Coronavirus in DC, Maryland, Virginia: What to Know on Dec. 3

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

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The nation’s top health officials are warning that coronavirus data shows troubling signs as the D.C. region sees hospitalizations and deaths climb.

It’s encouraging that the seven-day average of new coronavirus cases has declined for two consecutive days in Maryland and five in Virginia.

However, hospitalizations and deaths remain high. Eighty people died of the virus in D.C., Maryland and Virginia, officials reported Thursday. Regionwide, such a high number has only been recorded one other time since May.

D.C. reported 322 new cases on Thursday — the second-highest daily number ever reported — and a higher positivity rate, 5.6%. That means increased testing is only part of the reason for the higher case numbers.

Numbers like that are sparking concern that the nation could see a “surge upon a surge” between Thanksgiving and Christmas, as White House coronavirus advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci warned this week.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield says the United States is about to witness our most dire health crisis ever.

“December and January and February are gonna be rough times. I actually think they’re going to be the most difficult time in the public health history of this nation,” Redfield said.

People are looking to vaccines as a light at the end of the tunnel — once one is proven safe and effective, then widely distributed.

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, who is a physician, on Wednesday tried to reassure everyone that the vaccine will be safe.

“We have every reason to believe these vaccinations are safe,” Northam said. “Vaccines do not give you COVID-19. Instead, they spur your body to produce antibodies to the disease.”

D.C. officials said Thursday the federal government’s COVID-19 vaccine distribution process is unfair, and leaves thousands of the District's health workers unprotected.

The vaccine allotment process was determined based on resident population and not workforce population, which “significantly disadvantages” the District, said D.C.'s health director LaQuandra S. Nesbitt at a press conference Thursday. 

This allotment method means that only one-tenth of D.C.’s health care workers, many of whom live outside of the District, will have access to a COVID-19 vaccine while other states have anywhere from one-third to half of their health care workers covered, she said.

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 free pilot program is for CARE students, who take virtual lessons inside a school building. Starting next week, students will receive a nasal-swab test about every 10 days. The school system plans to mail test kits to staff every week.

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser announced the program on the same day that COVID-19 infections had struck the public schools community.

One D.C. Public Schools student and five staff members have tested positive for COVID-19 two weeks into in-person learning for some D.C. elementary school students, the school system said.

Parents and school officials have differing opinions on whether to allow students back into classrooms early next year. Chris Gordon reports.

The Montgomery County School Board voted to hold off on making a decision on when to bring students back to the classroom until later this month. 

Some parents are happy with the decision to keep school virtual while others have expressed concern that prolonged distance learning is negatively impacting students' education.

The second semester of school begins Feb. 1. The Montgomery County School Board is planning to meet again in mid-December to review COVID-19 trends.

What the Data Shows

D.C. reported 322 new COVID-19 infections, the second largest single-day leap in cases. Two additional deaths were also reported.

The city’s testing positivity rate has jumped up to 5.6% – more than one percentage point higher than it was a week ago.

Records from the D.C. Health Department show a large spike in COVID-19 testing around Thanksgiving, from Nov. 25 to Nov. 27, and another smaller jump in testing on Wednesday.

With the test turnaround time now averaging four days, the testing spikes and positivity increase could indicate that many residents who were tested around Thanksgiving have tested positive for COVID-19.

Wednesday's increase in testing volume could also signal that those who were infected around Thanksgiving may now be exhibiting symptoms.

Due to the spike in new cases, D.C.’s seven-day average has risen to 204 cases, up from the 180s where it remained for the past four consecutive days.

Maryland reported 2,044 new cases and 48 additional deaths. Virginia reported 1,382 new cases and 30 lives lost. Maryland and Virginia’s seven-day averages have both decreased, showing signs that new virus infections are continuing to level off.

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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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