More than 1,000 Washingtonians have lost their lives to COVID-19 as we close in on one year since the pandemic hit, leaving hundreds of families and loved ones — and a city — in mourning.
That’s the equivalent of six full Metro cars or a line of people from the National Mall to Q Street NW, The losses represent neighbors young and old, across all eight wards of the city
Black D.C. residents make up the overwhelming majority of those killed by the virus. Three-quarters of victims have been Black, according to city data. Hispanic and Latinx people made up the next largest group, at 12%, followed by white residents, at 11 percent, NBC Washington reported.
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D.C. crossed the mark of 1,000 deaths on Wednesday, which D.C Mayor Muriel Bowser proclaimed “A Day of Remembrance for Lives Lost to COVID-19.” At 6 p.m., houses of worship are asked to honor the victims.
“This tragic milestone is a reminder that this pandemic has forever changed families and communities,” Bowser said. “Even when the pandemic ends, for many, the pain and loss will still be there.”
The 1,000 number represents the weight of the most irreversible harms suffered during the pandemic.
It’s a pain felt in the suburbs, too. Prince George’s has lost 1,281 to the virus and Montgomery County 1,352.
Virginia has lost 6,712 lives to COVID-19. Although no counties have yet counted 1,000 deaths, the commonwealth as a whole has been reporting high numbers of lives lost recently: 1,055 this month, including 605 since Saturday (A health official said Wednesday some of this surge is due to a lag in reporting but also reflects a high number of infections in January).
People across the D.C. area are noting the losses while grappling with the question of how to move on — to cope with the losses of those who didn’t make it to the other side of the pandemic, and to trying to envision what normal could look like in the near future.
The advancement of vaccines is among the brightest beacons, and there’s movement toward getting a third shot approved in the United States.
Johnson & Johnson’s single-shot COVID-19 vaccine is safe and effect and should be approved for emergency use, Food and Drug Administration staff said in a report.
The shot is about 66% effective at preventing coronavirus — less than Moderna and Pfizer’s shots. But the shot has been shown to reduce serious illness and death, too.
“The results are very encouraging,” the country’s top infectious disease doctor, Dr. Anthony Fauci. He said Johnson & Johnson has the capability to make billions of the shots, which are easier to store than others.
Scientists also say that a single-dose shot could speed up vaccinations, ultimately accelerating the effort to slowing the virus’ spread through communities. Many doctors and local health officials advise getting the first shot that’s offered to you.
Virginia to Ease Some Restrictions as Commercial Pharmacy Vaccinations Expand
Virginia will ease several coronavirus-related restrictions on Monday, including lifting a curfew and loosening limits on outdoor gatherings, as it expands vaccination efforts in partnership with commercial pharmacies.
The modified stay-at-home order that directed residents to stay home between midnight and 5 a.m. will be lifted, Gov. Ralph Northam said Wednesday. Residents should still limit going out, Northam said.
- Outdoor social gatherings will be permitted to host 25 people.
- Alcohol sales will be allowed until midnight.
- Outdoor amusement venues can host up to 30% capacity, capped at 1,000 people.
Meanwhile, Virginia is expanding vaccinations through commercial pharmacies such as CVS, which began offering shots a couple of weeks ago.
Walgreens is set to begin vaccinations later this week, Northam said. Walmart and the parent companies of Safeway, Food City and Giant as well as a network of community pharmacies are "coming on board" to offer shots, too, Northam said.
These commercial pharmacies will share the federal allotment of 52,000 shots a week and decide which locations should receive shots, Northam said.
"Locations are decided by the companies in consultation with our Virginia Department of Health to focus these efforts on high risk and vulnerable communities," Northam said.
Walmart will not host vaccinations in stores, but instead open up mass sites in select areas that can see hundreds of people a day.
You'll need to make an appointment to get the shot. Most of the pharmacies can work with Virginia's preregistration system to send you an email when you can book. However, some pharmacies that can't integrate with the system will be making phone calls to set up vaccination appointments, Northam said.
Maryland Expands Surveillance of Virus Variants
Gov. Larry Hogan announced Tuesday that Maryland is taking the lead in detecting the more contagious COVID-19 variants that are showing up in communities around the country.
Different virus strains have emerged in the United Kingdom, South Africa and Brazil — and all three have been identified in Maryland.
Hogan said the state has set up partnerships with University of Maryland, Baltimore, and Johns Hopkins University to screen 10% of COVID-19 cases to determine a strain.
The strains appear to be more transmissible but don’t appear to lead to more severe illness or to be more deadly.
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.
Maryland is also working to speed-up its vaccination process by opening another mass vaccination site, which could be coming to Charles County.
FEMA has announced it will support a site at the Regency Furniture Stadium in Waldorf.
State officials plan to administer thousands of shots a day, as long as supplies are available.
This new site would be in addition to the one at Six Flags America and two in Baltimore.
The state hopes to have the Regency Furniture Stadium location up and running no later than March 11.
All these sites would eventually be available to any Maryland resident.
Montgomery County Teachers Rally for Vaccines Days Before School Reopens
Horns blaring and cars adorned in signs, hundreds of Montgomery County teachers on Tuesday rallied over a demand to be vaccinated before returning to classrooms.
The teachers say they want to return to classrooms — after being fully vaccinated.
“I have an elderly mother who’s here protesting too. She wants me working with my students, but she wants to live as well,” on participant said.
“We don’t think that the school is really taking health seriously,” another said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says teachers do not have to be vaccinated to return to school safely.
Montgomery County Public Schools’ first phase of in-person classes starts Monday.
Parents who toured school buildings this week got to see safety measures in place, including desks spaced apar and sanitizing stations. Masks will be required.
According to our news partners at WTOP, families will be given thermometers.
Students and staff will be required to fill out a health document each week, answering a series of questions about contact with COVID-19, potential symptoms and whether they have tested positive. The form will be provided in multiple languages.
In addition, the county plans to do voluntary testing of asymptomatic students and staff starting mid-March.
In-person learning starts on Monday, with special education students coming back first. Then, kindergarten through third grades will return in phases starting March 15.
All other grades are scheduled to return in April.
What the Data Shows
On Wednesday, Maryland reported 862 new infections and 27 deaths. Virginia reported 1,160 new cases and 122 lives lost.
D.C. reported 99 new cases of COVID-19 and three additional deaths, bringing the total of lives lost since the start of the pandemic to 1,001.
Out of D.C.’s 10 COVID-19 reopening metrics, only one remains in the red zone, indicating substantial community spread.
The percent of COVID-19 patients out of all hospital patients (10.1%) just needs to drop below 10% to move into the yellow zone.
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
Local Coronavirus Headlines
- More than a thousand Washington, D.C., residents have now died of COVID-19.
- The number of coronavirus vaccine shots that have been given in Virginia is ticking up, but the state is still falling short of its desired inoculation rate because too few vaccines are coming in, Gov. Ralph Northam said.
- More people are eligible for vaccinations in D.C., including grocery store workers.
- NBC News is making finding information on when, how and where to obtain your coronavirus vaccination easier with its Plan Your Vaccine website.
- Medical schools across the country report a spike in applications, especially from students of color. At Georgetown University’s medical school, applications are up 24% overall and 40% from underrepresented minorities. The University of Maryland along with Howard University have also seen a rising number of applicants.
- The Maryland General Assembly has passed a pandemic relief measure that will deliver more than $1 billion in tax relief and economic stimulus for low-income families and small businesses.
- The first case of a COVID-19 variant from South Africa was diagnosed in Virginia, Gov. Ralph Northam said.
- 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 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.
- 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.
- Thousands of students returned to classrooms as schools reopened Tuesday in Frederick County, Maryland, Fairfax County and Loudoun County.
- 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 to bring all students back in-person for hybrid learning by March 16.
- D.C. 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.
- 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.