D.C. Police Chase Away Meridian Hill Visitors
COVID-19 Cases Reach 14,549 in D.C., Md. and Va.
The novel coronavirus has been declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization. So far, 1,778 people have tested positive for COVID-19 in D.C. with 47 deaths, there have been 7,694 cases in Maryland with 206 deaths and 5,077 cases with 130 deaths in Virginia. Social distancing is recommended to help control its spread. Many cultural institutions, entertainment venues, schools and sporting events in the DMV are closing to protect their employees and the public. You can see last week’s updates here.
Metropolitan Police Department officers and D.C. National Guard members have been positioned at Meridian Hill Park, otherwise known as Malcolm X Park, to enforce social distancing. Meridian Hill Park has been a popular gathering space even in recent weeks. On Friday officers spoke to people sitting on benches. A number of people who were headed for the lawn turned away when they saw police stationed near the northeast entrance. Officers tell people to move along if they sit on a bench and pull out a book, according to the Washington Post. Police have also been seen at a park at the intersection of Martin Luther King and Malcolm X Ave in Congress Heights and Lincoln Park, where there were at least nine cruisers and four National Guard members there on Friday, Hill Rag reported. The MPD declined to answer which parks they are stationed at, saying only that the force “is deployed to serve all of the District of Columbia” and that members “who observe large gatherings on public spaces will notify the gathered group of health and safety risks.” MPD and National Guard members were also on hand at the Municipal Fish Market at The Wharf.
The National Park Service and U.S. Park Police are closing Beech Drive in Rock Creek Park and roads in Anacostia Park and Fort Dupont Park to vehicle traffic so that people use them for essential exercise,” D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser announced Saturday. Beech Drive, which is closed weekends, will remain closed. Anacostia Park and Fort Davis Drive in Fort Dupont Park will be closed from 8 a.m.-8 p.m. daily. Both are in effect until April 30. Bowser requested the closures this week after initially resisting calls from residents who said that closure could prevent crowding as people walk and bike.
The Municipal Fish Market at The Wharf reopened Saturday after enacting new safety protocols. It was shut down the previous Sunday after large crowds formed the day before. The new social distancing measures, which include fencing, yellow caution tape, face masks and the D.C. National Guard and local police, were approved by the city, include social distancing as well as additional staffing and protective equipment for the market’s vendors. Customers are limited to 50 and others must waiting in line on the sidewalk until another leaves. All open air markets in the city must submit a plan to the mayor’s office on how they will implement social distancing protocols to keep vendors and customers safe.
Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks has ordered shoppers to wear masks or face coverings in grocery stores to prevent the coronavirus from spreading beginning Wednesday. Masks must also be worn at pharmacies, large retail businesses and on the county’s bus system, TheBus. “We know there are people with the virus who are walking around and showing no symptoms, and these actions will prevent them from spreading it to others,” Alsobrooks said in a statement on Saturday. D.C. issued a similar mandate earlier in the week and a similar requirement begins in Montgomery County beginning Monday.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan on Friday proclaimed the Easter Bunny an “essential worker” on Sunday, April 12. “Maryland is pleased to designate the Easter Bunny an essential worker — who is allowed to roam the state bringing Easter happiness and joy to Marylanders of all ages,” the proclamation reads. The proclamation comes despite a stay-at-home order in the state, which forced the cancellation of the state’s annual Easter egg hunt.
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser has asked the National Park Service to close roads to cars in three federal parks in the city — Rock Creek Park, Anacostia Park and Fort Dupont Park, she said Friday. She said the move would give pedestrians and cyclists more space to do outdoor activities while maintaining a safe distance from each other. Bowser said she asked NPS to extend the current weekend closure of Beach Drive to cars to the weekdays, but did not name the roads in the other two parks she wants closed. The mayor appears to have changed her mind on the subject. Earlier in the week, Bowser said that she was not convinced that closing streets for people to walk and bike without being crowded close to each other was wise. At the time, she said closing streets would only encourage people to use them, leading to crowding. But Friday’s announcement follows moves in other municipalities, including Montgomery County, where more sections of Sligo Creek Parkway are being closed to vehicles on weekends for exercise and proper social distancing. The NPS told NBC4 in a statement that they will not immediately be closing roads, but that they will “monitor and evaluate visitation levels and NPS operations to adhere to CDC and local health guidance.” Information about the closure of parks or roads will be posted on the websites for each park.
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser is granting early release to 36 inmates in the D.C. jail sentenced for misdemeanor offenses using “good time credits.” The releases are “pending no outstanding matters,” according to a Friday press release. About half were eligible for immediate release. As of April 3, there were 1,534 people in the jail. There have been 37 cases of coronavirus among inmates and 11 cased in the staff. About 230 inmates and 190 staff are in quarantine due to possible exposure.
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam has proposed releasing state prisoners with one year or less left on their sentences, as long as they have demonstrated good behavior and do not pose a risk to society. He wants to reduce the number of inmates in the commonwealth’s prisons to slow the spread of the coronavirus. So far, 25 inmates and 22 staff members have tested positive for COVID-19. The emergency measure could apply to about 2,000 inmates, according to Brian Moran, the secretary of public Safety and Homeland Security. Lawmakers will need to approve the measure when the General Assembly reconvenes April 22. The policy would then take effect immediately.
Faced with a “worst-case scenario” of $2.8 billion in revenue loss, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan instituted an immediate budget and hiring freeze on Friday. During a new conference, he said all state agencies will have to make budget cuts. The state Department of Budget and Administration will also make recommendations for cuts to so-called mandated spending. Hogan said it is “very unlikely that any bills (recently passed by the General Assembly) that require increased spending will be signed into law.” Responding to the public health crisis will likely exhaust the state’s entire rainy day fund and “will likely create a multiyear budget issue, which will require further substantial budget reduction actions,” Hogan said.
Despite the D.C. Superior Court shutting down last month, the court announced this week that the marriage bureau will issue marriage licenses “for emergency matters only via remote operations.” The court shut down most of its operations last month due to the coronavirus. Emergency matters are not defined in the memo from Zabrina Dempson, the clerk of the court, but a court official said that likely means only for purposes such as health insurance or an impending military deployment. Couples needing a marriage license should call 202-879-1400 or email email@example.com.
Arlington County has created the Cooperative for a Hunger Free Arlington (CHFA) in an effort to centralize and improve food assistance during the coronavirus pandemic. “CHFA will be working to expand community food distribution models that are working now and to add new initiatives, creating a network of resources to meet residents’ needs,” according to a Friday press release. “The faith community, PTAs, civic associations, nonprofit organizations, businesses and citizens all are engaged in important work that can grow.” The group will look at the possibility of delivering meals and groceries to households, as well as adding locations where groceries from the Arlington Food Assistance Center would be available for pickup. Abby Raphael, a former chair of the Arlington County School Board; Diane Kresh, head of the Arlington Department of Libraries; and Amy Maclosky, director of food and nutrition services at Arlington Public Schools. “So many individuals and organizations are doing incredible work, stepping up to support our community in this uncertain time, and yet we know that more needs to be done,” Raphael said in the press release. “The CHFA work focuses on making sure that people know what resources are available, whom to call and how to safely access nutritious food. It will take all of us working together to help our most vulnerable neighbors get through this pandemic.”
Montgomery County is following D.C. in requiring shoppers to wear masks starting Monday. Anyone shopping at a grocery store, pharmacy or large chain store in the county will be required to wear a mask or face covering, under a county health order released Thursday. The order also includes new social distancing requirements for the essential businesses to protect customers and employees. Stores will have to limit the number of shoppers in the establishment at one time. Any patrons waiting in line outside the story must be properly distanced. Stores must display signs reinforcing social distancing and are encouraged to install see-through barriers between cashiers and customers, and to provide disinfectant wipes for customers to clean carts or baskets. The order says that cloth face masks are acceptable for shoppers. Employees are not required to wear masks, but store management must allow them to do so. Employees must also be allowed to wash their hands at least once every half hour and have access to soap and sanitizer.
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser on Thursday announced measures to provide free groceries to residents, including a hotline to deliver food to people under medical quarantine and adding groceries at meal distribution sites for students. The hotline will launch early next week for residents required to self-isolate at home and for those “having difficulty getting access to food or essential items,” the mayor said. The city would deliver items at no cost based on what callers say they need. Bowser said the program will be funded locally, but the city will seek federal reimbursement. She also said the cityt will work with local charities to include grocery staples at meal distribution sites for D.C. Public Schools students. Groceries will be available on a first-come, first-served basis and on a rotating schedule across 10 sites. Bowser said the distribution is “geared toward vulnerable families in areas of our city where it’s more difficult to access groceries.”
The federal government is giving roughly $65.7 million in emergency funding to colleges and universities in the DMV to assist students scrambling to make ends meet in the wake of the coronavirus. It is part of more than $6 billion earmarked for colleges and universities around the country through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. According to the Department of Education, schools must use the emergency funds “to provide cash grants to students for expenses related to disruptions to their educations due to the COVID-19 outbreak, including things like course materials and technology as well as food, housing, health care and childcare.” The amount each school gets is based on the number of full-time students who are eligible for Pell Grants for low-income students, as well as the school’s overall enrollment, among other factors. Area schools receiving emergency funding including American University, $3,157,009; Catholic University, $1,187,286; Gallaudet University, $821,498; George Mason University, $10,427,512; George Washington University, $4,559,265; Georgetown University, $3,055,322; Howard University, $4,361,622; Montgomery College, $5,497,875; Northern Virginia Community College, $10,014,352; Prince George’s Community College, $3,210,894; Trinity Washington University, $980,376; University of Maryland, College Park, $10,745,357; University of the District of Columbia, $1,804,763; and University of Virginia, $5,858,355.
Events DC, the District’s tourism arm, announced Thursday that it will distribute $18 million to help hospitality and service workers, restaurateurs and undocumented immigrants who were left out of a relief package the D.C. Council approved on Tuesday. Events DC, which oversees the District’s convention center, tourism marketing and sports, said the money will be available before the end of April to expedite the recovery process for city residents unable to work amid a shutdown meant to slow the spread of the coronavirus. The $15 million will be split into four parts: $5 million for restaurant recovery efforts; $5 million to help hotels and those who work in them; $5 million for undocumented immigrants who may be ineligible for unemployment benefits and other forms of government assistance; and $3 million for marketing efforts to bring visitors back to the city. Max Brown, chairman of the Events DC board, said that because the hospitality industry relies so heavily on immigrant labor, it wanted to include a funding stream for undocumented immigrants who may be unable to qualify for unemployment, which asks for a Social Security number and proof of income. “A large number of our workers in restaurants and hotels are undocumented workers and it’s an important group in our city who are valued members of our communities,” Brown said.
D.C.’s Metropolitan Police Department is limiting access to its headquarters at 300 Indiana Ave. NW to curb the spread of coronavirus. Effective Thursday, only employees and members of the public who have confirmed appointments are allowed inside. “The current public health emergency is constantly evolving and requires MPD to limit exposure without interruption to the high level of service that is provided to the community,” a statement from the department said. “It is necessary that MPD maintains a healthy workforce so we may continue to provide police services across the District.” Earlier steps the department took to reduce the risk of exposure for police officers include asking to speak with complainants outdoors when making service calls and requesting that citizens file police reports online or by phone and submit written statements via email. MPD has also suspended all meetings and events at department facilities. Appointments may be made online.
Virginia’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority is closing 12 ABC liquor stores in Northern Virginia because of reduced staffing levels as workers self-quarantine. The closure starts Monday and lasts until at least April 30. “No employee will lose the opportunity to work,” the authority said in a statement Thursday. Workers will be sent to other ABC locations. The locations to be closed are at 685 Braddock Road, Fairfax; 3903 Fair Ridge Drive Suite “N”, Fairfax; 507 William St., Fredericksburg; 686 St. Asaph St., Alexandria; 6920-E Bradlick Shopping Center, Annandale; 2507 North Harrison St., Arlington; 44722 Brimfield Dr., Ashburn; 5331 Merchants View Square, Haymarket; 378 Elden St., Herndon; 6230-I Rolling Road, Springfield; 50 North Stafford Complex Center Suite, Stafford; and 8150 Leesburg Pike Suite 110, Vienna.
Amid continuing uncertainty about the coronavirus pandemic, the Maryland state superintendent of schools raised the possibility of schools continuing online learning in the fall. “I’m not sure that we are going to be doing school in the same way going forward,” Superintendent Karen Salmon told a panel of state lawmakers Wednesday. Salmon said that she and other state officials were taking their cues from epidemiologists, but emphasized the importance of distance learning. “We’re not sure that this is going to be something that we’re not going to revisit in the fall or in the winter,” she said during the online meeting. “So I am really focusing much of our resources on the expansion and the accountability wrapped around online learning and distance learning.” Other state officials said Salmon didn’t mean to indicate when schools will reopen or what might happen next fall. “To be clear, we have not made any new determinations related to the school calendar,” tweeted Mike Ricci, Gov. Larry Hogan’s spokesman. “At the same time, we are taking active steps now to prepare for potential future needs, and this includes a focus on enhancing distance and online learning.”
D.C. farmers and fish markets will now have to apply for a waiver and outline a plan to keep customers safe if they want to continue operating. Farmers markets had been considered essential businesses, along with grocery stores. But on Saturday, mobs crowded into the Municipal Fish Market at The Wharf ignoring social distancing rules resulting in the D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs shutting it down early Sunday morning. Now, markets will have to comply with new requirements, including informing customers they must wear a mask, banning pets, limiting the number of patrons, spacing out vendors, offering an order-ahead option and only offering bagged items. Farmers markets can no longer sell non-food items with the exception of soap, sanitizer or masks. The change was ordered by Mayor Muriel Bowser. In the same order, she put in place new social distancing mandates for grocery and convenience. These include requiring shoppers to stay 6 feet away from each other and store employees, and making aisles one-way, if possible. The order also bans tennis and golf, removing them from the allowable recreational activities, but now allows for members of the same household to utilize “rooftop or courtyard spaces,” which had previously been prohibited.
Virginia Governor Ralph Northam on Wednesday issued an executive directive authorizing restaurants and distilleries with mixed beverage licenses to sell mixed beverages through takeout or delivery beginning today. Many of the commonwealth’s restaurants have pivoted from dine-in establishments to a combination of takeout, delivery or makeshift drive-throughs. They often rely on alcohol sales to meet profit margins. Earlier this week, the Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority announced temporary in-state direct to consumer shipping privileges for local distilleries. Earlier, Virginia began permitting businesses with on-premise liquor licenses sell wine or beer in sealed containers for curbside pickup and delivery. Breweries, farm wineries and wineries were also allowed to sell products for curbside pickup or delivery. The order also instructs the ABC to defer for 90 days annual fees for licenses and permits that would be up for renewal through June. Any penalties that would normally be associated with the late payment of such fees will be waived. “This unprecedented health crisis has had a tremendous impact on businesses across the Commonwealth, and restaurants have been hit especially hard,” Northam said in a press release. “Allowing restaurants and distilleries that remain open to sell mixed beverages with takeout or delivery orders will help them augment their revenue streams, so they can continue serving their customers and employing Virginians.”
Trader Joe’s at 1914 14th St. NW closed Wednesday afternoon for cleaning after a crew member tested positive for COVID-19. The employee last worked at the store on April 5. Other Trader Joe’s locations in the DMV remain open with limited hours.
Safeway and Aldi are following Giant and Harris Teeter in limiting the number of customers in its grocery stores. Starting Friday, Safeway will limit shoppers to one person per 150 square feet during normal business hours and one person per 300 square feet during special hours for seniors and other vulnerable customer from 7-9 a.m. Tuesdays and Thursday. Beginning today, Aldi will limit shoppers to five per 1,000 square feet. Both said they would have employees at the doors regulating access and make aisles one way to aid social distancing. Aldi is asking customers to only send one person per family, but will make exceptions for those who need to take children or assist a vulnerable shoppers.
Virginia postponed multiple spring elections and primaries due to the coronavirus. Gov. Ralph Northam announced Wednesday that he is pushing Virginia’s June 9 congressional primaries to June 23. Virginia is under a stay-at-home order until June 10. The governor also recommended that the General Assembly postpone May local and special elections until November. Northam has authority to move the June primary, but moving the May elections requires action by the General Assembly, which is set to reconvene April 22. Under his plan, officials whose terms expire on June 30 would continue to serve until successors are elected in November. “We have wrestled with our options, and none of them are ideal or perfect,” Northam said at his daily press briefing. “Elections are the foundation of democracy … but no one should have to choose between protecting their health or casting a ballot.”
Maryland’s state revenues are expected to drop by $3 billion as the 2020 fiscal year ends in June. In December, the state revenue board predicted a total of $18.2 billion in total revenue. “The Great Recession will look like a picnic compared to what we’re entering right now,” said Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot. The state revenue board is expected to release new revenue numbers for the 2020 fiscal year on Friday. Revenue for the next fiscal year, which begins July 1, is also expected to be lower than usual. D.C. is projecting its $9.3 billion budget will fall by almost $6 million while Virginia eyes a $1 billion revenue loss from its $22.4 billion revenue projections.
D.C. plans to use the Walter E. Washington Convention Center as a potential location for additional hospital beds, according to information shared on a call with council members and mayoral staff. City Administrator Rashad Young emphasized that the convention center likely would not be used for patients with the most severe cases of COVID-19. “It makes sense to have the more severe cases in the actual hospital,” said Young. The majority of space for surge capacity in the city will be “within the four walls” of existing D.C. hospitals, or at locations near or close to existing hospital campuses, Young said. City officials are still evaluating about 39 locations for surge capacity. Last week, Mayor Muriel Bowser said the city could require as many as 5,600 hospital beds when the number of coronavirus cases in the city peaks. That is 3,600 more beds than are currently available.
Jet Blue is suspending service to BWI Marshall Airport from April 15 to June 10 due to the coronavirus. All flights will be consolidated at Washington National Airport. At DCA, flights will be cut from 34 per day to just five. It is also consolidating service in the Boston area, Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco. It has cut flights by 80% per day. “We face new challenges every day and can’t hesitate to take the steps necessary to reduce our costs amidst dramatically falling demand so we can emerge from this unprecedented time as a strong company for our customers and crew members,” said Scott Laurence, head of revenue planning at JetBlue. Customers whose flights have been canceled will be notified by email for rebooking, refund or a credit for future travel.
This year’s Capital Fringe Festival, set to run July 5-28, has been cancelled due to the coronavirus. In a letter Wednesday, founding director Julianne Brienza said it would not be safe or feasible to rehearse performances or plan the festival’s dozens of events during the pandemic. Almost 479 performers from 17 states were set to participate in this year’s shows. “I regret that these stories will not be able to be told in our intimate theatre spaces in SW DC,” Brienza wrote. Capital Fringe has refunded participation fees to all artists.
The National Park Service has closed Shenandoah National Park about an hour from the DMV until further notice. The Rappahannock Rapidan Health District of the Virginia Department of Health requested the closure. The popular hiking destination had closed some trails to discourage crowds and maintain social distancing. Virginia State Highways 211 and 33 will remain accessible through the park, NPS said. NPS limited hours and cut off vehicle traffic to some areas on Saturday. Park officials also closed picnic areas, bathrooms and more trails.
Giant Food and Kroger, which owns Harris Teeter, both announced Tuesday that they will begin limiting the number of customers in their stores to allow for social distancing. Kroger said by the end of the week it will cut the occupancy of Harris Teeter stores to half, and Giant Food will cut occupancy to 20%. Both chains will also implement one-way aisle traffic next week. Arrow markers on the floor will designate traffic direction through the aisles. The measures come as the companies’ workers have been requesting paid child care, access to testing and personal protective gear to wear during their shifts.
The D.C. Council on Tuesday unanimously approved a major coronavirus relief bill. Among other provisions, the legislation includes a districtwide freeze on rent increases, mortgage-payment deferrals, an expansion of unemployment insurance, the mailing of an absentee-ballot application to every voter and more.
The federal government designated the Baltimore-Washington Corridor and 12 jurisdictions in Maryland including Montgomery and Prince Georgie’s counties as an “emerging hot spot” of coronavirus cases, which will allow additional federal resources for the region. “The corridor is home to the National Institutes of Health, the Food and Drug Administration, Fort Detrick, critical health agencies which are on the frontlines of the battle against the coronavirus,” Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said. He added that the region is home to several facilities like Fort Meade, the National Security Agency, and the U.S. Cyber Command, which are critical for national security. Hogan also announced an additional order that gives local health departments and law enforcement agencies the authority to modify or shut down businesses, including construction sites, that violate his previous executive orders. Violators can be fined $5,000, face one year in prison or both.
Maryland launched a new “rumor control” website aimed at dispelling rumors and false information “that could unnecessarily cause panic or worse, result in decision-making that could lead to severe injuries or even death,” Jorge Castillo, a spokesman for the Maryland Emergency Management Agency, said in a statement. Among the false information listed on the website are rumors involving the Maryland National Guard and Hogan’s stay-at-home order. People can also submit rumors they have heard that could be featured on the site and fact-checked.
D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton asked the National Park Service to close the Jefferson and Lincoln memorials to the public during the coronavirus pandemic. Her request comes after reports that people were crowded around the memorials over the weekend. “Federal agencies must do their part to flatten the curve,” Norton said in a letter Tuesday to NPS Acting Director David Vela. She said crowding in these spaces makes social distancing “difficult if not impossible” and that closure would protect both the public and NPS employees such as park police officers. Norton has asked for a reply in five days.
Rolling to Remember, a new demonstration by the group American Veterans, or AMVETS, which was to replace Rolling Thunder has been cancelled due to the coronavirus. For 32 years, thousands of motorcyclists converged in D.C. on Memorial Day weekend for a massive rolling demonstration to honor veterans and raise awareness about prisoners of war and those missing in action. Rolling Thunder had its final ride last year, but AMVETS stepped in. This year’s ride was scheduled for May 22-24. “Unfortunately, at this point, it’s just not feasible to continue planning to have that massive gathering in our nation’s capital. As important as it is, it’s just legally not possible, and it would not be responsible to do so,” said Joe Chenelly, AMVETS national executive director.
The Kennedy Center reached a deal with the National Symphony Orchestra Tuesday, after 96 musicians were furloughed late last month. The D.C. Federation of Unions, which represents NSO musicians, filed a lawsuit claiming the furloughs violated their contract. According to a press release from the performing arts center, the musicians agreed to a pay cut worth more than $2.5 million. They also agreed to a wage freeze for the 2020-21 season, and delayed pay increases through the end of their contracts, which extends through September 2024. The total contract changes come to about $4 million in savings, according to the release. The union released a statement Tuesday encouraging the Kennedy Center to also re-hire the orchestra’s furloughed staff, “as a matter of fairness and so that our venture can flourish. We need their talents to help start new musical projects to present to our patrons and the larger world.” The announcement comes after the institution faced criticism for furloughing 250 full-time staff members and 700 part-time and hourly workers even after it received $25 million in stimulus funds from Congress last week. The center, which has canceled performances through at least May 10, defended its decision, saying the cuts were necessary and that even with the aid, it would run out of money by July. The center is providing full healthcare benefits for all furloughed employees.
D.C. Council is set to vote on a major coronavirus relief package Tuesday that would extend Mayor Muriel Bowser’s authority to declare a health emergency through mid-June and imposes a citywide rent freeze, among other measures. Details of a draft version of the bill were unveiled Monday by Council Chair Phil Mendelson during a news conference with the mayor. Mendelson said the council would make final tweaks to the bill and vote on it Tuesday during a “virtual session.” The rent freeze covers all units, even those that aren’t normally rent-controlled. The provision blocks any rent increases during the health emergency. It also requires mortgage companies to offer a 90-day deferral if an individual or business can show they have reduced income related to COVID-19. The bill also provides $25 million in grants to hospitals to prepare for the “medical surge;” authorizes up to $500 million in short-term borrowing to cover cash flow; requires businesses with between 50 and 500 employees to provide up to two weeks “safe and sick leave” to their employees; expands credits for good behavior and provides for more inmates to be released on “compassionate” grounds; and waives the community service requirement for high school seniors.
D.C. Public Schools will give tablets and other technology devices to students in grades K-8 so they can continue schooling from home during the coronavirus pandemic. The schools already distributed tablets to students in grades 9-12. Students began distance learning in late March. The school system will distribute up to 16,000 devices to families who don’t have a computer or other electronic device at home and is distributing up to 10,000 hotspots to families without internet access. “As we continue working together to flatten the curve, we are focused on distributing the tools and resources that support teaching and learning and help our students and educators stay connected,” Mayor Muriel Bowser said in a release. Schools will be reaching out to families to distribute the devices, according to the city.
Chef José Andrés World Central Kitchen will open a community kitchen at Nationals Park on Tuesday. WCK is setting up in several kitchen areas at the stadium, according to a release. Nationals Philanthropies, the team’s charity program, will distribute meals to public housing residents in Navy Yard, The Wharf and Fort Dupont, where the team’s Youth Baseball Academy is located. Meals will be distributed at various sites in those neighborhoods, according to a spokesperson. WCK expects to prepare and distribute tens of thousands of meals each day. Last month, Andrés announced that five of his D.C.-area restaurants would close convert into community kitchens offering “affordable plates of the day” from the back or side door.
D.C. officials say they need to cut $607 million from the current year’s $9 billion budget and next year’s because of the coronavirus pandemic. The cuts are prompted by a significant drop in D.C.’s usual revenue streams, especially sales tax from the hospitality industry and income tax from residents who have lost their jobs. “Just like residents and businesses are making tough choices, the District will make tough choices too,” Mayor Muriel Bowser said at a press conference Monday. She announced that the city is freezing hiring, salary increases and travel. The cuts will bring D.C.’s budget to 2017 spending levels.
Arlington County expects a $56 million drop in revenue because of the coronavirus pandemic. County Manager Mark Schwartz on Monday presented a revised budget for 2021 that slashes $34 million in revenue from the county and $21.6 million from Arlington Public Schools. Overall revenues are expected to fall from $1.396 billion to $1.34 billion. Schwartz attributed the drop in revenue to taxes sensitive to changes in the economy, especially the meals and sales tax. “Businesses have laid off staff, residents have lost jobs, schools have closed and only the most essential functions continue,” Schwartz said in a statement. His new proposed budget removes salary increases and eliminates new spending. The new budget delays the opening of the Lubber Run Community Center and the Long Bridge Park Fitness & Aquatics Center until 2022.
The University of Maryland Medical System announced Monday that every person in an acute care or ambulatory facility must wear a face mask at all times. The new policy is effective immediately, CEO Mohan Suntha said in a statement, and will continue until further notice. The University of Maryland Medical system has 13 hospitals, including UM Laurel Medical Center, UM Prince George’s Hospital Center and the state’s flagship trauma hospital in Baltimore. “Given the asymptomatic community spread of COVID-19, we have shifted to a broader stance on infection prevention, including this masking policy, out of an abundance of caution and respect for the safety of our patients and staff,” Suntha said in a statement. Staff members are being provided with masks. Nonmedical masks, including cloth ones, are encouraged when walking through the facilities, the statement said.
The National Zoo extended the use of protective masks for its keepers after a tiger came down with the coronavirus at the Bronx Zoo in New York City. Keepers who deal with the zoo’s tigers, lions and other cats are now required to wear masks. The same goes for keepers who care for meerkats, skunks, mongooses and otters, among other animals. Previously, only keepers who care for animals such as gorillas, gibbons and monkeys were required to wear masks because of their similarity to humans. The coronavirus is zoonotic, meaning that it can go from animals to humans and back to animals. Surgical masks are required when staff is working with anything the animal has touched as well as the animal itself. Nadia, the Malayan tiger at the Bronx Zoo, was tested after she and several other animals came down with dry coughs. The tiger is the first animal known to test positive for the coronavirus in the U.S. Officials think a zookeeper carrying the virus somehow transmitted the disease to the tiger while caring for the animals. The National Zoo has three tigers and six lions.
The D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs shut down the Municipal Fish Market at The Wharf on Sunday after large numbers of people visited the oldest open-air seafood market in the country the day before. Police arrived to disperse the crowd about 4:40 p.m. Saturday and DCRA employees posted closure notices early Sunday morning. Food sellers, including farmers markets, are considered essential businesses and can stay open. But the fish market may be closed through April 24 or later unless vendors are able to provide a sufficient social-distancing plan. “Since food is essential, the operators will be able to present a plan for social distancing to (DCRA),” according to LaToya Foster, the mayor’s spokesperson. “If the plan allows for safe operations, the venue will be allowed to reopen, and DCRA and D.C. Health would continue to monitor compliance.” In a Facebook post Friday, Captain White’s Seafood City asked customers to call in orders before going to the market. “Six foot distancing while at the market is mandatory. Please abide by the CDC guidelines and respect the officers/security guards directing foot traffic.” It also requested that only the person purchasing the seafood should go to the market and “leave your family at home.”
The National Park Service is opening the parking lot at Great Falls Park later on weekends and limiting capacity to encourage social distancing. The park service has been monitoring park traffic and is urging park-goers to stay home, or opt for trails they can reach by foot or bike. The visitor center, restrooms and porta-johns are closed.
Two days after release a draft of a coronavirus relief bill that would have provided cash assistance to undocumented residents who don’t qualify for unemployment, D.C. Council Chair Phil Mendelson removed the provision. The original bill, which was released on Friday, would have created a separate pool of money for “excluded workers, or those who cannot apply for unemployment benefits. It would have included undocumented residents and people who work in non-traditional jobs, like street vendors. In a second draft that circulated Saturday night, the provision had been removed. “In developing a consensus document with the Mayor, it was agreed that we did not have the $33 million necessary to pay for it,” Mendelson said in a statement about why he chose to take out the provision. “But we also agreed that we need to look for alternative strategies to help undocumented residents who are hurting from the public health emergency.” Council is expected to vote on the bill Tuesday. A Mendelson spokesperson said lawmakers are continuing to discuss the bill, and more new drafts are likely.
On Sunday, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan ordered nursing homes to provide personal protective equipment for staff and is expediting residents’ coronavirus tests through the Maryland State Public Health Laboratory. At least 81 nursing homes in the state reported a new COVID-19 case or with “clusters” of cases, https://twitter.com/GovLarryHogan/status/1246868903105527810 Hogan said on Twitter Sunday. That is up from 60 facilities announced by the state Friday. The coronavirus has spread quickly through nursing homes. At one nursing home in Mount Airy, at least 99 residents and 18 staff have tested positive. Nine residents have died. The order also creates isolation areas for residents who tested positive. Facilities would have to designate a specific area and a unit of staff to care for coronavirus patients. Finally, nursing home residents who have been hospitalized must be allowed to return to their nursing home, “as long as the facility can follow the approved CDC recommendations for transmission-based precautions.”
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Editor-in-Chief Mark Heckathorn is a journalist, movie buff and foodie. He oversees DC on Heels editorial operations as well as strategic planning and staff development. Reach him with story ideas or suggestions at dcoheditor (at) gmail (dot) com.