The newly approved Johnson & Johnson vaccine is being shipped to distribution centers across the U.S., Virginia eased some coronavirus-related restrictions and some students in Maryland have started in-person learning for the first time in months.
Virginia Eases COVID-19 Restrictions
Virginia eased some coronavirus-related restrictions Monday. Bars and restaurants will be now allowed to serve alcohol until midnight, up from 10 p.m.
Virginia’s statewide stay at home curfew has also been lifted. Limits on outdoor social gatherings has also increased from 10 to 25 people. Outdoor entertainment venues can operate at 30% capacity, capped at 1,000 people.
Students Start In-Person Learning in Montgomery County
Certain Montgomery County students, including some students in career, technical and special education programs, returned to classrooms Monday.
Public schools will open with a four-day-per-week hybrid learning model. It's part of Governor Larry Hogan's push to reopen schools by March 1.
There will be sanitizing stations, one-way hall traffic, spaced-out desks and mask requirements in classrooms. School administrators say they've met the CDC benchmarks, but many teachers remain critical of the plan, saying the system is unprepared.
The next group of students set to be phased in include kindergarten through third grade on March 15. Subsequent rollouts, however, are dependent on the successful implementation of each previous phase, as well as health and safety conditions in the county.
Anne Arundel County, Baltimore City, Baltimore County, Harford County and Howard County, among others, will also bring some students back into school.
UMD to Restart In-Person Classes in College Park
The University of Maryland’s flagship campus resumed in-person instruction on Monday after having suspended live classes for a week due to COVID-19 outbreaks, according to school leaders.
Improving coronavirus figures on the College Park campus have contributed to the resumption. An order from last week requiring residents in student housing to “sequester in place" also has been lifted, The Baltimore Sun reported Saturday.
University President Darryll Pines and the chief medical officer for the university’s health center credited the campus community for working to curb the spread. The number of cases has slowed and the testing positive rate is low, according to their announcement. The number of new cases reported daily to the school remains high compared to earlier in February.
DC Health Scrambles to Fix COVID-19 Vaccine Portal
D.C. health officials are scrambling to fix the website residents use to sign up for vaccines. People reportedly had a tough time logging on to the portal for three days in a row.
The department of health said the site crashed due to high volume. D.C. councilmember Alyssa Silverman said the city is creating a new system where residents can pre-register and get a link when it's their turn.
Shipments Start for Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 Vaccine
Millions of doses of the new Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine are being shipped out across the country.
Unlike the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, Johnson & Johnson's only requires one shot. In clinical trials the new vaccine was 72% effective in preventing moderate to severe disease, compared to roughly 95% efficacy with the other two vaccines.
In an interview with TODAY, the drugmaker's CEO highlighted that despite those numbers - the vaccine works.
CDC Launches VaccineFinder.Org
Even if you’re eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine, it can be hard to find one. Now, there's a new government tool designed to help.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention launched a website called vaccinefinder.org.
The site works as an interactive map. You put in your zip code and how far you want to search in your local area.
The search returns a list of all the places that offer vaccine shots near you and notes whether they have vaccine in stock.
Clicking on a pharmacy takes you to the providor’s page where you can book an appointment — you can't actually make the appointment through Vaccine Finder.
The tool can help people find shots, but you'll still need to do the leg work of calling and refreshing websites for new slots.
Right now, Vaccine Finder is still very limited in most states, including D.C., Maryland and Virginia.
That means, when you search, you are only seeing certain pharmacies that are getting their doses directly from the federal government.
In the coming weeks, more providers like clinics, hospitals and public health sites will be listed.
When the vaccine is more widely available, the CDC says it will be even more helpful.
The government is partnering with companies like Google and Waze so your phone can locate vaccination clinics near you.
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.
What the Data Shows
D.C. announced on Monday another 86 cases of COVID-19 and the deaths of two more people. There are 168 people being treated for the virus in D.C. hospitals.
Maryland announced 603 more cases and the deaths of 10 more people. Thirty-six fewer people were hospitalized with the virus.
Virginia announced 803 more cases and the deaths of 196 more people. A total of 1,133 people with confirmed cases of COVID-19 are hospitalized in the state.
Overall, cases of the virus and hospitalizations have fallen in the D.C. area since about mid-January.
D.C.'s seven-day average is up by about 30 cases from last week. Maryland's average is up by about 50.
Virginia's seven-day average has fallen consistently for a week straight.
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
- In the next few weeks, many more Virginians will be heading to pharmacies for their shots. But there's still one problem — not all the pharmacies can coordinate with the state's vaccine waiting list.
- D.C. expanded vaccine eligibility, meaning residents over 65, working essential jobs or with certain chronic conditions can try to book appointments. But many residents were stopped from registering by technical problems.
- D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser lost her only sister and oldest sibling to COVID-19.
- More than 1,000 Washington, D.C., residents have now died of COVID-19.
- 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.
- 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 required in all National Park Service buildings, and on land maintained by the Park Service when physical distancing is not possible, federal officials have said.
- Virginia dropped its curfew and relaxed some other COVID-19 restrictions, including on outdoor gatherings, as of March 1.
- Thousands of students returned to classrooms as schools reopened Feb. 16 in Frederick County, Maryland, and in Fairfax and Loudoun counties in Virginia.0
- Virginia Gov. 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.
- Bars and restaurants in Maryland can remain open past 10 p.m starting Feb. 1. Restaurants will still have to operate at no more than 50% indoor capacity.
- All Smithsonian museums and the National Zoo remain closed due to COVID-19.
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.