Coronavirus in DC, Maryland, Virginia: What to Know on Nov. 24

Here's what to know about the coronavirus data, resources and reopenings across the D.C. area

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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.

Smaller gatherings, fewer people allowed in restaurants and tougher limits at gyms and churches. These are all part of new COVID-19 restrictions taking effect in the District. News4’s Mark Segraves breaks it all down.

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.

Fairfax County health officials came out with a list of holiday coronavirus guidelines on Monday, breaking up activities into varying risk categories. News4's Juliana Valencia breaks down the guidance.

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.

Several coronavirus vaccines are now in final stages for approval, but doctors are already worried that the public won't want to take them. Dr. Paul Biddinger, who sits on the Massachusetts governor's advisory group for COVID-19 vaccines, joined LX News to explain the many safety steps required for the vaccines to be approved for the general public and when to expect the first doses to be available.

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.

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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.
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