After a long and difficult 2020, the new year has dawned — but the return to regular daily life won't arrive overnight. The United States closed out 2020 with the deadliest and most infectious month since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, while surpassing 20 million confirmed COVID-19 cases.
Doctors worry holiday gatherings will bring another spike in cases, as patients in at least three states are battling a new, more contagious strain of the virus.
While vaccinations give us reason to hope, epidemiologists and public health experts say that the pandemic will continue to be a major factor in 2021.
TODAY Health spoke to seven experts to get their thoughts on what this year will look like. Read more here.
In Virginia, state Sen. Ben Chafin died after contracting the coronavirus, Senate Republicans said Friday.
“I knew Ben as a lawmaker, an attorney, a banker, and a farmer raising beef cattle in Moccasin Valley, working the land just as generations of his family had done before him,” Gov. Ralph Northam said. “He loved the outdoors, and he loved serving people even more.”
Maryland's state health department is working with regional and federal partners to test patient samples for infection with the new variant of the coronavirus.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are collaborating with the state’s public health lab, as well as state labs in California and Delaware, to test for the apparently more contagious variant, the Baltimore Sun reported.
A Maryland health department spokesman says the variant has not been detected in Maryland.
New Year’s Eve has traditionally one of the busiest days for the hospitality industry, but this year, bags of takeout food replaced festive restaurant meals.
Some local restaurant owners used the day to plead for more federal assistance, saying failure to do so could have economic consequences that last well beyond the coronavirus pandemic.
At a table set up outside Fight Club on Pennsylvania Avenue SE, packaged take-home drinks were sold to benefit struggling hospitality employees.
Arlington restaurant owner Nick Freshman is among those advocating for passage of federal relief tailored to locally owned restaurants, not big national chains.
“The next few months will be the hardest of the pandemic,” he said. “We wanted to come out and speak for those in our industry who can’t speak for themselves and draw attention to that situation.”
What the Data Shows
Coronavirus cases in D.C. continue to rise with a total of 29,509 coronavirus cases reported for New Year's Day. A total of 237 patients are hospitalized.
Virginia reached a peak of 299,963 coronavirus cases, and 17,614 hospitalizations on Friday.
Maryland is at 283,171 COVID-19 cases, and 1,734 patients are currently hospitalized.
Local Coronavirus Headlines
- Virginia reported another record day for new coronavirus infections, and that surge is putting even more pressure on hospitals in the commonwealth already pushed to the brink.
- Among the industries hit hardest by the pandemic has been performance venues like theaters and nightclubs, but help is on the way after President Donald Trump signed the new relief bill.
- New figures from the Virginia Department of Corrections show that two inmates and one staff member who tested positive for the coronavirus have died in recent days.
- The high level of coronavirus cases is putting stress on Northern Virginia hospitals — and the health care professionals who work there.
- The stress of the pandemic is a grind. A data analysis from the American Dental Association shows a surge in cases of teeth grinding, clenching and cracking during the COVID-19 crisis. The increases are striking and potentially costly and painful for sufferers.
- A professor is using the trust Black Americans have in barbers to make them more comfortable with taking the COVID-19 vaccine.
- A rapid antigen test might seem like a great idea when you're in a hurry and don't have time to wait a few days for results, but those tests are really designed for people with COVID-19 symptoms and in asymptomatic patients can deliver false positive results.
- Help is available for thousands of D.C. residents who have fallen behind on rent payments.
- Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced measures to boost the number of available health care workers and plan for more hospital beds.
- COVID-19 numbers continue to paint a dire picture for Black Americans, and there is an ongoing effort in the Black community to increase testing.
- A judge upheld Montgomery County, Maryland's ban on indoor dining.
- D.C. has suspended indoor dining until 5 a.m. on Jan. 15, Mayor Muriel Bowser said in a press release.
- 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.