Just over 26,950 people in D.C., Maryland and Virginia have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in the past week — contributing to a nationwide surge that has officials urging people to stay home and celebrate Thanksgiving with their households.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says holiday travel and large family gatherings could put individuals, families and their neighbors at risk of contracting COVID-19.
There is some good news: Pfizer and BioNTech were set to submit their COVID-19 vaccine to the Food and Drug Administration for approval on Friday. A small number of doses could be administered as soon as next month, if more evidence continues to show the vaccine is safe and effective.
But with widespread vaccination months away, flattening the curve — reducing the growth of COVID-19, largely to protect the hospital and health care system from being overwhelmed — remains a top priority for public health officials.
The CDC has warned people against traveling on Thanksgiving as many worry that gatherings could become "super spreader" events, causing more infections and soon after more hospitalizations.
The agency made the announcement one week before Turkey Day, and some people decided not to cancel their plans.
At Reagan National Airport, some travelers told News4 that they feel safe because of steps to protect health.
“I feel like I took all the necessary precautions and the airline that I flew on which is Delta is still keeping that middle seat open, so it still felt like a safe option to travel,” said Amy Antonelli, a passenger who arrived at Reagan National Airport from Utah to spend the holiday with her sister.
“We’re going to spend the week at home together and we’re excited about it,” Antonelli said.
Starting Friday at 5 p.m., new restrictions will go into effect in Maryland.
Bars and restaurants must end all dine-in service after 10 p.m., but takeout and delivery will still be allowed.
Gyms, retail stores and religious institutions will roll back capacity to 50%.
Nursing home visits will be limited. Staff and residents will undergo additional testing.
Between 1,000 and 2,000 Marylanders have been diagnosed with the virus each day for more than two weeks.
“There is a choice between a bad choice and a bad choice,” Gov. Larry Hogan told Fox News. “We’re also trying to keep our hospitals from overflowing and keep people from … losing their businesses or losing their lives.”
In Frederick, Maryland, public health officials plan to conduct compliance checks on the night before Thanksgiving to ensure that bars and restaurants aren't flouting the rules.
As coronavirus cases spike across the country, President-elect Joe Biden is working on a national plan to deal with the pandemic.
On Thursday, he held a virtual meeting with ten of the nation’s governors to coordinate efforts to combat the virus.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan attended the meeting and said it was a very productive.
Hogan said a priority is to prepare for the rollout of a coronavirus vaccine once one is proven safe and effective.
“We’ve got to get the [presidential] transition moving,” he said.
What the Data Shows
The data on Friday shows the surge is continuing on-pace with the past week, as thousands more in D.C., Maryland and Virginia were diagnosed with coronavirus.
The District reported 130 additional cases and two lives lost. D.C.’s seven-day average is down by four cases to 163.
D.C.’s Columbia Heights neighborhood has had the most reported cases within the city, topping 1,000.
In D.C. there are currently 266 ventilators available for use and 331 hospital beds available. If needed, an additional 1,441 beds can be made available through medical surge capacity and alternate sites in the city.
Maryland reported 2,353 new cases and 25 additional deaths. Maryland’s seven-day average is at 2,188 as of Friday.
The 20783 zip code in Prince George’s County, Maryland, has reported the most cases in the state, with 3,439 cases confirmed since the beginning of the pandemic.
Hospitalizations in the state are the highest they’ve been since May, with 1,206 residents currently admitted.
Virginia reported 1,815 additional cases and nine additional deaths. The state’s seven-day average is up to 1,499.
According to the COVID Tracking Project, 93.6% of all hospitalized patients in Virginia (including confirmed and probable coronavirus cases) have recovered.
Local Coronavirus Headlines
- A program that provided extended unemployment benefits to out-of-work Virginians will end Saturday.
- 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.
- The Metro board voted Thursday to close a budget gap by changing how often trains run.
- 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.
- All Smithsonian museums and the National Zoo will close because of rising COVID-19 cases, officials announced Thursday.
- 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.