The day before Thanksgiving, new restrictions take effect limiting how many people are legally allowed to gather around the table in parts of the D.C. area.
Montgomery County and D.C. have both enacted a 10-person limit on private indoor gatherings. Prince George’s County already had that 10-person limit in place.
In Maryland and Virginia, indoor social gatherings aren’t allowed to be larger than 25 people.
It's unclear how many people will see their Thanksgiving plans affected by the new restrictions. The Wednesday before Thanksgiving is typically a massive travel day, but Reagan National Airport and I-95 in Virginia were relatively quiet early in the morning.
More than 80% of people surveyed in D.C., Maryland and Virginia said they weren’t traveling for Thanksgiving, AAA said. About half said it was because of the pandemic.
At least 34,702 people in D.C., Maryland and Virginia have been diagnosed with coronavirus in the past week and 316 have died.
In more troubling data points, Maryland and Virginia's rolling average of new cases have hit an all-time high. However, in Maryland case growth appears to be slowing, stirring hope that we'll start to see the numbers trend in a better direction soon.
There's another good sign: D.C.'s count of new cases has leveled out after spiking last week.
Other new COVID-19 restrictions are now in place as infections rise. In Montgomery County, face masks are now required outdoors.
Health officer Travis Gayles released updated guidance on Montgomery County's new mask policy on Wednesday.
Masks only need to be worn when social distancing can't be maintained. Exemptions from the mask requirement include when one is eating or drinking, alone in a vehicle, swimming or unable to wear a face-covering due to disability.
Those under 18 don't have to wear a mask when they are rigorously exercising. Adults should wear them when exercising unless the face covering presents a "bona fide" safety risk, Gayles said.
As of Wednesday, the District has barred outdoor gatherings can have up to 25 people and added other restrictions:
- Restaurants may stay open until midnight, but alcohol sales and consumption must end at 10 p.m.
- The number of people inside houses of worship has been reduced from 100 to 50 people, or down from 50% to 25% capacity, depending on which number is smaller.
- All indoor group exercise classes and all outdoor group classes with 25 or more people must be suspended. Individuals can still go workout solo in gyms.
- The live entertainment pilot is suspended.
Also starting Wednesday, Maryland state troopers will fan out across the state to beef up enforcement of the governor’s emergency orders affecting bars, restaurants and private venues.
Health officials say making the difficult choices now will leave us with a lot to be thankful for in the weeks ahead.
Some Fairfax County students will not be heading back to the classroom as planned.
Group five students, which include Early Head Start, pre-K and Kindergarten, were slated to return on Tuesday.
But Superintendent Scott Brabrand sent out a letter saying that's not going to happen.
School officials say a rise in coronavirus cases in the community is the reason behind that decision.
Group four’s in-person learning was put on hold on Monday.
A new study of Fairfax County students' grades shows a growing divide between two extremes. Students who had high grades before the pandemic are doing even better than expected, while students who were already struggling are now doing worse.
While some students are thriving, there are significantly more failing grades during distance learning compared to last year, the Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) report found.
Failing grades for English language learners are up 106%. Students in special education are struggling the most, with failing grades increasing by 111%.
Despite the pandemic, a holiday tradition in the District will go on this year. The Capitol Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony will be held next Wednesday.
The Spruce from Colorado arrived at the Capitol on Friday.
Traditionally, the Speaker of the House lights the tree.
News4 is working to get more details about how the event will comply with COVID restrictions.
What the Data Shows
New COVID-19 cases appear to be leveling out in D.C., a trend that has continued for the past week.
The seven-day average is down to 150 on Wednesday, after maintaining numbers hovering around the 160s for the past week. D.C. recorded 107 new cases and 4 additional deaths Wednesday.
The testing turnaround time in the city continues to increase, however. The average turnaround time for a COVID-19 test is now three and a half days.
The positivity rate is up to 3.9%, slightly higher than Tuesday.
As of Wednesday, 80% of D.C.’s hospital beds are in use and 134 people are hospitalized with the virus.
Maryland’s data is a bit of a mixed bag, with a few encouraging trends and other more negative shifts.
The seven-day average has remained near the 2,300 mark since Saturday, which could indicate the rapid pace of the virus’ spread is beginning to slow.
There were 2,697 new infections and 38 additional deaths reported in the state Wednesday.
Daily hospitalizations in Maryland have increased every for three weeks. Wednesday, they jumped from 1,341 to 1,406.
Maryland’s seven-day positivity has decreased to 6.52%.
More than 15,000 infections and 1,600 deaths have occurred among staff and residents in nursing homes and at least 28 schools in the state are reporting COVID-19 outbreaks.
Virginia’s data is all moving in a negative direction. An additional 2,142 cases and 19 deaths were recorded Wednesday.
The seven-day average is up to 1,939, more than 80 cases higher than Tuesday.
Hospitalizations in the state jumped from 1,173 to 1,245 on Wednesday.
The average positivity rate is at 7.5%.
More than 14,000 cases and 1,940 deaths have occurred in long-term care facilities in Virginia.
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.