President Joe Biden on Tuesday announced the U.S. will have a large enough supply of coronavirus vaccines to inoculate every adult in the nation by the end of May.
Despite this encouraging news, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has warned that the U.S. is far from herd immunity and that reopening too early could lead to another surge in cases.
Yet on Tuesday, the governors of Texas and Mississippi both announced they are lifting mask mandates and allowing businesses to reopen at full capacity in their states. Other states and cities have also eased restrictions in recent days.
Texas is currently reporting a seven-day average of 7,045 daily infections – that's a 27% increase from last week.
Vaccinations for Essential Workers in D.C. Paused, Travel Restrictions Will be Eased for Vaccinated Residents
When D.C.'s registration portal opens Thursday and Friday, many essential workers who had been eligible will not be able to sign up for a vaccine.
Vaccination sign ups will be paused for one week for grocery store employees, manufacturing workers and other essential workers in order to give priority to the elderly and those with medical conditions, officials say.
Only D.C. residents 65 years and older and those ages 18 to 64 with qualifying medical conditions will be allowed to book appointments this week.
This comes after residents reported technical difficulties when trying to sign up for vaccine appointments last week.
As the District prepares to receive 6,000 doses of the new Johnson & Johnson vaccine, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser will also open several new high capacity vaccination centers.
Travel restrictions will also be loosened for those who have been vaccinated, Bowser announced.
DC Allows Games at Nationals Park Without Fans
The Washington Nationals can play in Nationals Park but no fans will be allowed because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the mayor's office told the team on Tuesday.
“With you, we are looking forward to fans returning to Nats Park. Answers as to how many and when are still premature,” wrote Christopher Rodriguez, the director of D.C. Homeland Security and Emergency Management agency.
Davey Martinez, the Nats' manager, said Tuesday that he's eager to see fans in the stands again.
"It’s no secret, I’ve said it before: We miss our fans," he said. "They bring us a lot of energy. I’ve always said, they’re the 26th [or] 27th man. We want them in the stadiums."
New Mass Vaccination Sites Set to Open in Maryland
Maryland is set to add another mass vaccination site for its residents on Thursday.
The Blue Crab Stadium in Waldorf will open on Thursday, a week ahead of schedule.
Two other sites – in Salisbury and Hagerstown – will also launch this month.
Maryland officials have also expanded text-based outreach to book vaccine appointments for eligible Prince George’s County residents at the Six Flags America mass vaccination site.
The state has committed to reserve at least 500 appointments for county residents, in addition to what county residents are able to book online and through the call center, to help ensure vaccine equity, officials said in a statement.
Meanwhile, Executive Marc Elrich says Montgomery County is capable of establishing its own mass vaccination site, after state officials chose not to set up a site in the county due to federal supply line limitations.
Elrich says all it needs from the state are the doses.
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.
Northern Virginia Man Starts 'Vaccine Hunters' Group to Help Locals
With almost 70,000 Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines going to Virginia this week, there's still a lot of confusion about who can get their shot and where.
A Northern Virginia man started a Facebook group to help connect people with answers after trying to find how and where to get his mother a vaccine.
"I was navigating the rules and process for getting a vaccine, ultimately seeking out help on the internet," Chris DeMay said.
He took what he found and created the NoVA Vaccine Hunters Facebook group where people share stories and info about their ventures for vaccine.
He said his mother got her first shot and is scheduled for her second thanks to community members sharing information in his group.
Some Loudoun Students Return to the Classroom
Loudoun County is welcoming back more students to in-person learning on Wednesday.
These students elected to be back in school part-time.
The school system recently posted a video demonstrating some of the ways its working to keep students safe.
Students must maintain social distancing, even on school buses, and have their temperature checked before going into the school, according to the new rules.
What the Data Shows
Virginia reported 884 new cases and 319 deaths Wednesday – the largest increase in deaths since the beginning of the pandemic, due to a backlog in death certificates. The state is approaching 8,000 coronavirus deaths.
Maryland has 786 new cases and 14 deaths.
D.C. has 51 new cases and reported four lives lost.
The seven-day average and test positivity rate is also down in our region.
About 8% of Maryland's population is fully vaccinated as of Wednesday. In Virginia, nearly 9% is fully vaccinated. D.C. is reporting a total of 4.2% of residents are fully vaccinated.
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.