It's Thanksgiving Day and families around the U.S. are gathering around the table in smaller numbers or hopping onto Zoom or Facetime to connect virtually.
Here in the D.C. area, new restrictions which took effect Wednesday are limiting how many people are legally allowed to gather together for the festivities.
D.C., Montgomery County and Prince George's County all have a 10-person limit on private indoor gatherings in place.
In Maryland and Virginia, indoor social gatherings aren’t allowed to be larger than 25 people.
If you plan to attend a gathering on Thanksgiving, you can use the tool below to get an idea of how much risk you face, according to the size of the event you attend.
Currently, in a gathering of 10 people in D.C., there is an 11% chance that someone attending is positive for COVID-19. In Montgomery and Prince George's the odds are up to 12% and 16%, respectively.
Your Chances of Encountering the Coronavirus at an Event This Thanksgiving
This map, based on a model by researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology, uses real-time data to show the risk of attending an event given its size and location. The risk level refers to the probability of encountering at least one COVID-19 positive individual, and the model assumes there are at least five times more cases than are being reported.
Source: COVID-19 Event Risk Assessment Planning Tool
More than 4,500 people in D.C., Maryland and Virginia have been diagnosed with coronavirus Thursday and 48 lives have been lost.
The data on Thursday presents a mixed bag of trends – some hopeful, others worrying.
On the one hand, hospitalizations have hit an all-time high in Virginia. On the other hand, D.C. and Maryland's rolling average of new cases indicate that the spread of the virus may be decelerating, stirring hope that the spike in our region is starting to dampen.
As of Wednesday, the District has barred outdoor gatherings 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.
One exercise facility owner is fighting back against the Mayor's orders calling them "unfair."
Anne Mahlum, the founder and CEO of SolidCore, sent a letter to clients saying the D.C. locations will remain open despite the city's new COVID-19 restrictions suspending all indoor group workout classes.
Also starting Wednesday, Maryland state troopers began to 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.
Hogan is also urging Maryland residents to participate in the state's COVID-19 tracking app in order to quell the virus this holiday season.
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Montgomery County is now requiring face masks 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.
The Pentagon has recently recorded more than 1,300 new confirmed coronavirus cases among the sister service branches, setting a new record for the military in a 24-hour period.
"We've seen a general uptick in COVID-19 positive cases as we head into the holiday season," Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said Tuesday. He says the Defense Department is taking steps to mitigate the spread of the disease.
What the Data Shows
Maryland and D.C. continue to show some signs of improvement in regards to slowing down the spread of COVID-19.
D.C. reported 220 new COVID-19 cases and no additional deaths on Thursday.
D.C.’s seven-day average is holding firm to a leveling trend observed for the greater week. The city is currently reporting an average of 151 daily cases.
The test positivity is currently at 4.3% and the test turnaround time is still rising – you can now expect your COVID-19 test results back in about 3.6 days.
Maryland recorded a case increase of 2,319 and 29 lives lost Thursday.
The state’s seven-day average (2,250) indicates that cases are continuing to level off, remaining in or below the 2,300s for the past week.
In some bad news, hospitalizations in Maryland are still very high. The state reported that 1,453 people are currently hospitalized for COVID-19 in Maryland.
The spread of COVID-19 continues to accelerate in Virginia. An additional 1,980 cases and 19 deaths were recorded Thursday.
The state's seven-day average has risen to 2,036, setting a new record.
Hospitalizations in Virginia (1,286) are also the highest they've ever been.
Virginia's test positivity rate is currently holding steady at 7.4%.
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.