A number of indicators showing that the pandemic is worsening across D.C., Maryland and Virginia have officials and residents reconsidering the path forward.
D.C. strengthened its mask order, mandating that masks be worn by all people over the age of 3 most of the time when they're out of the home. Masks will be required even when outdoors, for example waiting for a bus.
"You don't know when you won't be able to social distance," D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said. "If you go out, wear a mask."
Exceptions include when you're vigorously exercising, alone in an office or actively eating or drinking.
While the volume of coronavirus tests is on par with health officials' goals for each area, the climbing number of cases, especially among young people, and the nascent uptick in hospitalizations are igniting concern.
Take schools, for example. Even districts that put leg work into offering some in-person classes are planning to start the year completely virtually.
Fairfax County Public Schools announced they would change course to have the first quarter of the year completely online. Montgomery County announced the first semester will be completely online, with no fall or winter sports.
Stafford and Loudoun officials all say they're watching the numbers and will announce plans in the coming weeks. Washinton D.C. postponed its decision to the end of the month.
In D.C, the number of cases in kids under the age of 14 is rising.
What the Data Shows
D.C. recorded 104 new cases on Wednesday, its largest single-day increase since June 4. The number of new cases diagnosed daily in Maryland and Virginia continues to trend upward.
The virus still is spreading through the community, and many people who are diagnosed are not clustered together, D.C. Health Director LaQuandra Nesbitt said Wednesday.
The proportion of people under 40 diagnosed with COVID-19 has skyrocketed to 66% (up from 41% before July 1). The rate of D.C. residents under 40 being hospitalized has doubled.
There have also been increases in the number of cases in kids under the age of 14.
A temporary dip in cases may be seen in the coming days because it was too hot to conduct testing at some sites in D.C. But long term care facility testing hasn't slowed, and more caregivers and staff are getting diagnosed, Nesbitt said.
D.C., Maryland and Virginia each appear to be meeting overall testing goals. Lower positivity rates are, in general, better because it indicates officials are sampling enough people to get a good picture of trends.
The positivity rate in Maryland is 4.49%; D.C.'s is the lowest at 2.4%; Virginia is the highest at 7.9%.
In Virginia and Maryland, it hospitalizations are trending upward, but they remain stable in D.C. Health officials had expected to see more hospitalizations at some point after cases began rising.
The map below shows the number of coronavirus cases diagnosed per 1,000 residents.
Coronavirus Cases in DC, Maryland and Virginia
COVID-19 cases by population in D.C. and by county in Maryland and Virginia
Local Coronavirus Headlines
- D.C. will empower inspectors to issue on-the-spot citations to businesses that violate social distancing rules.
- Fairfax County Public Schools has shifted to a 100%-online start to the school year, citing health data. Read more.
- The top health officials in five of Maryland's largest counties and Baltimore City have asked the state health department to bring back more restrictions amid a rise in coronavirus diagnoses. Read more.
- A federal judge refused Monday to temporarily block enforcement of Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s executive orders aimed at reducing COVID-19’s spread. Read more.
- The National Zoo is set to reopen Friday. Visitors over 6 years old need to wear a mask and everyone would need to reserve a free timed-entry ticket. Read more.
- The National Gallery of Art is partially back open starting Monday, July 20 with reservations, face masks and social distancing required. Read more.
- Fairfax County is working to fill several hundred contact tracing positions. Read more.
- The ACLU is asking D.C. city officials to require police to wear face masks while working. Read more.
- Nursing homes were required to start reporting COVID-10 data to the federal government nearly two months ago. A report by the News4 I-Team shows that eight local nursing homes still have not shared that information.
- Virginia entered phase three reopening on July 1, loosening restrictions on restaurants, stores, gyms and pools. But Gov. Northam said more restrictions could be implemented if cases continue to grow.
- Prince George's County entered full phase two on June 23, allowing the MGM Casino and gyms to reopen.
- Washington, D.C., entered phase two on June 22, allowing indoor dining, gyms, libraries and houses of worship to reopen with restrictions.
- Montgomery County entered phase two on June 19, reopening with restrictions gyms, houses of worship, indoor dining and retail.
- Maryland entered phase two of reopening on June 10, permitting indoor dining, outdoor pools and outside amusements to reopen.
How to Stay Safe
There are ways to lower your risk of catching coronavirus. Here are the CDC guidelines.
- Anyone over the age of 2 should wear a mask or face covering. Keep it over your nose and mouth.
- Wash your hands often. When you do, scrub with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. As a backup, use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
- Avoid close contact with anyone who lives outside your home. That means staying six feet away from anyone outside your circle, even if you're wearing masks.
- Always cover coughs and sneezes.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces.
Sophia Barnes, Andrea Swalec and Anisa Holmes contributed to this report