‘Not Ready': DC-Area Leaders Say Coronavirus Restrictions Need to Remain

Montgomery County's executive and health officer said they were “not ready to reopen the county until the number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations is on a sustained decline"

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As Maryland and Virginia prepare to gradually lift coronavirus restrictions, the leaders of D.C. and neighboring counties say the capital region is not ready to reopen yet because the virus still poses a significant threat.

D.C. Health Department Director LaQuanrda Nesbitt said Monday that the entire region is still seeing community transmission of coronavirus.

"We would be very very concerned about turning on activity too fast in any setting," Mayor Muriel Bowser said, encouraging continued social distancing.

Bowser said she would extend the city's stay-at-home order before it is set to expire on May 15. It's unclear when an extended order could end.

D.C. will open a 100-bed surge facility at the Washington Convention Center, calling it an insurance policy in case hospitals become overwhelmed. But so far, case numbers are lower than were initially expected and hospitals are running at under 71% capacity.

The federal government is expected to give D.C. 400 vials of remdesivir, a drug that has shown promise in helping patients recover from coronavirus more quickly.

In a memo released Sunday, Northern Virginia leaders said the region is not meeting important benchmarks to reduce COVID-19 hospitalizations

“The transition to Phase 1 in Northern Virginia should occur when our region has achieved the threshold metrics,” the group wrote. It includes Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey, Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay, Prince William County Board of Supervisors Chairman Ann Wheeler, Loudoun County Board of Supervisors Chair Phyllis Randall and Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson. 

Northern Virginia accounts for about a fourth of the state's population but roughly half of the state's coronavirus cases.

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam said last week that he plans to implement the first phase of reopening the economy on Friday, though restrictions will remain severe. The governor has been in communication with Northern Virginia leaders and appreciates their data-driven approach, his office said Sunday. 

Northern Virginia leaders are telling Gov. Ralph Northam they are not yet ready to reopen their jurisdictions. News4's Darcy Spencer spoke to the leaders about their plans for opening back up.

In Montgomery County, the county executive and health officer said Saturday that they were “not ready to reopen the county until the number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations is on a sustained decline.” They urged residents to keep social distancing and wearing face masks. 

D.C.’s mayor and the Prince George’s County executive said last week that they were bracing for additional virus infections and deaths. They urged continued social distancing.

D.C. reported one of the highest numbers of deaths on Friday. Coupled with a continued increase in cases, these numbers leave mayor Muriel Bowser unwilling to reopen the district. News4's Mark Segraves reports.

Here’s where we are Monday in the fight against coronavirus in the D.C. area. 

Nearly 64,000 people in the region have been diagnosed with the virus. At least 2,684 people have died. Go here to see the data in detail.

Metro is planning a phased return to Metrorail and bus service, with full service likely not fully restored until spring 2021. Officials are considering requiring riders to wear face masks. 

"What’s going to drive that, of course, is what happens on the social distancing side. What happens with businesses in terms of how they open, what they are doing with teleworking, altered hours or altered days for instance," General Manager Paul Wiedefeld told News4.

Metro is planning a gradual, year-long recovery from coronavirus restrictions. News4 Transportation Reporter Adam Tuss has the latest.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said half a million coronavirus test kits the state bought last month from South Korea have helped expand testing at hotspots, including meat processing plants and a home for disabled veterans.

Maryland National Guard Col. Eric Allely and his team delivered hundreds of coronavirus tests to Charlotte Hall, a home for disabled veterans in St. Mary's County, Hogan said in a Facebook post on Sunday.

A group of Republican Virginia lawmakers called on Northam to prevent the release of a man who killed a police officer in 1979.

Vincent Lamont Martin, 64, is scheduled to be released Monday from the Nottoway Correctional Center in Burkeville. He is one of dozens of inmates convicted in slayings who were granted parole in March during a push to accelerate the review of parole-eligible inmates because of the coronavirus pandemic, according to an Associated Press analysis.

Martin was sentenced to life in prison more than 40 years ago for killing Richmond patrolman Michael P. Connors. 

And now something a little cheerful: American University graduates popped champagne after a remote commencement ceremony on Saturday. They toasted with their parents via video calls and cheered when officials read their names. 

“I think we kind of got everything out of it that we would have gotten from a normal graduation, without having to sit through the full three hours,” one of the grads said. 

Since graduates at American University couldn't go to their graduation ceremony, the ceremony came to them. News4's Erika Gonzalez reports that while there may have been plenty of champagne toasts, it just wasn't the same without the caps and gowns.

D.C.’s mayor is set to address the public at 11 a.m. Virginia’s governor will speak at 2 p.m. You can watch live on News4, on or in the NBC Washington app. 

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