Maryland health officials have confirmed the state's first case of COVID-19 caused by the new variant first identified in South Africa, Governor Larry Hogan announced Saturday.
The new case was identified in an adult living in the Baltimore metro region with no international travel history, "making community transmission likely," officials say. Contact tracing is underway.
Vaccinations for D.C.-area teachers began this week. So far, more than 1,130 D.C. public school teachers and staff and 802 charter school teachers and staff have been vaccinated with their first dose.
Starting Monday, Feb. 1, child care providers and independent school teachers and staff in D.C. will be eligible to book a vaccination appointment as well.
About 1,400 appointments will be made available for the first week of February and 900 appointments for each subsequent week.
D.C. Health and the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) began collecting contact information for the affected groups earlier this week, officials announced.
The contact information will be used to send instructions with next steps to eligible teachers and child care workers.
COVID-19 vaccine appointments scheduled in Prince George's County will be canceled for Monday, Feb. 1, due to expected inclement weather, officials announced.
"Individuals who have an appointment scheduled for Monday will receive an email with instructions on how to reschedule their appointment," the county's notice said.
Those who have had their appointments canceled will be able to reschedule for later in the week.
West Virginia is one of the national leaders in its ability to distribute and administer COVID-19 vaccinations by taking a unique approach: Rather than using a federal program that relies on national chains, they turned to 250 local pharmacies instead.
The state ranks first in its percentage of vaccines used, with almost 10 percent of residents having received their first shot.
Melvin Hemerick, the owner of Martinsburg Pharmacy, has joined dozens of other pharmacists across West Virginia in holding vaccination clinics.
The clinic focuses on school employees age 50 and older, since the pharmacists have already finished administering first and second shots at all the long-term care centers.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that masks will be required on all public transportation beginning Monday night.
The mandate issued by CDC division director Martin S. Cetron was made after President Joe Biden issued an executive order Jan. 21 that called for mask-wearing on all forms of public transit.
The mandate will apply to all public commercial transportation, including planes, trains, boats, buses, air terminals, train stations, subways and subway stations, seaports, ferries, taxis, ride-hail vehicles and bus depots.
As more people get vaccinated, there’s also news Friday that gives hope for more vaccines in the near future.
Johnson & Johnson’s coronavirus vaccine is 66% effective, according to newly released data. That’s less effective than the vaccines currently being administered, but it could still be a game-changer.
The Johnson & Johnson shot only requires one dose and can be stored for three months without ultra-cold storage. It’s also proven effective at protecting against severe disease, which meant fewer hospital stays, and intensive care unit admissions and deaths, the company said.
Montgomery County Delays School Reopening
Montgomery County Public Schools are trying to figure out how to get kids back in the classroom.
The school board had originally planned to have students return Monday, but because of a surge in COVID-19 cases, the board pushed reopening back to March 15.
Last week, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said he wanted schools reopened by March 1st.
The MCPS board is still exploring having some kids back by then, then the majority would come back two weeks later.
Metro Employee Dies of COVID-19
Metro lost a fourth employee to the coronavirus as a bus operator passed away after being hospitalized.
Metro has several safety measures in place, including asking riders to wear masks. But during a virtual meeting Thursday, some board members said they continue to get complaints about riders note wearing masks.
Officials say more policing may be needed.
What the Data Shows
Seven-day averages of new cases and hospitalizations in Maryland are continuing on a weeks-long downward trend today. Meanwhile, cases in Virginia and D.C. continue to show signs of leveling off.
Maryland’s seven-day average decreased to 1,917 new cases on Saturday. The state counted 1,560 COVID-19 patients in hospitals, the lowest number since November.
Maryland reported 2,097 new cases and 31 new deaths on Saturday.
In Virginia, 2,955 new cases and 40 deaths were reported on Saturday. Virginia’s hospitalizations declined for the fifth consecutive day – hospitalizations are at 2,339.
Virginia's seven-day average decreased to 3,406 cases.
D.C. reported 248 new cases and two deaths on Saturday. The District's seven-day average increased by 10 cases to 226.
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
- 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.
- There are growing concerns the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol was also a superspreader event for the men and women defending the building.
- Maryland Gov. Larry 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.
- COVID-19 vaccine supply shortages forced Inova Health System to cancel first-dose appointments for people in Northern Virginia’s Group 1B, a group that includes employees of Fairfax County Public Schools.
- 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.
- Police officers who risked their lives during the deadly riots inside the U.S. Capitol have been hailed as heroes. On Friday, Chief Robert Contee said some of those heroes have since tested positive for COVID-19.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 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.