With Thanksgiving now just two days away, many people are making tough choices between safety and traditions.
COVID-19 infections are rising at a rate not seen since spring. The U.S. is now adding about 200,000 new cases each day.
The region is still grappling with a surge and Virginia topped 200,000 cases on Tuesday.
Compared to one month ago, average daily new cases are 3.5 times higher in Maryland, nearly tripled in D.C. and more than doubled in Virginia.
In a promising sign, D.C. and Maryland's seven-day rolling average of new cases declined on Tuesday. It's too soon to tell if this is the beginning of a decline.
The demand for testing is soaring as many Americans hope a negative test will ease anxiety about gathering around the dinner table.
The Maryland Department of Health said getting tested one to three days before travel then two to five days after travel could reduce the chance you’ll spread COVID-19.
“Although it's not a guarantee,” the department said.
In D.C., wait times for a test are now at 3.1 days on average, which is in the "red zone."
As travel picks up, local leaders are cracking down and hope restrictions will prevent a post-holiday spike.
Montgomery County, Maryland, will implement tighter restrictions at 5 p.m. Friday. Indoor gatherings will be limited to 10 people and face coverings will be required outdoors.
Starting Wednesday, new COVID-19 restrictions will take effect in the District, including on restaurants, churches and gyms.
Gatherings will be restricted to 10 people indoors or 25 people outdoors. That includes family gatherings on Thanksgiving.
In Maryland and Virginia, indoor social gatherings aren’t allowed to be larger than 25 people.
However, both Montgomery and Prince George's counties have limited gathering sizes to no more than 10 people. In Prince George's, it could be lower: Hosts can only invite one person per 200 square feet.
Maryland will launch an aggressive campaign to enforce COVID-19 restrictions on Wednesday.
Additional state troopers will be deployed to every county in the state to enforce rules about wearing masks, limiting crowds and capacity restrictions for businesses.
Gov. Larry Hogan compared this enforcement effort to typical DUI checkpoints during the holidays.
He says the restrictions are necessary in the fight against COVID-19.
In a presentation to Virginia health officials dated last week, the RAND Corporation made suggestions on how the state could mitigate the current surge.
One suggestion was to consider a two-week shutdown — either targeted or state-wide — between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
A shutdown could “contain spread prior to the December holidays,” the report said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the safest way to celebrate this holiday season is at home.
If you do travel, Fairfax County health officials have some holiday guidelines.
They categorized the family holiday activities into varying risk categories.
Large gatherings, travel and flights with layovers are high-risk activities, officials say. Medium-risk gatherings would be outdoors, where everyone is masked at a safe distance and no one shares plates or utensils.
The lowest risk is staying at home and gathering virtually.
If you need to fly, health officials say flying without a layover is also not as bad.
To help with virtual celebrations, Zoom is lifting its time limits on meetings on Thanksgiving.
Millions of people have already traveled this week for the holiday, including 3 million who took a flight in the past few days, the Transportation Security Administration says.
Reagan National Airport was no exception: On Monday, News4 found lines at security and baggage claim.
Maryland is spending $19 million to help thousands of people struggling to pay rent.
The money will be distributed to 17 jurisdictions including Montgomery, Prince George's, Howard and Saint Mary’s counties.
Alexandria City Public Schools won't bring students back to the classroom until at least next year after the school board agreed with Superintendent Gregory C. Hutching Jr.'s recommendation, the Washington Post reported.
Learning will be entirely online until January. Only a handful of students had been brought back in-person, the Post said.
The district plans to host a series of meetings on school reopening on Dec. 1-2. There will be four meetings for families and students at the elementary, middle and high school level.
After the meeting, school officials will share a survey asking for families' preferences about returning to school.
More Fairfax County students will be out of classrooms on Tuesday, instead opening their laptops at home.
Fairfax County Public Schools moved Group 4 students back to all-virtual instruction.
The district says coronavirus cases are headed in the wrong direction.
Group 4 students will go back to in-person instruction once certain benchmarks are met.
What the Data Shows
The region recorded an additional 64 deaths in the last 24 hours, the largest jump in two months.
D.C. reported 119 new COVID-19 cases and one additional death Tuesday.
The data indicates that daily new infections in the District may be leveling out. The seven-day average is down to 157, 5 cases lower than a week ago.
D.C.’s average positivity rate is also down to 3.6%, after a high of 4.8% was reported on Monday, Nov. 16.
Although more tests are coming back negative, D.C.’s average test turnaround time has increased slightly. At 3.1 days, the turnaround time has entered the Health Department’s red zone. As more people seek testing, delays and backlogs are likely to continue.
Maryland is also showing some positive trends, although it’s unclear if they will be lasting. Maryland’s seven-day average (2,237) is still quite high, but it has actually declined for the past two consecutive days.
Maryland’s average percent positivity is also down to 6.88% from 7.19% reported last Wednesday.
Maryland reported 1,667 additional cases and 32 additional deaths.
Cases in Virginia topped 200,000 on Tuesday, with an additional 2,142 cases and 31 deaths.
Virginia’s seven-day average has increased every day this past week, rising from 1,265 last Tuesday to 1,857 today.
Virginia’s average positivity rate is up to 7.4%, the highest level recorded for two months.
Local Coronavirus Headlines
- Fairfax County health officials released a list of holiday coronavirus guidelines on, breaking up activities into varying risk categories.
- Some Fairfax County students have returned to all-virtual learning amid a rise in coronavirus cases.
- A total of 51,510 coronavirus tests were administered in Maryland on Friday, the highest-ever on a single day.
- The Smithsonian is shutting down its museums and the National Zoo once again due to recent spikes in COVID-19 cases.
- 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.
- 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:
- 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.