One week out from Thanksgiving, coronavirus testing sites around the D.C. area are seeing long lines and, in some cases, are unable to meet demand.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday recommended that Americans don't travel over the Thanksgiving holiday.
"As cases continue to increase rapidly across the United States, the safest way to celebrate Thanksgiving is to celebrate at home with the people you live with," the agency said.
The CDC has tips on how to assess your risk as you decide whether to spend the holiday with your extended family or other households. Is someone in your household at increased risk of becoming very ill from COVID-19? Are cases high or increasing in the area where you would travel? Go here to see a list of considerations.
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and the D.C. Council have approved $100 million in Bridge Funds to help local businesses and their employees stay afloat during the pandemic.
Businesses must apply for the grants. The grants range from $4,000 to close to $300,000 depending on the size and type of the business.
Coronavirus cases and hospitalizations are increasing in almost every state and D.C. The District, Maryland and Virginia reported 4,426 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, the largest single-day increase ever in the region.
It’s not just because of more testing. A larger proportion of people getting tested are infected with the virus.
Positivity rates are up, now at 7.19% in Maryland, 7.1% in Virginia and 4.8% in D.C. The CDC recommends positivity rates at or below 5%.
News of the surge plus the upcoming holiday are likely contributing to the testing rush.
Prince William County closed its Cloverdale Park test site early on Thursday after reaching capacity.
Wait times for results from D.C.’s test sites are getting longer, but still in the three to five day window, officials said.
Those getting a drive-up test at Six Flags America in Prince George’s County waited for two hours or longer. Similar waits were reported at INOVA Fairfax Hospital.
Many want test results to inform whether it’s safe to gather with family members outside their household on Thanksgiving. However, officials warn that one negative test isn’t a guarantee that the virus won’t find its way in: False negatives can occur.
More than 80% of people in D.C., Maryland and Virginia don’t plan to travel for the Thanksgiving holiday, a AAA survey revealed. A large portion of those people say they won’t travel because of the pandemic.
If you want to cut down on the wait time, some testing sites let you make an appointment ahead of time or you can call your primary care doctor.
Workers at several testing sites say soon, they'll likely expand hours as we head into the holiday season.
“Fortunately, we took the downtime of the summer to enhance our capabilities,” said Tim Tharp with the Maryland Department of Health. “I think everybody knew this was coming.”
D.C. plans to expand test site hours and open a new center at Nationals Park starting Monday.
The surge in patients is putting stress on hospitals and the people who work at them.
The CDC predicts we could see as many as 19,000 new hospitalizations per day in the next two to three weeks. Already, hospitals in several states are struggling to keep up with demand.
Hospital workers are worried about their own health and the health of their loved ones.
Local doctors fear families will gather for the holiday and that could cause the current spike in coronavirus cases and deaths to get a lot worse.
Maryland, which has seen hospitalizations nearly triple in the past month, this week responded by directing hospitals to temporarily pause non-emergency procedures.
The state also set up a centralized clearinghouse so that hospitals can call one agency to find available ICU beds at other facilities if they run low on space.
A visibly emotional Gov. Ralph Northam said Wednesday why he opted to tighten some coronavirus-related restrictions in Virginia earlier this week.
“What really affected me was seeing mobile morgues outside of hospitals because there’s no place to put the dead. We don’t need that to happen in Virginia,” he said.
D.C. Public Schools is dealing with a staffing shortage as some children head back to classrooms.
Twenty-five schools opened Wednesday to about 400 students. That’s short of the 29 that were supposed to open, but remained closed because of staffing issues.
The students are part of the CARE Program. They're still learning virtually, but from classrooms with staff supervision. The system aims to provide more structure for special education students, those who are learning English and kids facing homelessness.
What the Data Shows
D.C., Maryland and Virginia reported 4,426 new COVID-19 cases Thursday, the largest single-day increase ever. Throughout the region, an additional 46 lives were lost.
Maryland reported 2,910 new cases Thursday, the state’s highest 24-hour increase.
D.C. reported 213 additional cases and Virginia reported 1,303 additional cases.
Seven-day averages are up across the board. Maryland, specifically, has seen an alarming surge. Compared to last week, an average of 700 additional coronavirus cases are diagnosed daily in Maryland. The state’s seven-day average is up to 2,119 as of Thursday.
D.C.’s daily case rate and rate of transmission again put the level of community spread in the red zone. Hospital utilization is currently at 86.5%, close to the 90% red zone.
In Virginia, ICU bed occupancy is at 75% and there are currently 1,129 hospitalized patients confirmed positive for COVID-19 in the state.
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
- The University of Maryland’s football game against Michigan State University scheduled for Saturday has been canceled as a result of the ongoing coronavirus outbreak in the Terrapins’ locker room.
- Officials have reversed a decision to cancel the annual Wreaths Across America event at Arlington National Cemetery. The event, held in December, will happen after all.
- Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced Thursday how the state will allocate about $70 million in federal aid as the state braces for months of rising coronavirus cases.
- Eight players on the University of Maryland football team tested positive for COVID-19. The game against Ohio State has been canceled.
- Maryland released a new contact tracing app, and has reduced indoor operations for bars and restaurants from 75% to 50% in response to rising coronavirus cases and increased hospitalizations.
- A review by the News4 I-Team has found concerns that Prince George’s County, which has the highest number of coronavirus cases in the state, has received what some are calling an underwhelming share of the more than $165 million in aid thus far.
- D.C. now requires travelers from all but four states get tested for COVID-19, once before travel and again if they plan to stay in the District for more than three days. Maryland, Virginia, Hawaii and Vermont are the exceptions.
- Most new COVID-19 cases in D.C. come from social events, according to data presented by the District's health department.
- Maryland will tighten restrictions on businesses, bars and restaurants starting Friday at 5 p.m.
- Hours before some Fairfax County students were set to return to in-person learning on Tuesday, the school district said that they needed to delay the plan.
- Courts throughout Maryland partially shut down Monday due to the pandemic.
- Virginia announced new measures to fight COVID-19 as cases of the virus have spiked across the country.
- Prince George's County has tightened restrictions and requires masks to be worn outdoors.
- Montgomery County reduced capacity limits at many businesses, including for indoor dining, to 25%. The county previously stopped giving waivers for alcohol sales after 10 p.m.
- D.C.'s mayor extended the city's coronavirus state of emergency to last through the end of the year.
How to Stay Safe
There are ways to lower your risk of catching coronavirus. Here are guidelines from the CDC:
- 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.