As coronavirus cases and hospitalizations continue to level off in the D.C. area, counties are ramping up vaccination efforts through grassroots outreach and more school systems have announced their plans to welcome students back to the classroom next month.
Here's what to know about the fight against COVID-19 in the D.C. area.
Back-to-School Plans Released by Arlington and Montgomery Districts
Students at Arlington County Public Schools will return to the classroom for hybrid and concurrent learning starting in March, the school board announced.
Pre-K through second grade and special education classes return on March 2. Third through sixth grade and ninth grade will return on March 9. Seventh, eighth, ninth and 10th through 12th grades will return to the classroom on March 16.
"Teachers will instruct both groups of students (in-person and full-distance) using a concurrent learning model," according to guidance on the Arlington Public Schools website. "This may mean that some students in school will receive instruction from a teacher who is remote; these students will be monitored and assisted in-person by classroom assistants."
In other scenarios, a teacher may have a few kids in the classroom while the remainder of the class is virtual, watching through a camera.
Montgomery County Public Schools also laid out its back-to-school timeline on Tuesday.
Some special education, career and technical students will return on March 1. Kindergarten through third grade is set to return on March 15.
By April 6, Pre-K, fourth through sixth grade and 12th grade will go back to the classroom. On April 9, eighth, ninth and 11th grade return. And finally, by April 26, seventh-graders and 10th-graders go back to school.
When students do go back, some will go four days a week while others rotate between one week at school and one week at home.
Teachers may have students both in the classroom and virtually.
Global COVID-19 Updates
Wearing a cloth mask over a surgical mask can help reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19 by more than 95%, as can improving a mask's fit, new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found.
The researchers found that wearing just one mask – surgical or cloth – blocked a little over 40% of the particles from simulated breathing by an unmasked head. But a cloth mask on top of a surgical mask blocked about 80% of particles from an unmasked head.
When both the exhaling and inhaling heads wore two masks, more than 95% of the particles were blocked, said the CDC’s Dr. John Brooks.
Global COVID-19 cases have nearly reached 107 million, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University. At least 2.34 million lives worldwide have been lost to the virus.
In the United States, cases have topped 27.19 million and at least 468,217 people have died. Cases are falling in almost every state. North Carolina and Alaska are the exceptions, where cases are up by 3% and 87%, respectively, compared to last week.
Public health officials say COVID-19 is likely to become an endemic disease, meaning it will continue to circulate throughout the population, albeit at lower levels, even after most people are vaccinated.
People may need annual coronavirus vaccinations in the years to come as the virus mutates, Johnson & Johnson CEO Alex Gorsky told CNBC. Last week, J&J applied for an emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration for its single-shot COVID-19 vaccine. If approved, it would be the third COVID-19 vaccine and the first single-shot vaccine authorized for use in the U.S.
Some good news: a 116-year-old French nun – who is believed to be the world's second-oldest person — has survived COVID-19, and is looking forward to her 117th birthday tomorrow, the Associated Press reports.
Vaccination Appointments Opening Up in D.C. on Thursday
Approximately 2,500 vaccination appointments will be made available to D.C. residents who live in priority zip codes and are 65 years old or older on Thursday, Feb. 11 at 9 a.m, officials announced. Health care workers will also be eligible to sign up for those appointments.
The priority zip codes are focused in Wards 5, 7, and 8 and include: 20422, 20011, 20017, 20018, 20002, 20001, 20019, 20020, 20032, 20593. Priority zip codes include areas of D.C. where residents are disproportionately affected by COVID-19.
On Friday, February 12 at 9 a.m., about 2,500 additional appointments will be available for all D.C. residents who are 65 years and older or are health care workers in DC.
To date, more than one in three D.C. seniors have already received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine.
Sign up to register for an appointment or updates here: https://coronavirus.dc.gov/vaccinatedc
Fauquier County Opens COVID-19 Vaccination Call Center to Assist Senior Citizens
A Virginia community set up a call center to help residents, especially senior citizens, navigate the sometimes tricky COVID-19 vaccination signup system.
Local leaders in Fauquier County heard the complaints about people unable to register online, so just over a week ago they opened the center and have already fielded 1,400 calls — sometimes helping seniors register online, other times confirming they are already in the queue.
To reach the Fauquier County center, call 540-422-0111 or email email@example.com.
CVS to Offer COVID-19 Vaccine Appointments in DC Area
CVS pharmacies have begun offering appointments to book COVID-19 vaccination appointments in Virginia and soon are expected to offer scheduling in Maryland, too.
CVS tells NBC Washington they will be offering the COVID-19 vaccines at 18 stores in Maryland and at 36 in Virginia in areas including Alexandria, Arlington, Fairfax, Gainesville, Warrenton and Winchester next week.
Registrations will open up when pharmacies have their doses and are prepared to book appointments.
You can check the vaccine portal at CVS.com, using the CVS app or if you’re offline, calling 1-800-746-7287.
An important reminder: You will only be able to get an appointment if you're part of qualifying groups, such as certain essential workers and people over the age of 65.
The vaccinated population in D.C. may be overestimated in this map because some non-residents who work in D.C. are included in the totals.
Montgomery County to Allow Indoor Dining, Acknowledges Vaccine Administration Problems
The Montgomery County Council has voted to allow indoor dining starting on Sunday, just in time for Valentine's Day.
Restaurants could only seat customers up to 25% of capacity and there’s a 90-minute time limit, under the executive order endorsed Tuesday. The changes will go into effect 7 a.m. Sunday.
What the Data Shows
The District reported 67 additional coronavirus cases and four more deaths Wednesday. Maryland had 1,137 new cases and 33 additional deaths. Virginia recorded 2,122 new infections and 19 lives lost.
Seven-day averages stayed relatively stable in D.C, and Virginia but rose in Maryland. Average cases in the District remain in the 160s while cases in Virginia remained in the 2,370s. Cases in Maryland rose from 1,284 on Tuesday to 1,312 on Wednesday.
Vaccine distribution is up to 166,950 doses in D.C., 1,098,275 in Maryland and 1,544,150 in Virginia. About 2.56% of the population in Maryland and 2.58% of the population in Virginia have been vaccinated.
As of Saturday, D.C. said it had vaccinated about 1% of the city's residents. The city is vaccinating both residents and nonresident essential workers and said it had administered 67,688 doses.
Hospitalizations are down across the region – 226 coronavirus patients are hospitalized in the District, 1,282 are hospitalized in Maryland and 1,951 confirmed COVID-19 patients are being treated in Virginia.
Vaccination Portals by County
As vaccinations in our region ramp up, here's a look at local portals residents can use to sign up for vaccination appointments or sign up to receive alerts.
- Washington, D.C. signups– vaccinate.dc.gov
- Maryland signups – www.marylandvax.org/ and covidvax.maryland.gov
- Virginia information – www.vdh.virginia.gov/covid-19-vaccine/
- Montgomery County – www.montgomerycountymd.gov/covid19/vaccine/
- Prince George's County – www.princegeorgescountymd.gov/3730/COVID-19-Vaccination
- Howard County – www.howardcountymd.gov/Departments/Health/MM-Alerts-and-Recalls/COVID-19-Vaccine
- Anne Arundel County – aahealth.org/covid-19-vaccine-faq/
- Fairfax County – www.fairfaxcounty.gov/health/novel-coronavirus/vaccine
- City of Alexandria – www.alexandriava.gov/health/info/default.aspx?id=119270
- Loudoun County – www.loudoun.gov/covid19vaccine
- Prince William County – coronavirus.pwcgov.org/vaccine-information/ & VDH
To get a better idea of when you'll be eligible to receive a vaccine, use our tool below.
Local Coronavirus Headlines
- The first case of a COVID-19 variant from South Africa has been diagnosed in Virginia, Gov. Ralph Northam said Friday.
- Health officials confirmed Maryland's first case of COVID-19 caused by the new variant first identified in South Africa, then another two cases in Montgomery County residents.
- Many D.C. restaurant workers who already were coping with the safety hazards and financial impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic also are facing increased sexual harassment, a new report from a labor organization says.
- Face masks are now required in all National Park Service buildings, and on land maintained by the Park Service when physical distancing is not possible, federal officials announced Tuesday.
- Bars and restaurants in Maryland will be able to remain open past 10 p.m. starting Monday, Feb. 1, the governor announced. Restaurants will still be capped at half-capacity indoors.
- Nursing homes and rehabilitation facilities in the D.C. region are still working to convince some of their employees that it's safe to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
- Hogan outlined plans to put the infrastructure in place to speed up COVID-19 vaccinations when a higher volume of doses becomes available. Six mass vaccination sites are planned, including one at Six Flags America.
- Georgetown University says it will discipline medical students who received COVID-19 vaccines though they were not eligible to receive them.
- Just as millions of Americans are rolling up their sleeves for a COVID-19 vaccine, the News4 I-Team has learned the outgoing Secretary of Health and Human Services made it much harder to get compensated for the most common vaccine injury.
- D.C.’s child care workers are asking officials not to push back their COVID-19 vaccinations.
- Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan says school districts should resume in-person learning by March 1 or face legal action, which the state teacher's union says is a threat to educators.
- Maryland reported its first two confirmed cases of the U.K. variant of COVID-19.
- A professor is using the trust Black Americans have in barbers to make them more comfortable with taking the COVID-19 vaccine.
- Montgomery County plans to allow indoor dining again starting Feb. 14.
- Virginia Governor Ralph Northam directed all schools to offer in-person classes by March 15, saying the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other leaders say it's possible to reopen safely.
- The Fairfax County School Board voted unanimously Tuesday afternoon to bring all students back in-person for hybrid learning by March 16.
- D.C. has lifted its ban on indoor dining, but libraries and recreation centers are still closed.
- Virginia instituted a curfew and a stricter mask mandate.
- Maryland tightened restrictions on businesses, bars and restaurants.
- All Smithsonian museums and the National Zoo are closed because of rising COVID-19 cases.
- 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 remain partially shut down due to the pandemic.
- Prince George's County tightened restrictions and required masks to be worn outdoors.
How to Stay Safe
Anyone can get COVID-19. Here are three simple ways the CDC says you can lower your risk:
- 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.