Coronavirus in DC, Maryland, Virginia: What to Know on Feb. 17

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

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Gov. Larry Hogan said Wednesday that Maryland health officials confirmed a case of COVID-19 in a state resident caused by the new P.1 variant of the coronavirus, which is commonly known as the Brazil variant.

The case involves an adult older than 65 from the National Capital Region, who recently passed away following international travel.

"Comprehensive contact tracing efforts are underway to ensure that potential contacts are quickly identified, quarantined, and tested," the state said in a press release.

Financial relief from the pandemic is on the way for thousands of eligible Maryland families who should receive their stimulus checks by Friday and for Virginian tenants thanks to an additional $524 million in federal funding for rental assistance.

Average daily infections in the region decreased to their lowest counts in months and D.C. reported its lowest single-day case increase since late October.

Financial Relief in D.C., Maryland and Virginia

Thousands of D.C. residents who have been out of work for months due to the pandemic are still waiting receive unemployment checks.

Mayor Muriel Bowser is responding to the backlog. She has allocated $11 million to hire more call takers and improve technology that will speed up the process.

The city says it currently has about 3,500 pending claims.

Financial relief is on the way for thousands of Maryland families. The state says most eligible residents should receive their stimulus checks by Friday.

Direct deposits of $500 will be sent to qualifying families. Eligible individuals are set to receive $300.

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan signed the $1 billion relief package Monday. It received unanimous support in the state senate and near-unanimous support in the house.

Local health departments are battling computer glitches and people trying to get vaccinated before it's their turn. News4's Chris Gordon reports.

A new round of relief for renters is also on its way in Virginia. Governor Ralph Northam announced an additional $524 million in federal funding to help struggling tenants avoid eviction.

The funding will give Virginians access to rent assistance for a longer period of time. Eligible tenants can now qualify for rent assistance going back to last April in addition to up to three months of assistance in the future.

Virginia Launches Phone Line for New Statewide Vaccine Preregistration System

Virginia is opening a phone line Wednesday for residents to sign up for shots as part of the state's new vaccine registration system.

The call center number is 877-VAX-INVA or 877-829-4682, seven days a week between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m.

The call center will prioritize callers age 75 and up as well as Spanish speakers. Seven hundred fifty workers have been hired for the call center, of which about 10% are Spanish speaking. Callers can also schedule for a call back in 100 other languages.

The new vaccine registration system merges local vaccine sign-ups into a single, statewide site. It also allows Virginians to check their registration status and get weekly updates.

If you were already pre-registered for the vaccine, you don’t need to do anything. But you can use the portal to check that your preregistration transferred properly.

"If you can use the online form, please do so, and let our call center workers help those who don't have internet access or who are having trouble with the online form," the governor said at a press conference Wednesday.

He also issued a word of caution against scams promising access to the vaccine for a price.

"The vaccine doesn't cost you anything. Don't respond to anyone asking for money to reserve your shot," Northam said.

The governor also announced that starting Monday the number of spectators allowed at outdoor sporting events in Virginia will expand to 250 due to improving COVID-19 metrics in the state.

Maryland, Virginia Schools Bring Back Students

For some students in Frederick County, Maryland, Loudoun County and Fairfax County, Tuesday was the first time seeing their friends and teachers in almost a year.

Each school district has different guidelines for phasing students back in, and all of them say they're making safety the top priority.

In D.C., teachers spent part of the long weekend preparing to welcome students back into the classroom safely. Hundreds of public school teachers and staff waited Monday in long lines outside Dunbar High School to get their vaccines.

Some people stood in line for up to 2 hours.

Dr. Fauci spoke with News4's Doreen Gentzler about when he thinks schools should fully re-open and when children can expect to be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine.

Biden Administration to Increase Vaccine Supplies, Prioritize Teachers for Vaccinations

The Biden administration told governors Tuesday it will increase vaccine supplies for all states, including sending out 13.5 million doses per week. However, delays in vaccine shipments are likely due of severe weather across parts of the country.

In Vice President Kamala Harris' first live broadcast since taking office, she stressed Wednesday that teachers should be prioritized for COVID-19 vaccinations in order to reopen schools across the country.

"Teachers should be a priority along with other frontline workers, and we're going to make them a priority," Harris told "TODAY" co-anchor Savannah Guthrie. She wouldn’t say if she believed those vaccinations should be a prerequisite for reopening schools, however.

The nation’s leading infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, told News4 that he supports kids returning to schools with proper precautions in place.

“There’s so many reasons to get the children back to school. Not only for the physical, psychological and social health of the children, but also for the families.”

Fauci said that getting kids back to school is also a vital step in allowing parents to return to work.

Hear more from Dr. Fauci all week on News4.

What the Data Shows

Cases and hospitalizations continue to decrease from all-time highs recorded mid-January. The number of new cases in our region Wednesday were some of the lowest counts reported in months.

The District reported 49 new cases – the lowest single-day increase in months – and three lives lost on Wednesday.

Maryland reported 759 new cases and 19 additional deaths.

Virginia recorded 1,398 new cases and 33 additional deaths.

The seven-day average decreased in D.C., Maryland and Virginia to 121, 956 and 1,887, respectively. These are some of the lowest averages reported since November and December.

Hospitalizations are slightly down from yesterday’s counts in Virginia and Maryland, but they increased in D.C. by two.

A total of 10.6% of Marylanders and 12.3% of Virginians have received their first dose of vaccine. In D.C., 87,243 people (both D.C. and non-D.C. residents) have received their first dose.

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.

Local Coronavirus Headlines

Reopening Tracker

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

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.
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