid a coronavirus surge, but officials say schools aren’t linked to significant community spread of the virus.

“As far as outbreaks, in terms of proof of transmission within a school, we’re not seeing that at this point,” said Diana Gulotta, a Prince William County Schools spokesperson.

George Mason University has paused its men’s basketball team’s activities after someone in the program tested positive for COVID-19.

The positive test spurred George Mason to cancel its game against the University of Maryland that was scheduled for Friday.

What the Data Shows

As Maryland prepares for a surge in COVID-19 hospitalizations, Gov. Larry Hogan is calling for eligible medical students to join the fight against the virus. Here's where the state's hospitalizations stand as of Wednesday.

Health officials report that 1,578 Marylanders are currently being treated for COVID-19 – that’s just a few hundred shy of the state's highest hospitalization count ever reported (1,711 on April 30). Among those in the hospital, about 22% are currently in an intensive care unit.

More than 21,000 Marylanders have been hospitalized so far.

Hospitalizations are also higher than ever in Virginia. The state recorded 1,472 hospitalizations Wednesday. According to the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association, more than 24,000 people have been hospitalized and discharged since the start of the pandemic.

D.C. reported Tuesday that 165 people were hospitalized with COVID-19, the highest count since June.

An additional 3,847 confirmed cases of coronavirus were reported in the region Wednesday. Five lives were lost in D.C., 18 in Virginia and 42 in Maryland – the state’s largest 24-hour increase in deaths since June.

Seven-day rolling averages continue to show signs that the virus’ spread is decelerating.

D.C.’s rolling average has now remained under its former peak of 192 for four consecutive days. Maryland’s seven-day average is down to 2,171 and Virginia’s is down to 1,709. Both state’s rolling averages are around 200 cases lower than a week ago.

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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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