With the Labor Day holiday weekend coming up, leaders from governors to the nation's top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, are pleading for the public to observe social distancing, wear masks and be aware of the continuing threat of coronavirus.
“Large gatherings are still not a good idea,” Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam said Tuesday. “This virus is still alive and well around the commonwealth of Virginia."
Right now, the situation in Virginia is declining. The moving average of cases has trended upwards for nearly two weeks, since Aug. 21.
A chunk of those cases are tied to colleges. James Madison University will move primarily to online learning after hundreds of students were diagnosed with COVID-19 less than two weeks after students returned to campus.
The university says 601 cases are active there and more than 16% of coronavirus tests from the student health center are coming back positive. For reference, Virginia's statewide goal is to keep that number under 10%. Maryland and D.C.'s jurisdiction-wide goal is under 5%.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, however, says the state is ready to move into phase three of reopening at 5 p.m. Friday, in the nick of time for the holiday.
Movie theaters and outdoor performance venues will be able to reopen for the first time since March. Retail and religious establishments can also increase capacity.
Not all counties will follow suit. Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich says the county isn't ready yet. Officials from Prince George's, the Maryland county hardest-hit by coronavirus, are expected to give an update later this week.
What the Data Shows
D.C. and Maryland are faring better than Virginia when it comes to the most-referenced coronavirus metrics.
The District is consistently meeting many of its key metrics. The city can carry out contact tracing on nearly every case and their close contacts in a short time span. Hospital utilization has been under the goal, 80%, for more than two weeks.
Community spread is one metric that is worsening. The city’s goal is to see the number of COVID-19 infections from the community decline; however, community spread is increasing.
In Maryland, Gov. Larry Hogan cited the state's low positivity rate (3.36%) in his decision to reopen.
Maryland’s seven-day average of new cases has been trending down, but that is still a metric to watch. That number increased on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Virginia's cases are in a solid upward trend and are the highest they have been in nearly three weeks. Northam characterized this as a slight increase and said the state will continue to keep an eye on it.
Northam said Virginia's positivity rate hovering around 7% shows the state is doing fairly well in containing the virus. While that number does satisfy Virginia’s goal, D.C. and Maryland have both set a lower goal – 5% – and are achieving it.
The map below shows the number of coronavirus cases diagnosed per 1,000 residents.
Coronavirus Cases in DC, Maryland and Virginia
COVID-19 cases by population in D.C. and by county in Maryland and Virginia
Local Coronavirus Headlines
- Public tours of the White House, halted nearly six months ago due to the coronavirus outbreak, are set to resume later this month with new health and safety policies in place. Read more.
- People collecting unemployment insurance in the D.C. region soon will begin seeing that extra $300 President Donald Trump promised — some sooner than others. Read more.
- D.C. Public Schools are seeing a 70% drop in vaccinations among students. Here's more information.
- James Madison University will move primarily to online learning after hundreds of students were diagnosed with COVID-19 less than two weeks after students returned to campus. Read more.
- Dozens of inmates at a West Virginia prison have tested positive for the coronavirus, health officials said. Read more.
- Ocean City is postponing plans to re-deck its iconic boardwalk because of a lumber shortage caused by the coronavirus outbreak. Read more.
- Arlington County police have begun enforcing social distancing in the nightlife area of Clarendon. Read more.
- D.C.'s Department of Health put out an updated list of high-risk states with travel restrictions Thursday, and Delaware is no longer on the list. Read more.
- Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced Tuesday that all businesses can reopen when phase three begins on Friday, including movie theaters and concert venues. Go here to see what individual counties plan to do.
- Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said Thursday he has authorized all public schools in the state to begin “safely” reopening because state metrics on the coronavirus show improvements. The state “strongly suggests” that local school districts bring students back into schools but cannot force them to do so, Hogan said. Montgomery and Prince George's schools both affirmed that they are not altering plans to host classes online throughout the first half of the school year.
- Private and parochial schools in Maryland can choose when to reopen after a back-and-forth between county health officials and the governor. Read more.
- Prince George's County revisited its phase two reopening executive order due to an uptick in coronavirus cases, according to the county executive's office.
- Virginia entered phase three reopening on July 1, loosening restrictions on restaurants, stores, gyms and pools. Northam said more restrictions could be implemented if cases continue to grow.
- Prince George's County entered full phase two on June 23, allowing the MGM Casino and gyms to reopen.
- D.C. entered phase two on June 22, allowing indoor dining, gyms, libraries and houses of worship to reopen with restrictions.
- Montgomery County entered phase two on June 19, reopening with restrictions gyms, houses of worship, indoor dining and retail.
- Maryland entered phase two of reopening on June 10, permitting indoor dining, outdoor pools and outside amusements to reopen.
How to Stay Safe
There are ways to lower your risk of catching coronavirus. Here are guidelines from the CDC:
- Anyone over the age of 2 should wear a mask or face covering. Keep it over your nose and mouth.
- Wash your hands often. When you do, scrub with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. As a backup, use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
- Avoid close contact with anyone who lives outside your home. That means staying six feet away from anyone outside your circle, even if you're wearing masks.
- Always cover coughs and sneezes.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces.
Sophia Barnes, Andrea Swalec and Anisa Holmes contributed to this report