#ReopenMaryland Protesters Clog Streets
COVID-19 Cases Reach 23,027 in D.C., Md. and Va.
The novel coronavirus has been declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization. So far, 2,666 people have tested positive for COVID-19 in D.C. with 91 deaths, there have been 12,308 cases in Maryland with 463 deaths and 8,053 cases with 258 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 read last week’s updates here.
Hundreds of protesters drove through the streets and around Church Circle in Annapolis honking their horns for more than two hours Saturday with calls to reopen the state by May 1. With 736 new positive cases of coronavirus in the state and 38 more fatalities Saturday, protesters parked their cars in the traffic circle around the governor’s mansion, honked their horns and held signs with the hashtag #ReopenMaryland. Protests began with an online petition asking Hogan to reopen businesses, schools and religious institutions, which more than 1,700 people have signed. Earlier in the week, Hogan said he was starting to make plans for the state’s recovery post-pandemic, but said those plans would depend on expanded testing capacity, increased hospital surge capacity, ramped up supply of personal protective gear and a robust contact tracing operation. On Friday, small protests in Virginia were also held on Richmond’s capitol lawn asking Gov. Ralph Northam to reopen the commonwealth.
Coronavirus-related fatalities in D.C., Maryland and Virginia more than doubled from one week ago, climbing to 812 deaths. The total number of confirmed cases across the three states as of 10 a.m. Saturday stands at 23,027, up 58% in the last week. New confirmed cases have continued to rise at a fairly steady pace this week, with cases increasing by 7% from Friday morning. Prince George’s County has the most cases in Maryland, accounting for more than a quarter of the state’s cases. Fairfax County continues to report the highest levels of cases, testing and hospitalizations in Virginia. And un D.C., Ward 4 has the highest number of cases.
Chef Jose Andrés’ nonprofit World Central Kitchen will purchase 1 million meals from small local restaurants to help them survive closures due to the coronavirus pandemic. “WCK will then deliver those meals with partners to families, seniors, healthcare workers & more,” the organization tweeted. This isn’t the first charity work the nonprofit have taken on since the pandemic began. World Central Kitchen also helped feed passengers quarantined on the Diamond Princess, a Japanese cruise ship that experienced a major outbreak of the virus in February. Andrés also turned several of his restaurants into community kitchens, meant to offer “affordable plates of the day” for takeout.
D.C. Public Schools will remain closed for the rest of the academic year. Students in D.C. Public Schools will not return to class until at least after May, Mayor Muriel Bowser announced on Friday. Charter schools, which educate nearly half of the city’s public school students, will also stay closed. Bowser said the school year will end on May 29 — three weeks early. Charter schools are expected to end school around the same time. D.C. students have been out of class since March 16. DCPS moved classes online, but virtual learning has created challenges and exacerbated the city’s inequities. Some students do not have computers or WiFi to complete assignments, which the school system has tried to address by distributing laptops. Educators and parents also worry students, especially those who have special needs, will not receive the same level of instruction at home. The Office of the State Superintendent has waived the rule requiring students to get 180 days of instruction, a community service requirement for graduation and a requirement for “seat time” for high school courses. Students in Advanced Placement classes will receive devices to take The College Board exams online for credit.
Maryland schools will remain closed through May 15, but a decision has not been made about the rest of the academic year. “We will use this time to examine every option to develop a long-term time for recovery,” State Superintendent of Schools Sharon Salmon said during a press conference with Gov. Larry Hogan on Friday. She said school districts will be required to submit learning plans, a sample of staff and student days, accountability and assessment plans, and a plan for how each school system intends to deal with students who have exceptional needs. She said an additional $207 million from the federal government “will help address gaps in the availability of resources” and that the state is looking into using summer school to help fill gaps in students’ education. The governor added he does not think the state is ready to open up yet, but said he is “beginning to see some hopeful and encouraging signs, which have allowed us to begin laying the groundwork to reopen, rebuild and recover as soon as it is safe to do so.”
The D.C. Superior Court temporarily tripled the amount of funding certain crime victims in the city receive for emergency food and housing as they go through their court cases. Typically, victims of some violent crimes, including survivors of domestic violence, are given up to $3,000 dollars a month to spend on emergency housing and $400 for food costs. Under the resolution issued by Chief Judge Robert E. Morin and the court’s Board of Judges, people may receive awards of up to $9,000 for temporary emergency housing and $750 for food. Hearings for civil protection orders and other proceedings have been delayed by the coronavirus pandemic, meaning victims of violent crimes need emergency assistance longer. With domestic violence hearings delayed, the courts automatically extended stay away and protection orders. Domestic violence shelters, which have remained open, can be contacted by calling the D.C. Department of Human Services’ 24-hour shelter hotline at 202-399-7093, the District Alliance for Safe Housing (DASH) at 202-290-2356 ext. 101 and the D.C. Victims Hotline at 1-844-4HELPDC. Anyone in immediate danger should call the SAFE Crisis Response Team at 800-407-5048.
The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit Friday challenging Virginia’s requirement that voters get a witness signature when filling out absentee ballots. Virginia voters must open, fill out and seal their absentee ballots in front of a witness and have that person sign the envelope before it gets mailed back. But with Virginia under a stay-at-home order, the plaintiffs argue the requirement poses a health risk and threatens to disenfranchise people who live alone and don’t have any witnesses around. The lawsuit asks the court to block enforcement of Virginia’s witness rule while emergency orders are in place or while public health experts continue to urge social distancing. “The witness requirement is not worth this massive disenfranchisement of Virginia voters,” the lawsuit says. Attorneys argue that while election security is important, the signature requirement does little to further this interest. They also note Virginia is one of only 11 states with the requirement. Last week, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam postponed the June 9 primary election until June 23 and encouraged voters to request absentee ballots.
As part of D.C.’s medical surge planning for the coronavirus, 500 hospital beds are being set up at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. District officials were to have a walk-through of the convention center with members of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Friday afternoon, Mayor Muriel Bowser said during a press conference. Set up is to beghin Monday with the beds ready by the first week of May. The extra beds would be for non-ICU patients who do not needs ventilators. “This means that we will be prepared for the worst-case scenario, but our goal is that we will never need to use the convention center,” Bowser said. She added that the pace of new cases the city is running below projections. “Our level of infection is lower than we predicted it would be today,” but she stressed social distancing was still necessary to “flatten the curve.”
The old Laurel Regional Hospital in Prince George’s County will reopen three floors next week to treat COVID-19 patients. Joseph Wright, chief medical officer for the University of Maryland Hospital System’s Capital Region, told reporters that the facility was opening to “redistribute the surge” of patients in the county’s critical-care units. The UM Laurel Medical Center, which used to be a full-service facility, previously downsized and transitioned to outpatient care, a decision that was unpopular with local officials at the time. Now, it will reopen floors 3, 4 and 5 that were previously closed and start providing inpatient care to people suffering from COVID-19. It will start next week with 10 critical care beds with ventilators and 36 beds without ventilators. The intensive care until have monitors that allo nurses to check patients’ vital signs without entering the room The facility could ultimately have 135 beds available. Prince George’s County has more confirmed cases of COVID-19 and more deaths from it than any other county in the state. Maryland is paying to convert the shuttered floors into a pandemic facility.
An additional 177,450 people filed for unemployment in the DMV last week, bringing the area’s total to roughly 781,059 claims in the past month, more than twice the number of claims filed in the region in all of 2019. Numbers released by the U.S. Department of Labor on Thursday showed that D.C., Maryland and Virginia all saw a slowdown in unemployment claims week-over-week. Maryland saw 48,666 fewer new claims than the week before, while Virginia recorded 40,646 fewer and the District’s new claims were down 5,425. In Maryland, 60,823 people applied for benefits last week, totaling nearly 300,000 applications since March 15. In Virginia, 106,723 new claims were filed last week, bringing the commonwealth’s total to around 420,000 since mid-March. And in D.C., 9,904 more people filed claims last week, seeing the District’s total tick up to roughly 66,500 claims so far.
The D.C. Board of Elections has received more than 15,000 requests for absentee ballots for the June 2 primary, which city officials want to conduct largely by mail to avoid crowds at polling places. That is a small fraction of the almost 500,000 voters on the city’s rolls, but between 5-15% of the voters who regularly turn out for primary elections in the city. “It is tough changing voting habits, but we are pushing really hard. It’s most important that people stay safe and that their votes count,” board chairman Michael Bennett said during a press conference on Thursday with Mayor Muriel Bowser. In Maryland, the state’s primary was delayed from April 28 to June 2, and will now be conducted almost entirely through the mail. Unlike D.C., Maryland will send every voter a ballot in the mail. Bennett said the District opted against that because of fears that the complexity of the election might lead to the wrong ballots being sent out. Because local races are at stake, in addition to federal offices, ballots are specific to candidates in each ward. D.C. will include two paper applications for absentee ballots in a voter guide being sent to every D.C. household. The deadline to request a mail ballot is May 26. Ballots will start going out in early May, and as long as they are postmarked by June 2, they will be counted. Voters who opt to cast a ballot the traditional way will be able to do so at 20 voting centers from May 22 to June 2 — more than the usual number of early voting sites, but down from the 144 voting precincts normally used on Election Day. Masks will be required in vote centers, and voting will be staggered alphabetically by last name.
Pepco extended its coronavirus-related assistance to customers through at last June 1 including a suspension of shutoffs, a waiver on new late fees and the reconnection of customers who have recently been disconnected. If your electricity has been disconnected, call Pepco’s customer service at 202-833-7500 to get it hooked back up. That is also the number you should call if you are having trouble paying your bill; Pepco work with you to make arrangement. “We recognize the impact of COVID-19 on our customers and communities has been significant, with many experiencing financial difficulties and uncertainty about the future,” Pepco president and CEO Dave Velazquez said in a statement Thursday.
Anne Arundel County launched a new program for those who are struggling to pay rent or utility bills because of job loss due to the coronavirus pandemic. The program, announced Wednesday by County Executive Steuart Pittman, is one of the only in the region that directly provides assistance to renters. The Arundel Community Development Services’ eviction prevention program will provide temporary assistance to households with incomes up to 80% of the área’s median income of about $75,000 for a family of four. The money comes from the county’s video lottery terminal proceeds. “While Maryland courts have suspended evictions and foreclosures for the time being during this crisis, many renters will still owe rent at the end of the day and many landlords will still owe mortgage payments,” Pittman said in a statement. “This program will help people stay on track so that when the moratorium is lifted, they do not have a bigger problem with months of arrears and late fees.” Applicants must provide documentation to prove that their income was disrupted by the pandemic, provide a letter from a landlord that the applicant is past due and show documentation of household income. Beginning Monday, April 20, applicants can call ACDS at 410-222-7600. Also, county homeowners struggling to pay their mortgage can receive free financial counseling from ACDS.
The Kennedy Center extended its cancellation of shows and events through May 22. The announcement follows D.C.’s stay-at-home order extension through May 15. Affected performances include the National Symphony Orchestra’s Memory & Myth: Music by Sibelius (May 14 and 16), Fortas Chamber Music Concerts: Emerson String Quartet and Renée Fleming (May 14), Dance for Parkinson’s Disease: Lucy Bowen McCauley (May 16), Kennedy Center Chamber Players’ Spring Concert: Beethoven and Mozart (May 17), Above & Beyond Acoustic (May 17–18) and Shear Madness.Select events after May 22 were also been canceled due to COVID-19’s impact on the global cultural sector. Those cancelations include the Bolshoi Ballet’s Romeo and Juliet (June 2–7) and Once on This Island (June 23–July 12). Ticket holders can exchange tickets for a future date, receive a full refund or donate the cost of the tickets back to the Kennedy Center. Despite receiving $25 million in federal stimulus funding, the performing arts center has furloughed 60% of its administrative staff and laid off 725 part-time and hourly workers due to budget concerns.
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser on Wednesday extended the city’s state of emergency through May 15. That means essential businesses will remain closed and residents told to stay at home at least another month. The extension is needed to help “flatten the curve” and reduce the number of confirmed coronavirus cares in D.C., the mayor said. The new order also requires face masks for hotel workers, guests and visitors; people using taxis, ride share and private transportation providers; workers and customers at food sellers; and strongly encourages masks for workers and users of public transit. The city will begin tracking data on confirmed coronavirus cases in homeless people, patients at St. Elizabeths Hospital, inmates and individuals in the custody of the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services.
Also on Wednesday, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam extended the commonwealth’s state of emergency through May 8. His decision extends an earlier shutdown order that went into effect on March 24 and was set to expire on April 23. The order prohibits groups of 10 or more people from gathering, as well as recreational and entertainment businesses, including movie theaters, concert venues, museums, gyms, sports facilities, salons, barbershops, massage parlors, racetracks, zoos and bowling alleys. Restaurants and other food and drink establishments must also stay closed to on-site diners, although they may continue to offer takeout and delivery. A separate stay-at-home order for Virginia residents remains in effect until June 10.
Shoppers and people riding public transportation in Maryland must cover their faces beginning at 7 a.m. Saturday. On Wednesday, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan issued an executive order requiring people inside retail establishments or riding public transportation to wear face masks. The order also applies to employees at those businesses. “The wearing of masks is something that we may have to become more accustomed to in order to safely reopen our state,” Hogan said. He added there are signs that social distancing is working in Maryland as hospitalization rates have begun to stabilize over the last few days. He said the state “is now in a position to plan the gradual rollout of our recovery phase.” The governor will provide more details on the state’s reopening next week. But he said that in order to safely reopen, Maryland will have to greatly expand testing capacity to 10,000 tests per day, develop methods for contact tracing, increase hospitals’ capacity and obtain more personal protective equipment. No one really knows “when we’re going to get back to normal life,” and “the worst possible thing we could do” would be to reopen too soon, Hogan said. “Once you let the genie out of the bottle, you can’t put it back in.”
Passengers on Ride On buses in Montgomery County must wear face coverings beginning today. The Montgomery County Department of Transportation announced Wednesday that beginning on April 16, Ride On passengers may be prevented from boarding or asked to leave if they don’t comply. The move adds to official guidance that people find ways to cover their mouths and noses while outside to prevent transmission of the coronavirus. On Monday, the county began requiring shoppers to wear masks or face coverings. On Tuesday, Metro also asked riders to take the precaution and Prince George’s County started requiring face covering on its bus system on Wednesday. “A face covering can be a homemade cloth mask, a scarf, bandana or other means of snugly covering over the mouth and nose,” the Montgomery County Department of Transportation said in a statement. “The steps are being taken to help riders performing essential travel protect each other and bus operators during the COVID-19 health crisis.” Bus drivers will also wear face coverings.
Fairfax Connector bus reiders are being asked to wear masks or face covering. The Fairfax County Department of Transportation made the request Wednesday, but said no one without one would be denied entry to the buses.
Due to widespread technical issues preventing students from accessing distance learning tools, Fairfax County Public Schools canceled all teacher-led instruction for the rest of the week on Wednesday in order to make necessary update. The school system and Blackboard, the county’s online learning provider, believe they have identified the cause of the connectivity problems and that they involve a software issue. “In order to work properly, staff must make necessary updates and patches to the system. On a system as large as FCPS’, these critical updates take time,” Superintendent Scott Brabrand said in a letter sent to the school community. Online learning is to resume on Monday, April 20.
The IRS launched its “Get My Payment” online tool on Wednesday for people to check the status of their economic impact payments that are part of the federal CARES Act passed in March, but many people are having trouble accessing it. Users can also check if they will be receiving their payments via direct deposit, mailed check or if the IRS needs up-to-date bank account information. Upon entering the website, it provides this message: “Due to high demand, you may have to wait longer than usual to access this site. We appreciate your patience.” Then, for some, the site crashes, or states “payment status not available” or “please try again later.” Most Americans are eligible for the $1,200 payments. Most people don’t have to do anything to receive payment. According to the U.S. Treasury, 80 million Americans will be getting money as early as this week. The agency also expects a large majority of eligible Americans will receive their payments within the next two weeks.
Several workers at the P Street Whole Foods store in D.C. have contracted the coronavirus, but it has not been shut down for a deep cleaning. An Amazon shopper at the store, who spoke to a reporter at WUSA9 anonymously out of fear of retribution, said that shoppers were not told about the infections and the store has not been shut down for a deep cleaning. The employee shared several emails from management to employees telling them that at least a dozen of their co-workers had tested positive for COVID-19. “(We) get another email from Amazon, which is HR, saying we have at least 12 people that came down with the epidemic. That’s when I say, ‘OK, I’m not taking any more shifts,’” the worker told the reporter. “I was like, ‘This is out of control.’ These people don’t care nothing about us. They just want us to work while people are getting sick.” The TV station was only able to independently confirm six cases. Christa Norris, an assistant store manager, confirmed employees had been infected, but would not say how many. She also said every employee who came in contact with the sick workers has been given 14 days of paid time off to quarantine. Norris said the grocery store was an “essential service” so their doors are open, but any employee who feels “uncomfortable” can take unlimited, unpaid personal leave. She also said that in addition to daily cleanings, the store has had three “deep cleans,” the last one on April 13. Deep cleaning is when an outside company comes in and wipes down every hard surface in the front and back of the store. The employee said they take place while the store is open. Essential businesses in D.C. are not required by law to notify the public when an employee tests positive for the coronavirus.
Area hospitals and clinics are receiving kits that can test for COVID-19 in less than 15 minutes, but obtaining them along with reagents and other necessary supplies are still hampering widespread testing. As of Tuesday, D.C. Health and the Maryland Department of Health said they had some Abbott ID NOW machines, although Maryland has “a limited number of cartridges,” according to a spokesman. D.C. had materials for 1,000 tests. Medstar, Inova and the Virginia Hospital Center said they obtained the machines as well. George Washington University Hospital, Children’s National Hospital, Kaiser Permanente and Sentara Healthcare said they did not have the system. Speaking Tuesday, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser tied widespread testing to her ability to re-open businesses and schools in the city. “We need that type of technology with a lot of media, a lot of sampling kits, to be readily available all across the District,” she said on a NBC4 interview.
Metro is asking riders to wear face coverings while traveling on its buses, trains and MetroAccess vehicles, as well as in rail stations, bus terminals and other facilities. The transit agency said the request is in light of new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which recommends that masks and cloth face coverings can be used to help slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. Metro said that while coverings are strongly encouraged, riders who are not wearing one will not be denied transportation. Metro will not provide face coverings, and said that riders who want to wear one should plan ahead.
D.C. officials will unveil a plan later this week to close portions of streets around businesses like supermarkets to better allow people waiting in line to practice social distancing. City Administrator Rashad Young told members of the D.C. Council during a call on Tuesday afternoon that the closures, which would effectively widen sidewalks, will happen around essential businesses where crowding can occur as people wait in line to enter. It is a step short of a broader closure of city streets to car traffic, giving pedestrians and cyclists more space to move around while keeping their distance that some advocates have been calling for.
A bill that temporarily prohibits rent increases was introduced in Montgomery County Council on Tuesday. Council member Will Jawando introduced the legislation, which prohibits landlords in Montgomery County from raising rents for 120 days after Maryland’s state of emergency is lifted. It also prohibits landlords from notifying tenants of rent increases up to 30 days after the end of the state of emergency. Landlords who have already given notice of a rent increase would be required to inform their tenants in writing to disregard the notice. “Our goal is to get people through this crisis healthy. And allow them to continue normal life and stay in their homes,” Jawando said during a Tuesday press conference. “We don’t want anyone evicted. It’s actually contrary to the health goals if someone is supposed to be sheltering in place to be evicted. That creates more problems for other residents.” He said that while many landlords already comply with the specifics of his bill, some landlords in Silver Spring and other areas of the county who have imposed rent increases. A hearing and vote on the expedited bill are scheduled for April 21.
Registered D.C. dispensaries can provide medical marijuana to qualified city residents through delivery, curbside pickup and at-the-door pickup. Mayor Muriel Bowser on Tuesday issued an emergency rulemaking. A press release issued by her office said it was “necessary to protect the health, safety and welfare of District residents, and is similar to what other states are putting in place to continue access to medical marijuana.” Under Mayor’s Order 2020-053, medical marijuana dispensaries are considered essential businesses as healthcare and public health operators. Under the rule, dispensaries are allowed to use one unmarked delivery vehicle, which must be registered with D.C. Health and have a functioning GPS. The driver must also be registered with the health department. Deliveries may only be made between 11 a.m.-7 p.m. to residential addresses
Trader Joe’s in Clarendon closed Tuesday after an employee tested positive for coronavirus. The store reopened Wednesday. It was the second time in two weeks the Arlington grocery store closed due to an employee being diagnosed with the coronavirus. According to a sign posted on the door Tuesday, the employee was last in the store on April 13.
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser authorized a $14 per diem hazard pay for all city employees who are required to go into work to do their jobs, according to a tweet by the D.C. Police Union. The hazard pay applies to D.C. police and all employees who fall in the criterion. Employees who report “Regular Pay” on their time sheet will receive an additional $14 in their paycheck for days they physically report to work, up to $140 per pay period. The pay is retroactive to March 16. Also, employees required to report to work during the duration of the health emergency will receive an extra 40 hours of leave that can be used after the emergency ends.
D.C.’s residents and businesses are doing a “fantastic job helping us contain the virus,” Mayor Muriel Bowser said during an interview on WTOP on Tuesday. “We’re hopeful that our worst-case scenario projections won’t be realized, which means we’ll see lower levels of inspection or hospitalization and possibly see our peak happen in mid- to late May, rather than late June.” The mayor said efforts to close nonessential businesses have helped lower the number of coronavirus cases. “This virus knows no borders — people who live in Maryland work in the District and the same for Virginia. So it is really important that everybody in the region is staying at home only doing essential work, essential activities.”
Widespread stay-at-home orders are not being followed by many Americans, but people in the D.C.-area are doing a better job than most. According to data gathered by University of Maryland researchers, many Americans are moving around and taking trips out of town despite stay-at-home orders. According to the COVID-19 Impact Analysis Platform developed at the university, only 35% of people nationwide are staying at home. Locally, the analytics tool shows that 49% of people in D.C. are staying home, among the highest share of residents for any state. That number is 39% in Maryland and 34% in Virginia. “We define staying at home as a person who has not made any trips more than 1 mile away from their house,” said professor Lei Zhang. The average American has taken two such trips since the lockdown began, for work purposes or otherwise, with 23% of those being “out of county,” researchers found. “Our goal is to not only produce new and compelling data, but to truly inform and support decision-makers,” said Zhang, who leads the project.
The D.C. Government will observe Emancipation Day on Thursday, April 16, but will maintain most operations that are deemed essential during the coronavirus pandemic, the city announced Tuesday. All coronavirus testing sites, public health operations, emergency shelters, school meal and weekday grocery distribution sites will remain as will the city’s unemployment insurance call center. Trash and recycling collection will be pushed back to Friday and Saturday. Also resident street sweeping and ticketing for expired license plates and inspection stickers, expired meters and emergency no parking violations are suspended as is vehicle booting and towing. Emancipation Day marks the 158th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln signing the Compensated Emancipation Act of 1862, which freed more than 3,100 enslaved individuals in D.C. The city has canceled its annual Emancipation Day parade.
The Virginia Department of Corrections reported its first coronavirus-related death of an inmate on Tuesday. The 49-year-old woman had underlying health conditions including asthma and hepatitis C was being held in the Virginia Correctional Center for Women in Goochland near Richmond. She had been hospitalized at the Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center since April 4 and died Tuesday morning. The inmate was serving a nine-year sentence for manufacturing methamphetamine, delivering drugs to prison and larceny, the DOC said in a statement. The death came a day after D.C. and Maryland reported their first inmate deaths due to COVID-19. The ACLU of Virginia last week the formed the Virginia COVID-19 Justice Coalition to fight for safety measures in prisons, more accountability from state and local governments, and the release of any inmates who do not pose imminent threat of bodily harm to others. In D.C. and Maryland, the ACLU has filed lawsuits. Forty-four inmates and 32 staff have active cases of the coronavirus in Virginia.
The peak for COVID-19 cases in Virginia will come between July and September, according to University of Virginia Biocomplexity Institute researchers. That is later than earlier predictions, which were late May to late June, and later than national predictions for a peak within the next few weeks. The researchers say their new prediction is evidence that social distancing is working, and that the “flattening of the curve” of infections means that the state will have the medical capacity to handle the disease over the coming months. They recommended continuing restrictions for now. “We know that social distancing is working and lifting restrictions too early can lead to a second surge,” UVA research associate professor Bryan Lewis said. In response, Gov. Ralph Northam said Monday he would extend the closure of non-essential businesses set to expire next week, and would keep the June 10 deadline for stay-at-home measures, even though they cause pain for businesses, students and families.
D.C. residents who cannot leave their homes and require assistance obtaining food or other necessary goods can now call 888-349-8323 for help. The city’s COVID-19 Support Hub is for residents who have tested positive, been instructed by a healthcare professional to quarantine or are showing symptoms of COVID-19. Other requirements include having no household member, friend or neighbor who is able to go out and get food, hygiene or pediatric products; not receiving assistance from other providers; and not having access to prescription medication. Mayor Muriel Bowser announced the launch of the hotline during a press conference on Monday. Monday also marked the launch of grocery sites at D.C. Public Schools. Pre-packed grocery bags with fresh produce and dry goods are distributed on a first-come, first-serve basis between 12:30-2 p.m. at 10 of the 50 city schools serving as sites for free meals for anyone under 18 years old. Distribution sites include Brookland Middle School, Kelly Miller Middle School, Coolidge High School/Ida B. Wells Middle School, Anacostia High School, Ballou High School, Eastern Senior High School, Stanton Elementary School, Woodson High School, Kimball Elementary School and the Columbia Heights Education Campus.
At least two employees at the Whole Foods Market in Pentagon City have tested positive for COVID-19, a company spokeswoman confirmed Monday. “We’ve been working closely with our store team members, and are supporting the diagnosed team members, who are in quarantine,” the spokeswoman said in a statement. The 32,000 square-foot Whole Foods, located at 520 12th St. S., in on the ground floor of The Bartlett, a nearly 700-unit apartment building. Three residents of the multifamily building tested positive for the disease last week and two were in self quarantine within their apartments. Out of an abundance of caution, the store performed an additional cleaning and disinfection, on top of our current enhanced sanitation measures,” the spokeswoman said.
D.C. and Maryland both recorded their first coronavirus-related deaths of prison inmates. A 51-year-old inmate in the D.C. jail and a 60-year-old inmate at the Jessup Correctional Institution were the first coronavirus-related fatalities in the prison systems in D.C. or Maryland. Both deaths were announced Monday morning. The D.C. Department of Corrections said Deon Crowell, who has been in custody since June 29, 2018 awaiting trial on charges of first-degree murder while armed, was hospitalized on April 7 after testing positive for the coronavirus and “experiencing respiratory issues.” In late March, Crowell’s attorney asked a D.C. judge to release him to home confinement, saying he suffered from “diabetes and has multiple health issues related to that diagnosis.” His next hearing was scheduled for May. The Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services did not identify the inmate by name, but said he had been hospitalized for several weeks and had underlying health conditions. The ACLU and other groups have filed lawsuits in both D.C. and Maryland to force state officials to reduce the prison population. As of April 12, there were 93 reported coronavirus cases in Maryland’s prisons, including 47 correctional officers and 18 inmates. In the D.C. jail, more than 50 inmates have tested positive, with nine having recovered fully. Last week, a D.C. judge ordered an independent inspection of the jail, which houses more than 1,500 inmates in two facilities. Also last week, Mayor Muriel Bowser granted early release to 36 inmates serving sentences for misdemeanor charges.
George Washington University opened 65 dorm rooms on its Foggy Bottom campus to house medical professionals fighting the coronavirus. The rooms in Munson Hall, equipped with kitchens and bathrooms, are available to medical staff who cannot or don’t want to travel to their own homes, according to Barbara L. Bass, vice president for health affairs and dean of the School of Medicine and Health Sciences. The announcement comes as D.C. prepares for a surge of patients and amid tension with some students who have protested being denied the chance to retrieve their belongings. Many students left for spring break expecting to return to campus, only to be told to stay way. Last month, the university announced it had hired a moving company to gather the belongings left behind by students after campus closed, upsetting some. Students raised privacy concerns, among other issues. Students’ belonging will be stored until the beginning of the fall semester. City officials estimate hospitalizations will peak in June, and some doctors and other hospital staff who will be exposed to the virus are expected to choose alternative housing rather than risk spreading it to their families.
Pedestrians and bicyclists in Montgomery County will be able to use Little Falls Parkway between Massachusetts Avenue and Arlington Road and Beach Drive from Connecticut and Knowles Avenues on weekends beginning April 17. The roads will be closed to vehicles beginning at 9 a.m. on Fridays through 6 p.m. Sunday. They are in addition to two sections of Sligo Creek Parkway between Old Carroll Avenue and Piney Branch Road and between Forest Glen Road and University Boulevard West that have been opened for exercise on weekends. Users are aske to maintain proper social-distancing measures of no gatherings larger than 10 people and staying at least 6 feet from others.
The total number of coronavirus cases in D.C., Maryland and Virginia grew by about 6 percent, marking the lowest daily increase in weeks. However, those numbers are probably affected by the Virginia Department of Health “introducing enhancements” to its COVID-19 reporting. The department did not say what those changes were. It noted that Sunday’s report “may be underestimated,” but added that Monday’s report “will return to normal procedures, including all cases identified by 5 pm the previous day.” The commonwealth reported just under a 4% increase over the past 24 hours – its lowest increase in almost two weeks. Maryland’s infection rate increased 7%. The state began posting data by zip code. Speaking on ABC’s This Week Gov. Larry Hogan said the zip code data would be used to focus resources. “Almost all of our focus” has been on the corridor between Baltimore and D.C., including Prince George’s and Montgomery counties, Hogan said, adding that he has told the federal government that the area is an emerging hot spot. According to a tweet from Hogan, the five zip codes with the most cases were 21215 in Baltimore County, 20904, 20905 and 20902 in Silver Spring and 20744 in Fort Washington. D.C.’s cases increased about 5%.
All nine coronavirus-related deaths reported in D.C. on Saturday were African American patients. African Americans make up 46% of the total cases in the city and 72% of the deaths, according to D.C. Health. Appearing on Fox News Sunday, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said the virus has placed “a spotlight on the health disparities that have plagued African Americans for generations. And you can trace [it to] slavery, racism, Jim Crow … you can also look to how many African Americans are living in substandard housing conditions,” which contribute to all sorts of the kind of underlying health problems that lead to deaths among COVID-19 patients.” In Maryland, Prince George’s County, where about 60% of the population is black, has the highest number of cases. The county has 1,923 of the states 7,694 cases, as well as 50 deaths. It is hard to tell in Virginia, where racial data wasn’t reported in 45% of cases.
The Internal Revenue Service has created a web portal for people who didn’t file a tax return in 2018 or 2019 to claim their Economic Impact Payments to help people facing hardship from the coronavirus health crisis. You will need to give your full name, current mailing address, date of birth, Social Security number, bank account and routing number (if you have one), driver’s license or other government-issued ID (if you have one), Identity Protection Personal Identification Number (if you were given one) and the names and Social Security numbers of any children you have. Click on the link above, scroll down about half way and click on the blue button that reads “Non-Filers: Enter Payment Info Here” to get started.
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam froze all new spending in the state budget and delayed an increase in the state’s minimum wage over the weekend. Northam signed and amended a mountain of legislation over Easter weekend, up again a midnight Saturday deadline to act on all 1,291 measures passed during this year’s General Assembly session. Overall, the governor will hold off on about $1 billion a year in new spending. The minimum wage hike to $9.25 and hour was postponed from Jan. 1, 2021 to May 1, 2021. The General Assembly is slated to return on April 22 to take up all of Northam’s amendments. The budget takes effect July 1.
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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.