The beginning of President Joe Biden’s term marks a significant shift in the nation’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Fighting COVID-19 is top priority on the Biden administration's first full day in the White House, and quick action is expected on ramping up vaccinations and testing and working to reopen schools and businesses, NBC Washington reported.
For the first time, the White House pushed nationally to increase the use of masks, signing an executive order requiring face coverings for travel on buses, trains, planes and ships.
The shift in strategy comes at a striking moment: Wednesday marked one year since the first coronavirus case was reported in the U.S. It was also the deadliest day of the pandemic, with 4,131 more COVID-19 deaths.
D.C., Maryland and Virginia reported the second-largest number of deaths on Thursday, with 121 more lives lost to COVID-19. However, hospitalizations and new case numbers are declining, giving hope that the recent surge is starting to end.
All Maryland schools should make every effort to return to in-person hybrid instruction no later than March 1 as the COVID-19 pandemic continues, officials announced at a press conference Thursday.
Gov. Larry Hogan cited the “unmistakable toll” all-online learning has taken on students, families and educators.
“The time has come to get all our children back into the classroom and reopen schools," he said at a news conference.
Dr. Jinlene Chan of the state health department said there is “little evidence that school reopening is an overall driver of community spread.”
Hogan cited cities and states that have cut pay for teachers who refuse to come back, or threatened their teaching licenses. He said Maryland does not want to take such actions but “will explore every legal avenue at our disposal,” if necessary.
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam provided an update on COVID-19 vaccine distribution at the Richmond Raceway mass vaccination site Thursday at 2:00 p.m.
“I just want to encourage all Virginians that are watching this today that this is the light at the end of a long dark tunnel," Northam said. “I encourage all Virginians, as a doctor, that this vaccination is safe, it’s effective, and when your turn is there to get the vaccination, I strongly encourage you to do so.” Northam said.
Virginia expects to receive 105,000 vaccine doses next week, which will be allocated based on population density across the commonwealth, Dr. Danny Avula, the director of the Richmond City and Henrico County Health Departments explained.
Next week, the 1B population should begin to receive vaccinations, he said.
"Each district has a slightly different strategy, based on the plans in that community and who has the capacity to do what," Dr. Avula said.
Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky, the newly appointed Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director, has also extended a moratorium on evictions through March 31 as a public health measure. People who need protection must fill out a form and present it to their landlord.
Walensky said her work has already begun, but it’s taking some time for the administration to analyze and understand current production levels and what materials are needed to ramp up inoculations.
“We said 100 million doses in the first 100 days, and we’re going to stick to that plan,” she told TODAY.
Meanwhile, local leaders are pushing the federal government to get more shots to states.
“We must work together to combat COVID-19 and speed up vaccinations,” Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam wrote in a congratulatory letter to Biden.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said he believes the state is ahead of schedule but said that vaccinating millions of residents is a massive undertaking.
“Until we can get more vaccines from the federal government, demand will continue to exceed supply,” Hogan said.
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser also said she would advocate to get more doses for Washingtonians.
“We look forward to working with the Biden administration to figure out how we can get more doses of vaccine to the people of Washington,” Bowser said. “Demand in D.C. is very high.”
Next week, D.C. is set to receive 8,775 Pfizer and 5,600 Moderna doses.
From that shipment, 975 vaccine doses received will be reserved for Sibley and Johns Hopkins, which are set to launch an initiative to set up clinics at the District of Columbia Housing Authority. The program will vaccinate seniors and others served in public housing.
Outreach to D.C. Public School and charter school teachers who are eligible to schedule vaccination appointments with Children's National Hospital is set to begin the week of Jan. 25, Bowser said.
More than 2,000 vaccination appointments opened by D.C. on Thursday morning have been booked up.
Another 740 appointments will become available at 9 a.m. Friday, Mayor Muriel Bowser said. Residents over 65 and workers in health care settings will be eligible to book an appointment.
Going forward, Bowser says new appointments will be made available every Thursday at 9 a.m. for priority zip codes and Friday at 9 a.m. for all zip codes.
Priority zip codes cover most of Wards 1, 4, 5, 7 and 8, Bowser said.
DC Health Director LaQuandra Nesbitt said the city is in the "top tier" and efficiently administering vaccines. However, there have been lags in how quickly health providers have reported numbers back to the government.
D.C.'s ban on indoor dining is scheduled to expire at 5 a.m. Friday, which would allow restaurants to welcome diners inside for the first time since before Christmas.
Once the ban lifts, restaurants are expected to be allowed to serve customers until they reach 25% regular indoor capacity.
Mayor Bowser shut down indoor dining to combat the potential for more virus spread over the holidays, then extended the ban until after Inauguration Day.
Flu activity is low in every state, abating fears of a “twindemic.”
Health experts were concerned that a high number of flu cases could exacerbate stress on hospitals and health systems treating a flood of COVID-19 patients.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports flu cases are dramatically down this season.
Health experts credit the same measures people are taking to slow the spread of the coronavirius, which is more transmissible.
It's not too late to get your flu shot: Cases usually peak between December and February. Flu season can extend until May.
What the Data Shows
The D.C. region reported 121 lives lost to COVID-19 Thursday – that’s the second largest 24-hour jump in deaths since the pandemic started.
Despite this sobering milestone and the recent surge in new infections and hospitalizations, the latest metrics point to signs that the spread of the coronavirus is slowing in our region.
Maryland’s seven-day average has decreased for 10 consecutive days, indicating a hopeful trend for the state. The seven-day average in the state is currently at 2,386.
Cases appear to be falling in D.C., too. After seven-day averages surpassed the 300 mark over a week ago, average cases have fallen back down to the 250s.
In Virginia, the seven-day average reached an all-time high of 4,286 cases on Monday, but it has fallen every day since then.
On Thursday, D.C. reported 209 new cases and one additional death. Maryland reported 2,166 new cases and 46 deaths. Virginia reported 3,160 new infections and 74 lives lost.
Hospitalizations are down across the board. Earlier in January, hospitalizations in Maryland reached as high as 1,957. For the past week, hospitalizations have remained consistently below 1,900. On Thursday hospitalizations were down 1,812, the lowest count in more than two weeks.
Hospitalizations in Virginia are down to 2,705 – also the lowest daily count in nearly two weeks. There are currently 256 D.C. residents in the hospital for COVID-19. That’s the lowest level reported since Jan. 4. Coronavirus patients make up 13.2% of all patients in D.C. hospitals – three percentage points above the red zone demarcation indicating insufficient public health capacity.
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.
A study has found that as COVID-19 vaccines roll out, they are disproportionately reaching white populations before Black and other minority communities.
Local Coronavirus Headlines
- Three members of the House have announced that they have tested positive for COVID-19, including Rep. Brad Schneider, of Illinois, Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman, of New Jersey, and Rep. Pramila Jayapal, of Washington – all Democrats.
- Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan's proposed economic relief package would provide $750 for qualifying families if approved by state legislators.
- Maryland reported its first two confirmed cases of the U.K. variant of COVID-19.
- D.C. residents age 65 and older, teachers and several categories of essential workers will be able to make appointments this month to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, officials say.
- More than 1,400 long-term care facilities in Virginia are expected to receive doses of the coronavirus vaccine in the coming weeks.
- Two D.C. friends got a lucky break while in Giant Food in D.C.: When someone didn't show up for their vaccination appointment, the pharmacist asked a man and his friend if they wanted to get the Moderna shot.
- 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.
- 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.