This Labor Day weekend will go down as another holiday with traditions challenged by the coronavirus pandemic, and health experts are concerned that any gatherings could lead to a new surge of cases.
Already, Maryland and Virginia watched case numbers climb over the past week. And the entire capital region saw a weeks-long surge in coronavirus cases after the last major holiday, July Fourth.
This long weekend, parties, grill outs and family gatherings could lead to more coronavirus cases.
“I look upon the Labor Day weekend really as a critical point," said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious-disease expert. "Are we going to go in the right direction and continue the momentum downward, or are we going to have to step back a bit as we start another surge?”
If you head out this weekend, social distancing (at least 6 feet away from others) and masks are key, experts say.
The activities you choose can also make a difference. As a rule, outdoor is better than indoor.
“I would rather see someone on a beach, being physically separated enough, than someone crowded in an indoor bar,” Fauci said.
What the Data Shows
In terms of new diagnoses, Maryland and Virginia have been seeing worrying inclines while D.C. reports falling cases.
Over the past week, D.C.'s average case count fell from 53 to 45.
On Saturday, a troubling two-week streak in Virginia finally broke when the seven-day average of new coronavirus cases dipped. It went from 973 on Friday to 938 on Saturday.
Will the decline continue? It's too early to tell.
Maryland entered phase three reopening on Friday and on Saturday recorded the sixth day of average case numbers rising.
Friday and Saturday's additional cases were the highest reported since the beginning of August.
In Montgomery County, the number of new cases has ticked upward in the past week. Other goals are closer to where the county wants them: Hospital bed utilization is around the benchmark and the proportion of positive tests has been declining.
In Prince George's County, leaders report meeting goals of increasing testing, maintaining a low percentage of positive tests and reporting decreasing new cases. Hospitalizations are up, but the latest statistics show that there are still an acceptable number of open beds for those who need them.
Areas of concern in Maryland include Caroline and Worcester counties, where the percentage of positive tests has surged above 7.5%, which is higher than the goal of 5% positivity.
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
- Maryland entered phase three of reopening Friday, but several counties say they aren't prepared to move forward yet. Read more.
- Hundreds of thousands of Americans have been targeted by scammers during the pandemic, likely including one family who had a strange experience after listing their home for sale. Read the News4 I-Team report.
- Virginia lawmakers gave final approval Friday to legislation aimed at making absentee voting easier. Here's what to know.
- 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.
- Montgomery and Prince George's counties are among those that won't enter phase three with the state of Maryland. Here's a roundup of counties in our area.
- 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 last Thursday that 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 have 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 has 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.
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
Coronavirus Deaths in Your City and State — and Across the US
These charts use daily coronavirus death data from Johns Hopkins University to show the seven-day moving average of deaths at the city, state and country level.
The impact of coronavirus varies enormously in the United States from one place to another.
Source: Johns Hopkins University.
Credit: Visuals by Amy O’Kruk/NBC, data analysis by Ron Campbell/NBC