Coronavirus in DC, Maryland, Virginia: What to Know on Nov. 25

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

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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.
This Thanksgiving, AAA expects a 10% drop in travel — the largest decline since the recession in 2008. News4's Juliana Valencia reports on the D.C.-area roads.

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.

Northern Virginia Reporter Drew Wilder looks at a new report that shows students are failing more classes than expected during distance learning.

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.

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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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