DC Area Grapples With Unemployment Spike, Community Spread of Coronavirus

D.C., Maryland and Virginia head into the weekend with strict social distancing directives. The closure of many businesses has hurt owners and workers

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Health officials across the capital region are warning residents to practice social distancing as community transmission of the novel coronavirus continues in Washington, D.C., Northern Virginia and Maryland.

The number of people with coronavirus in D.C., Maryland and Virginia approached 300 on Thursday, with illnesses affecting patients from elementary-school-age children to nursing home residents.

In Northern Virginia, officials warned of community transmission, meaning that people are becoming infected with the coronavirus from unknown sources.

Washington D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser also warned of ongoing community spread.

Throughout the week, leaders in D.C., Maryland and Virginia have directed escalating steps to compel social distancing, which is one of our best ways to slow the spread of disease.

Tens of thousands of children were home from school all week and streets around the D.C. area emptied as workers stayed home. Restaurants in D.C. and Maryland were directed to stop dine-in service, and in Virginia were limited to 10 patrons at a time.

But not everyone heeded warnings and pleas to socially distance themselves. Gov. Larry Hogan chided people who he said acted like it's spring break. At a press conference Thursday, he issued a stern message to Marylanders.

"Let me be very clear. If you are engaged in this type of activity, you are in violation of state law and you are endangering the lives of your fellow Marylanders," he said.

The number of diagnosed cases spiked this week, growing from about 100 at the beginning to nearly 300 by Friday morning.

But the social distancing measures also threaten economic hardship, especially for those who work at or own restaurants, bars, theaters and other entertainment venues.

Solidcore, a chain of gyms, announced the layoffs of the majority of its staff. News4's Shomari Stone reports.

Unemployment Claims

A total of 1,378 people filed for unemployment in the District from Friday, March 13 to Sunday. On Wednesday, 3,009 people filed for unemployment.

In Maryland, unemployment claims spiked five-fold in one day, The Baltimore Sun reported.

Virginia has seen a spike in unemployment claims. About 14,000 residents applied Monday through Wednesday, Megan Healy, the state’s chief workforce development advisor, said Friday morning. On Thursday alone, more than 16,000 people applied. Last week, just 323 people applied.

If you need help and you think you could be eligible, apply, Healy said. You could get money as soon as next week. 

“If you think at all that you can get unemployment, we want everyone to apply,” she said. “The rules change daily, maybe hourly, of who can get unemployment insurance. So if you are denied, we’re going to keep that data. If the rules change from the [US] Department of Labor, we can go back and issue those checks.” 

Virginia waived a one-week waiting period and a work-search requirement. Officials increased server capacity to speed up the application website, and unemployment officials are taking over Department of Motor Vehicles call centers so they can help more residents get unemployment benefits faster. 

During all of November 2019 and December 2019, about 9,700 and 15,300 claims were filed, respectively, the state says.

Both Maryland and Virginia have adjusted unemployment regulations to make it more readily available. Here's information about how to file for unemployment in D.C., Maryland and Virginia.

The DC-Area Coronavirus Outbreak in Pictures

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