Annandale Test Site Hits Capacity in 3 Hours
COVID-19 Cases Reach 89,210 in D.C., Md. and Va.
As of yesterday morning, 7,966 people have tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, in D.C. with 427 deaths; there have been 45,495 cases in Maryland with 2,130 deaths; and in Virginia there have been 35,749 cases wit0h 1,159 deaths. Social distancing is recommended to help control its spread. You can read last week’s updates here.
One of two free COVID-19 testing events organized by the Fairfax County Health Department and the Virginia Department of Health this weekend closed early Saturday after reaching capacity by 12:45 p.m. Testing at Annandale High School was scheduled until 6 p.m., but people were being turned away and told to go to a similar event today at Bailey’s Elementary School in Bailey’s Crossroads. Sunday’s testing is scheduled from 10 a.m-6 p.m., but John Silcox, a spokesman for Fairfax County’s Health and Human Services Department, advised people to arrive early. Silcox said Saturday’s goal was to test 1,500 people. The county chose the two locations because they are accessible to neighborhoods where “people are disproportionately affected by COVID-19 and likely to be uninsured/underinsured.” The tests are available at no cost without a doctor’s referral, and those who wish to be tested do not have to show identification.
The DMV leads the country in the percentage of positive test results for the coronavirus, and despite quarantine measures has not seen the decline in infections that other states have. According to Deborah Birx, coordinator of the White House coronavirus task force, said Friday that she has asked the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to work with officials in the District “to really understand where these new cases are coming from and what do we need to do to prevent them in the future.” She said 42 states now have a positive test rate under 10% on a rolling, seven-day average but that Maryland, Virginia and D.C. have not seen their rates drop. The D.C. region, which includes Northern Virginia and Montgomery and Prince George’s counties in Maryland, has the highest rate of positive coronavirus tests among the country’s metro areas, she said. “This is so you can all make your decisions about going outside and social distancing,” she told reporters. “You can see the top three states are Maryland, the District and Virginia.” A spokeswoman for Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam did not dispute Birx’s assessment, saying the numbers highlight how Northern Virginia has been hit harder by the virus than the rest of the state. As of May 18, Virginia reported that 14.7% of all tests statewide were coming back positive on a seven-day moving average. For Northern Virginia that figure was 24.6%, while it was just 10% for the rest of the state, according to the Virginia Department of Health. A spokesman for Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said Birx’s comments don’t come as a surprise, given that Hogan has repeatedly said the D.C. metro region had the potential to become the nation’s next hot spot. “The governor said early on that the capital region would be a hots pot for COVID-19, and the D.C. metro counties have been a substantial focus of our public health response, receiving the most testing and most new hospital surge capacity,” Hogan spokesman Mike Ricci said. D.C. officials did not respond.
Maryland courts are planning a five phase reopening after closing for the coronavirus pandemic with the resumption of jury trials in early October. The state’s court system is scheduled to begin Phase II at 5 p.m. on Friday, June 5. At that point, courthouses will remain generally closed to the public with most business handled remotely except for urgent matters. “We have worked tirelessly to make sure the safeguards necessary to protect … the health of the public, judiciary personnel and justice partners were in place before we open to the public,” said District Court of Maryland Chief Judge John P. Morrissey in a statement. “Differences in docket sizes, courtroom and courthouse layouts, and the number of judicial employees will affect the phases for every jurisdiction and court.” By July 20, courthouses should be able to reopen to the public with a wider range of matters appearing on the schedule again in Phase III. Courts will resume nonjury trials and contested hearings in criminal, civil, family and juvenile matters when Phase IV begins, currently set for Aug. 31. Full court operations, including jury trials, would resume Oct. 5, when Phase V is slated to begin. As the phases change and evolve, notices will be posted within court facilities and online. “The judiciary’s Administrative Office of the Courts has been working closely with the Maryland Emergency Management Agency and various vendors throughout the state to secure the tools and equipment necessary to safely reopen to Marylanders,” said State Court Administrator Pamela Harris. “The judiciary’s ability to gradually resume court operations is, in part, a result of these efforts over the past several weeks and months.” When courthouses begin to reopen to the public, visitors will be subject to many of the same screenings and protective measures as in other public venues. That means temperature checks and symptom screenings, along with a requirement to wear masks and maintain social distancing inside the courthouse. Some courthouses may have to adjust phases depending on the impact of the coronavirus in their locality.
The spread of coronavirus has slowed significantly in the D.C. jail, but chronic staff shortages have had a major impact on the jail’s ability to cope with the pandemic. In a written report to U.S. District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, filed earlier this week, court-appointed inspectors said the virus that causes COVID-19 has been a formidable challenge, but by mid-May, new infections at the jail had dropped significantly from peak levels in late March and early April. The inspectors said that from March 14 to May 14, 315 COVID-19 tests were administered to inmates and 185 were positive. The inspectors had previously reported to the judge that the inmate population at both the Central Detention Facility and the Central Treatment Facility had been reduced to about 1,300 from a push to mitigate the virus’ spread. The inspections are part of a class-action lawsuit filed against the D.C. Department of Corrections due to concerns for inmate safety in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic. While the virus is now spreading more slowly, the report raised concerns about access to healthcare for inmates who are not under quarantine. Inmates who test positive are isolated and provided treatment. Inmates possibly exposed are placed in quarantine units and have daily temperature checks. But the inspectors said medical care is limited for inmates who are not in quarantine. The report said the limits are caused by a lack of healthcare providers and inmates confined to their cells for extended periods of time. The inspectors also said that the jail’s ability to confront the coronavirus has been hampered by staff shortages. The report estimated that up to 24% of the staff has been out the past several weeks. However, the department told the judge that many employees returned to duty recently.
For the first time in 49 years, the hills at Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts will be silent this summer. On Wednesday, the Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts canceled all 61 of its summer performances. Wolf Trap President and CEO Arvind Manocha announced the cancellation of all concerts at the Filene Center, the Children’s Theatre-in-the-Woods at Wolf Trap National Park, and The Barns at Wolf Trap. Some performers, like Elvis Costello & The Impostors, the Indigo Girls, Steely Dan and Steve Winwood, the Barenaked Ladies, Steve Martin and Martin Short, the Goo Goo Dolls, Train, John Legend, Mary Chapin Carpenter and Pitbull have been rescheduled for next year. Other like the Riverdance 25th Anniversary Show, John Prine and Emmylou Harris were outright canceled. You can see the full schedule online. Season ticket holders are eligible to receive full refunds, according to the foundation’s website, or can exchange tickets for gift certificates to be used at future events. Wolf Trap is also encouraging patrons to contribute portions of tickets to its Music Moves Us Fund, in order to blunt the economic fall-out of the summer season and sustain the organization’s operations in the future. Instead, Wolf Trap will offer virtual content and refashion its education programs online. “We think of Wolf Trap in the same way we all think about Wolf Trap,” said Manocha in a video. “One of the essential components of summertime in the greater Washington area. We may not have concerts at Wolf Trap this summer, but we continue to be a resource to the community – to do what we can, to bring music and art into people’s lives, to make life a little bit better. We’ll be back, we’ll be strong.”
Beginning today and continuing at least through Labor Day, Metro has closed all Orange Line stations west of Ballston along with Clarendon and Virginia Square-GMU and the entire Silver Line to redo platforms and tie in the new Phase II Silver Line stations. They could reopen around Labor Day, depending on how fast the construction can get done, given social distancing requirements. East Falls Church, MacLean and Greensboro had already been closed due to low ridership during the pandemic. Metro took a gamble betting that life would not get back to normal by this summer. Northern Virginia could enter Phase One of reopening on May 29, a week after the Silver Line closes. Northern Virginia business groups are not happy. Sol Glasner, CEO of the Tysons Partnership, told WAMU Metro has now all but assured that the economic comeback will be delayed in Tysons. “Metro is not an amenity in Tysons, it’s an essential utility,” Glasner said. “Our businesses, our employees, our customers are dependent on Metro. Without Metro, when we’re looking for economic recovery, it creates a self-defeating cycle.” Tysons Corner has 120,000 workers, five Fortune 500 companies headquarters and a sizable retail presence with one of the largest malls in the DMV. While many white-collar workers will likely still work from home this summer, retail workers are back at the mall, which is open for pick up orders. Glasner said his group wasn’t consulted before the closure was announced, although they have been looped in on weekly meetings since. “I think it would’ve been useful for Metro to hear the perspective of employers who are planning for reopen,” he said. “To have the uncertainty of no specific reopening date (for the Silver Line) it becomes impossible to plan for economic recovery.”
Arlington County parks will reopen on a limited basis beginning today, with playgrounds, picnic shelters, athletic courts and fields, dog parks and public restrooms still closed. In a statement Friday, the county said people can use the open space inside its 148 parks, including 49 miles of trails, to exercise or sit with members of their household, as long as they stay at least 6 feet from others and groups do not exceed more than 10 people. County officials also recommend wearing a face mask, but do not require it. “We need the community’s help in practicing safety guidelines so we can keep our parks open, and to allow staff the necessary time to prepare to open even more facilities and programs, when it’s safe to do so,” Parks and Recreation Director Jane Rudolph said in the statement. “As long as the community stays safe, we can stay open.” The county plans to reopen athletic fields and shelters with restrictions, batting cages, dog parks, pickleball courts, tennis courts and outdoor tracks in June.
Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park, along with hundreds of miles of trails, reopens today after being closed to motorists since April 4 due to the coronavirus. The scenic 105-mile-long roadway runs the entire length of the park in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. It is a popular destination for people from the DMV. Officials in Rappahannock closed the park last month, citing overcrowding and lack of social distancing among visitors. Motorists will be able to drive the entire length of Skyline Drive from Front Royal to Waynesboro. Accessible trailheads from the road will be open for day use, but camping is prohibited. Some trails will stay closed, including Old Rag Mountain and Whiteoak Canyon/Cedar Run. Park boundary trailheads in Rappahannock County will not be accessible. The area will open at 8:00 a.m. today, then from 5 a.m.-10 p.m. beginning Sunday. National Park rangers will staff the entrance and continue to collect admission fees, according to a statement from the National Park Service. Restrooms will be limited to the Dickey Ridge Visitor Center, Panorama, Byrd Visitor Center and Beagle Gap. All other visitor centers will remain closed including picnic areas, campgrounds and lodges. Shopping and food areas also remain closed. Virginia’s state parks are also beginning to ease restrictions. Over Memorial Day weekend, visitors can expect restrooms, campgrounds and some boat rentals to be open, depending on the park. Camping reservations from May 21 to June 10 are being accepted. All other facilities will stay closed, including cabins and group campgrounds.
D.C. could offer limited in-person summer camps and classes if the city enters Phase 2 of its reopening plan by August. During Phase 1, which could begin May 29, city summer camp programs will offer a “camp-at-home” experience, Department of Parks and Recreation Director Delano Hunter said at a press conference Friday. DPR will supply 5,000 supply kits for arts and crafts, culinary activities, science experiments, and outdoor exploration to children across the city, along with online content and engagement. If the city enters Phase 2, 3,240 campers could participate in in-person camps at 27 locations during three two-week sessions. Only 10 participants would be permitted at each camp. Virtual summer school will run from June 22 through July 24 with K-8 enrichment, credit recovery, and programming for English language learners and students with disabilities. If D.C. is in Phase 2 by August, in-person bridge classes, focused on grades 3, 6 and 9, Chancellor Lewis Ferebee said at the press conference. The 2020-21 school year will begin on Aug. 31, either in-person or online. According to the ReOpen D.C. Task Force recommendations, in-person learning in the fall would require modified schedules, social distancing measures and classrooms with no more than 10 people, including instructors. Further planning regarding a fall schedule could be expected as early as June or July, Ferebee said.
Virginians may be required to wear masks in public beginning next week to slow the spread of the coronavirus. “Make plans for you and your other family members to have facial protection,” Gov. Ralph Northam said Friday during a press conference. “So that’s your homework for the weekend. Be ready on Tuesday to go out and about in your business, when it’s essential, with facial protection.” The Virginia Department of Health recommends cloth face coverings in public and businesses, but doesn’t require them. The District, Montgomery County, Md., and Metro all require face masks. Also at the new briefing, Northam said Virginia SNAP recipients will be able to buy groceries online from Amazon and Walmart beginning May 29.
Arlington Public Schools are likely to begin the 2020-21 school year with distance learning. Interim Superintendent Cintia Johnson outlined three scenarios for fall classes in a letter to the community posted online Friday: operating classes completely online, which she called a “likely scenario,” working with a hybrid of in-person and online learning, or reopening schools as normal with in-person instruction if social distancing requirements have been dropped. Reopening schools for normal, in-person instruction is the “least likely scenario,” she said. During Thursday’s school board meeting she announced a task force of administrators, staff, parents and students that she will co-chair with incoming superintendent Francisco Durán, who begins June 1, to work out plans to reopen in the fall. More details regarding the task force and community input will be released in early June, Johnson said in the email.
A federal judge in Greenbelt ordered the Prince George’s County Jail to submit plans to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 on Thursday after finding that jail officials acted with “reckless disregard” in the early stages of the coronavirus outbreak. “Sick calls ignored, temperature checks inaccurate, and nurses telling symptomatic detainees, ‘If you can walk, then you are OK,’” U.S. District Judge Paula Xinis wrote in her 33-page opinion, listing what she described as troubling procedures at the jail during the height of the outbreak, according to the Washington Post. During the last six weeks, the jail has taken steps to contain the virus including ordering more personal protective equipment for staff, pausing all work details, and more screening and testing according to court documents. Xinis’ opinion credited the jail for taking some safety measures. “The facility’s physical structure, combined with the lockdown measures implemented, worked to contain the spread of COVID-19 when staff and detainees began testing positive,” the opinion said. The court order followed a lawsuit filed on behalf of the inmates who gave statements describing the lack of medical care and sanitary conditions in the jail. The lawsuit sought compassionate release of medically vulnerable inmates. The judge declined to grant that request. Xinis ordered county Department of Corrections Director Mary Lou McDonough to submit plans in writing to address the vulnerable population within five days. A total of 18 inmates at the jail have tested positive for COVID-19 and hasn’t increased since April 23. A department spokesman said the county will appeal the findings and injunction. Prince George’s has been hit hard by the coronavirus and could begin a phased reopening in early June according to County Executive Angela Alsobrooks.
NBA legend and Georgetown University’s men’s basketball team head coach Patrick Ewing tested positive for the coronavirus. He is isolated in a local hospital, according to his Twitter post. “This virus is serious and should not be taken lightly,” he tweeted. “I want to encourage everyone to stay safe and take care of yourselves and your loved ones.” No other member of the Georgetown men’s basketball program has tested positive for the coronavirus. Ewing was named head coach of Georgetown’s men’s basketball team in 2017, after a 15-year run as an assistant coach in the NBA for several teams, including the Washington Wizards. He was the first pick in the 1985 NBA draft and was elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2008.
Barring any spikes in infections, D.C. could begin a phased reopening as early as next Friday, May 29. Mayor Muriel Bowser made the announcement at her Thursday morning press conference. The city will be “advancing testing strategy” next week in preparation for reopening, and the city will be “close to where we need to be,” Bowser said. She will make a final decision on Tuesday. A stage one of three stages reopening, per the mayor’s ReOpen D.C. Advisory Group recommendation, would allow certain businesses to reopen, including barbershops and hair salons by appointment, and restaurants could offer outdoor dining with no more than six diners at a table. Bars and nightclubs would not reopen until stage three. Nonessential businesses could offer curbside pickup and delivery, an expansion of a pilot program that launched this week. Museums and theaters would remain closed until stage two. Houses of worship would be allowed to open with 10 or fewer people. Parks, fields, tennis courts and golf courses would reopen, but playgrounds would remain closed in phase one. Under the phased recommendation, gatherings would be limited to 10 people during stage one, 50 in stage two and 250 in stage three, all the people remaining 6 feet apart until there is a vaccine. DC Health outlined the metrics it will use to determine the reopening plans: COVID-19 case decline, testing capacity, the healthcare system capacity for patients and the public health system capacity for contact tracing. The health department reported an 11-day-decline in community spread on Thursday. Stage one reopening is dependent on a 14-day decline.
Prince George’s County could begin a phased reopening as soon as June 1. County Executive Angela Alsobrooks made the announcement Thursday. “After reviewing recent data, we are cautiously moving toward a modified phase one reopening by June 1. While the data has improved, we are not out of the woods yet,” Alsobrooks said in a statement. “While the data has improved, we are not out of the woods yet. I urge all Prince Georgians to exercise caution, use good judgement and observe the stay-at-home order this holiday weekend so that we can stay on track to begin reopening by our target date.” Both COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths are declining in the county, the executive said.
Montgomery County could begin a phased reopening as soon as next week. Dr. Travis Gayles, the county health officer, said Wednesday in a statement the number of hospitalizations and the average number of daily cases “are moving in the right direction.” If that continues, he expects the county would be able to start a phased reopening plan “within the next week or two.” Last week, County Executive Marc Elrich issued an executive order extending the county’s stay-at-home order, after Gov. Larry Hogan lifted the statewide order. His executive order also calls for the county to increase testing capacity by 5% of its population each month, increase contact tracing, and review and address disparities in case outcomes across the population. On Thursday, the county signed a deal with AdvaGentics, a molecular diagnostics laboratory in Rockville. The county will receive at least 7,500 of the company’s self-administered oral swab test that provide results in fewer than 48 hours. “This is a game changer for us. This greatly increases our ability to get more testing in Montgomery County,” Elrich said in a statement. “Testing is an essential part of the road to reopening. It is great that we are doing this and that we are able to partner with a local company on this important step.” In the first phase of the contract, which is underway, first responders; nursing home and long-term facility staff and residents; and employees of the county’s Department of Correction and Rehabilitation will be tested. The second phase of the testing plan will begin May 31 and will include county employees who are essential workers, and hospital workers and health care providers. Phase three begins June 8; when the county will begin receiving 20,000 tests per week. By then, testing is scheduled to begin at sites such as grocery stores and other essential businesses for their employees; and testing will also be available for the general public. “This partnership will help us get to the goal we have set of testing 5% of the population,” said Gayles. “This enables us to quickly test groups of people and expand testing overall so that we can have a true picture of the virus in the community and help us make reopening decisions based on data.”
Unemployment numbers across the U.S. and the DMV have risen past historic levels due to the coronavirus pandemic. According to data release Thursday by the U.S. Department of Labor, 2.4 million new unemployment claims were filed for the week ending May 16, bringing the number of new claims filed nationally to 38.6 million since the pandemic began in mid-March. In D.C., 5,079 residents applied for jobless benefits, down 703 from the previous week, bringing the total through last week to more than 70,000. In Maryland, there were 34,304 new claims, down 11,181 from a week ago, for a total of nearly 300,000 claims across the state. While in Virginia, 45,788 new filings, down 6,351 from last week, pushed the commonwealth’s total to nearly 450,000.
Two days after Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan issued an executive order allowing pharmacies in the state to administer COVID-19 tests, residents can now get tested at 17 CVS locations throughout the state. Individuals who meet Centers for Disease Control criteria and age guidelines can register for self-swab tests at CVS.com beginning today, Hogan announced Thursday. The 17 locations are spread across the state. In Montgomery County, tests are available at CVS locations in Bethesda, Rockville and Gaithersburg. Prince George’s County testing sites are in New Carrollton, Capitol Heights and two locations in Upper Marlboro. A list of all participating pharmacies can be found at the link above. “Patients will be required to stay in their cars and directed to the pharmacy drive-thru window, where they will be provided with a test kit and given instructions,” according to the press release. “A CVS Pharmacy team member will observe the self-swab process to ensure it is done properly.” Results will be available in about three days. The governor announced earlier this week that free COVID-19 tests will also be available at VEIP stations beginning today in Hyattsville, Glen Bernie and the Timonium Fairgrounds starting today and Clinton beginning next week. No appointment or doctor’s note is required.
Lighthouse Fellowship Church, a Christian church whose pastor was charged with violating Gov. Ralph Northam’s prohibition on large gatherings after holding a Palm Sunday service, lost a First Amendment-based bid in federal court Thursday to stop the governor’s order. The Justice Department had filed a “statement of interest” supporting the church, saying its religious rights were violated by the governor. It was the second rejection of the suit filed by the church, led by pastor Kevin Wilson. U.S. District Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen in Norfolk denied an emergency request for a temporary restraining order against Northam on May 5 and on Thursday rejected a request for an injunction pending appeal of her ruling. Wright noted that the governor is immune from such a suit unless he is involved in enforcing such orders, and also that federal courts should not intervene when a state proceeding — in this case, the criminal charge against Wilson — is pending. On Wednesday, a federal judge in Baltimore rejected a similar request for an injunction against Gov. Larry Hogan’s stay-at-home order and ban on large gatherings. Although the existence of a pandemic might be considered extraordinary,” Allen wrote, “it does not call for federal intervention in state proceedings. If anything, the once-in-a-century nature of a pandemic strengthens the important state interests that counsel against federal intervention.” The small congregation claimed it had maintained social distancing on Palm Sunday and only had 16 worshipers, in a space with a capacity of 225 people. Attorney General Mark R. Herring said in a statement that the Trump administration’s filing in the case was “an unsuccessful attempt to undermine Governor Northam’s effective safety measures that are keeping Virginia communities safe. … These critical safety measures have continuously proven effective in keeping our communities safe, keeping Virginians healthy, and preventing further spread of the deadly virus.”
The National Park Service on Thursday canceled its traditional wreath-laying and other ceremonies during the Memorial Day weekend at several major memorials in D.C. due to the coronavirus pandemic. Park service officials said “due to the ongoing safeguards against the coronavirus pandemic” the events at the World War II Memorial, Korean War Veterans Memorial, Navy Memorial and Vietnam Veterans Memorial will not be held live. Instead, officials with the park service will give remarks and lay a wreath at the sites in prerecorded ceremonies this week, which will be posted online Memorial Day. Mike Litterst, a park service spokesman, said that “out of an abundance of caution” and because D.C. is still under stay-at-home orders until June 8 the live, in-person ceremonies will not happen this year. In a statement, Jeff Reinbold, the superintendent of National Mall and Memorial Parks, said, “While we may not be able to gather together in the manner in which we are accustomed, we will still ensure those who made the supreme sacrifice in the service of our country are appropriately honored and remembered on Memorial Day.” Other Memorial Day observances, including the National Memorial Day Concert on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol and the Memorial Day service at Arlington National Cemetery were previously canceled. The concert, with new performances and tributes filmed around the country as well as stories from past concerts, will be broadcast on PBS on Sunday from 8-9:30 p.m. The concert will also be live-streamed on YouTube, Facebook and the PBS website.
After stay-at-home orders were lifted last weekend in parts of Maryland and Virginia, reports quickly surfaced of crowds in the just reopened Ocean City. Now, data from researchers at the University of Maryland’s Maryland Transportation Institute show an uptick of 18% in trips by residents who live in areas where lockdowns are still in effect to the reopened areas. That amounts to 860,000 travelers. Researchers uses smartphone data to map travel patterns across the nation. The top destinations included counties by the Chesapeake Bay, around Ocean City and Deep Creek Lake in western Maryland. Virginia saw a spike in visitors to areas that bordered Tennessee, West Virginia and North Carolina. Institute director Lei Zhang said this indicates that the travel was less about patronizing businesses and more about leaving home and spending time outside. “People who are still under lockdown in their home areas … seem to really want to go to areas where they can feel nature, that’s more outdoors,” Zhang said. He added that relatively few of the travelers came from D.C., but a significant portion came from the Maryland and Virginia suburbs. “That actually could be fairly dangerous, because this gradual and different reopening schedule among different counties and states in our region are actually causing travel of people, and potential travel of viruses, from existing hotspots to otherwise very safe areas,” Zhang said. “Hopefully it doesn’t, but we need to monitor to see if this kind of travel from hotspots to reopened areas may or may not cause new outbreaks.” The data mirrors what is happening across the U.S Americans are starting to approach pre-pandemic levels of out-of-state travel, which Zhang called an alarming trend. “These out-of-state trips tend to bring in actively infectious people and viruses from one state to another,” Zhang said. “So that’s also another thing we’re monitoring, to see if these quick increases in out-of-state travel might cause new outbreaks in different parts of the nation.”
A federal judge on Wednesday denied a request to issue a temporary restraining order sought by people challenging Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan’s stay-at-home order in response to the coronavirus pandemic. U.S. District Court Judge Catherine C. Blake issued the order in response to a lawsuit filed by a group that included Del. Dan Cox of Frederick. The plaintiffs were identified in court documents as individuals threatened with arrest if they violated the executive order, businesses deemed non-essential and religious leaders. The plaintiffs argued that Hogan violated a portion of the Maryland Declaration of Rights by “silencing a legislator who wished to speak about an issue and by refusing to exempt legislators from the prohibitions in his executive orders.” In court documents, Cox said he was threatened with criminal prosecution if he attended a ReOpen Maryland rally on May 2 that was held in protest to Hogan’s executive order. At issue was the prohibition on large gatherings. The nine ministers and one deacon argued they didn’t have the resources or equipment to broadcast their worship services online or to hold parking lot or drive-in services. Even if they could, they said their members didn’t necessarily have the resources to watch. And two veterans claimed having to wear a face mask in businesses reminded them of the battlefield in Iraq. “Public officials cannot responsibly exercise their broad authority to protect the health of the entire community without considering the data, the science, and the advice of experienced public health professionals,” Blake wrote. She said Hogan “has made reasonable choices informed, if not dictated by, such data, science and advice.” She added that the plaintiffs’ opposition to Hogan’s order “minimize the risks of this pandemic but cite no contrary scientific authority.”
Low-income residents in Virginia and Maryland can use their Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits to buy groceries online. The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced the change on Wednesday. Normally, SNAP recipients can only use their benefits in-person at grocery stores. In a letter to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue on April 14, Sen. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine of Virginia wrote that “this requirement places SNAP recipients at higher risk of infection.” The lawmakers urged him to include Virginia in a program that lets recipients shop online. The senators also asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture to “do everything within its power to expand this program nationwide.” The 2014 Farm Bill required the USDA to establish a pilot program to test the feasibility of using SNAP benefits online with authorized retailers. But only a few states can participate in the program. The USDA is working to expand the program on a case-by-case basis. Last week, D.C. residents got permission to use SNAP benefits for certain purchases through Amazon, the only retailer in the city currently enrolled in the program. On Wednesday, Warner and Kaine co-sponsored the COVID-19 Anti-Hunger Restaurant Relief for You Act (SNAP CARRY Act) that would expands eligibility for the SNAP Restaurant Meals Program (RMP) and waives program requirements to make it easier for states and restaurants to participate in the program during emergencies. The RMP prevents hunger by allowing people who may not have the ability or a place to prepare their own food to purchase discounted prepared meals at participating restaurants with their SNAP benefits.
Prince George’s County has stopped accepting applications for its Emergency Rental Assistance Program. County Executive Angela Alsobrooks tweeted Wednesday morning that the pause was “due to an overwhelming response” to the program, which launched May 11 to help tenants whose income has been affected by COVID-19 pay their rent and utility bills. “Our team is continuing to process applications and follow-up with those who have already applied for the program,” she added. Applicants were eligible for up to $1,800 per month for up to three months, according to the county’s website. The program limited the assistance to households who have incomes at or below 80% of the median income, or $77,600 for a family of four, with payments being made directly to landlords and utility companies. Alsobrooks promised to update residents on the status of the program in the future. Gov. Larry Hogan has issued a statewide ban on evictions against tenants who have “suffered a substantial loss of income resulting from COVID-19 or the related proclamation of a state of emergency,” but advocates worry that once this ban is lifted, tenants in arrears will face legal action.
This year’s National Independence Day Parade along Constitution Avenue has been canceled due to coronavirus concerns raised by D.C. officials. It is the latest cancellation of a major event in the DMV because of COVID-19. The city’s stay-at-home order and ban on mass gatherings are in effect through June 8. “Following a recent meeting between the National Park Service and the Department of Interior, it was determined that local leadership are projecting that COVID-19 infection levels will not be abated to the degree that it would be safe or prudent to conduct the July 4, 2020, National Independence Day Parade,” organizers said on its website. “While this comes as a disappointment, it is probably not surprising nor unexpected,” the statement said. “We must respect the decision of local government leaders and have canceled all preparations for the 2020 National Independence Day Parade.” Organizers said they plan to hold the parade again in 2021.
The Adams Morgan Commercial Development Coalition (AMCDC), a new group of business and property owners, and residents, is calling for the partial closure of a stretch of 18th Street between Florida Avenue and Columbia Road to vehicles, so it would be available for food, drinks and retail sidewalk sales. They want to “reinvent 18th street” into a partial walk-bike zone so customers can be served while practicing social distancing. “Life in Adams Morgan has been flipped upside down. Our Coalition’s leadership will help our neighborhood rebound from this pandemic,” says Japer Bowles, Adams Morgan ANC Commissioner and AMCDC co-founder. This isn’t the first time the proposal has been made. Plans circulated to make the area safer in 2017, after a motorist hit three people.
Arlington County will distribute free cloth face masks to members of the community. County Manager Mark Schwartz told the County Board at its meeting Tuesday that the masks will be distributed around the county, mostly through nonprofits and community organizations. “We’re going to be setting up locations across the county where people who do not have masks could go and get them if needed,” Swartz said, adding that details will be released next week. Earlier this month, the county ordered 20,000 to 30,000 masks for people who are particularly vulnerable to the virus. Wearing a mask can significantly reduce virus transmission: Some studies show that even a cotton mask can reduce the number of virus particles emitted from a person’s mouth by 99%. Face masks are required at grocery and other retail stores in D.C. and Maryland. In Virginia, they are encouraged but not required, and stores may implement mask policies for customers.
Things are looking bleak for the National Building Museum as it permanently lays off two-thirds of its staff effective June 1, citing loss of revenue due to the coronavirus pandemic. More than 40 administrative and hourly visitor services positions will be eliminated, a museum spokesperson told DCist on Wednesday. That will leave just 18 core staff who are on partial furlough and two employees working on grant-based projects. “The challenge was a difficult one: balancing the need to retain sufficient financial resources for reopening against the need to have adequate staff on board in order to reopen,” the museum said in an email. “Every scenario required a substantial reduction in force, along with an adjustment to the museum’s scope of work.” The layoffs comes after museum furloughed all visitor employees in April and partially furloughed the rest of its staff on May 1. Of the 42 positions cut, 23 are administrative staff and 19 are hourly visitor services staff, according to the museum. Renting out the historic Great Hall is a major source of funding for the museum. But with the future of large gatherings uncertain, museum leaders don’t expect it to pick up for months. The museum also postponed its annual summer exhibition, an event that usually drawn large crowds. The museum partnered with the Folger Shakespeare Library on a Shakespearean playhouse, which was to serve as an interactive exhibit during the day and the stage for a production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream at night. Officials have said the exhibition will be moved to July 2021. The museum was also closed for three months leading up to the pandemic to renovate the Great Hall’s floors. It was set to reopen in March, around the time that the pandemic forced much of the city to close. The museum laid off 8% of its staff in February. At the time, outgoing executive director Chase Rynd said the cuts were due to a drop in revenue related to the renovation, along with broader financial challenges.
Arlington County on Wednesday canceled its summer camps to adhere with health and safety guidelines during the COVID-19 pandemic. County parks and recreation officials considered opening modified camps with mandated social distancing and regular cleaning, but in the end decided that it was unsafe for campers and staff to return. “We recognize how important camps are to our residents, and we are truly saddened to have to cancel for the summer,” Parks and Recreation Director Jane Rudolph said in a statement. “Ultimately, it is the best decision for the safety and health of our community. We will continue to explore opportunities to provide programs and services as national, state and local guidelines allow.” Arlington joins other counties around the region, including Montgomery and Prince George’s, that have canceled summer camps. Arlington already canceled its summer basketball and soccer clinics, nature classes and other recreational activities due to the pandemic. The department is offering full refunds for anyone who already registered. Anyone who signed up through a contractor to contact them for a refund.
Maryland is expanding COVID-19 testing to those who may have been exposed to the coronavirus, but aren’t showing symptoms. Gov. Larry Hogan made the announcement Tuesday, saying the state had reached a critical milestone in its testing strategy. “Beginning this week, we are able to offer appointment-free COVID-19 testing across the state, including for those who do not have symptoms, marking a critical milestone in Maryland’s long-term testing strategy,” Hogan said in a statement. “This will help doctors diagnose and treat new cases more quickly, and it will further increase the safety of our state for all citizens. In addition, we are authorizing and actively encouraging the state’s hundreds of pharmacies to directly order and administer COVID-19 tests, another way we can make testing more widely available in our communities.” The free testing, which does not require a doctor’s orders, will be at community-based testing sites across the state, including four new drive-thru facilities. Beginning Thursday, drive-thru, appointment-free testing will be available at the Timonium Fairgrounds in Baltimore County and on Friday at emission testing stations in Glen Burnie in Anne Arundel County and Hyattsville in Prince George’s County. Testing at the Clinton VEIP will begin next week.
Small landlords in D.C. must offer rent payment plans to tenants facing financial hardship during the coronavirus crisis. The D.C. Council approved an oral amendment Tuesday 10-2 that extends existing, temporary rent repayment legislation to landlords who rent fewer than five units in the city. Usually, the city’s small landlords are less regulated, exempt from rent control requirements and the Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act. But Tuesday’s amendment, moved by Councilmembers Brianne Nadeau (Ward 1) and Charles Allen (Ward 6), found an overwhelming majority of members supportive of protecting tenants struggling to pay rent, regardless of who owns their building. The measure requires landlords to agree to payment plans for tenants who cannot pay all or some of their rent because of the pandemic. Chairman Phil Mendelson opposed the amendment. “If we adopt this, we don’t know what harm we’ll be causing to small landlords,” he repeatedly said. Mendelson found support from Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie (Ward 5), chair of the business and economic development committee, who urged his colleagues to slow the pace of tenant protections being legislated on an emergency basis. The measure, part of council’s latest round of temporary coronavirus legislation, can become law with or without a signature from Mayor Muriel Bowser. It will remain in effect during the city’s state of emergency and for one year afterward.
County executives from Prince George’s, Montgomery, Anne Arundel, Howard, Frederick and Baltimore Counties and the Baltimore mayor wrote to Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan on Tuesday that they do not have what they need to ease restrictions. “We lack sufficient resources to achieve our shared goal of safely reopening our jurisdictions,” they wrote. The letter added to criticism from state lawmakers in Prince George’s County on Sunday that charged Hogan’s administration dismissed requests for safety gear and hospital beds even as the county coped with the highest number of COVID-19 cases in the state. In Tuesday’s letter, the leaders struck a more conciliatory tone, thanking Hogan for “your continued leadership and partnership.” The leaders represent counties totaling more than 80% of the state’s COVID-19 cases and deaths. All extended stay-at-home orders last week even as Hogan let his statewide order expire. “The biggest lesson we have learned since Friday is how unclear the public is about your delegation of authority to local leaders,” they wrote. “Please continue to help us create greater clarity by repeating a refrain that the public should check with their local governing body for the rules that apply in their local subdivisions.” Further, they said Maryland is not conducting enough COVID-19 testing and called for a state testing plan. They also demanded a state-led effort to source protective equipment “to ensure that Maryland’s counties are not competing against one another on the open market.”
The Prince William Board of County Supervisors voted 5-3 Tuesday to ask Gov. Ralph Northam to allow restaurants with existing outdoor seating to reopen starting this weekend with no more than 50% capacity. “It’s never going to be 100% safe,” Supervisor Peter Candland said about reopening. Prince William County has had 73 deaths and 3,394 cases of the coronavirus — the second high in the state after Fairfax County. “I think it’s irresponsible to decide we have to open,” Chairman Ann Wheeler said during the meeting. “I’m not willing to put people’s lives at risk.” Restaurants in Northern Virginia are currently limited to carry-out and drive-thru orders. Most of the state entered Phase One in lifting some COVID-19 restrictions Friday, including allowing restaurants to provide outdoor seating at 50% capacity. The governor has final decision on lifting restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Last week, he rejected a request from supervisors in western Loudoun County to allow them to enter Phase One and leave the heavier restrictions on the eastern end of the county.
Fairfax County will begin to reopen its parks for limited use in time for the Memorial Day weekend. Officials announced Tuesday that on-site facilities and restrooms will be closed, and guests will be asked to maintain social distancing and avoid congregating in groups of more than 10 people. “We greatly appreciate the patience and cooperation shown by county residents during this closure,” said Park Authority Executive Director Kirk Kincannon in a statement. “We understand this has been a challenge to many who enjoy the park system on a regular basis. And it will be important that everyone follows the safety and physical distancing guidelines recommended by health authorities.” The following facilities will remain closed: restrooms and portable restrooms; dog parks; playgrounds; nature centers, visitor centers, horticultural centers and rec centers; volleyball and basketball courts; athletic fields; and water fountains will be turned off. The count will begin removing barricades on Wednesday and expects to finish by Friday.
Virginia and Maryland both reported their first cases of Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C). The Fairfax Health District reported its first case on Tuesday. The condition is associated with COVID-19 and was reported in the United Kingdom in late April and in New York City in early May. It has also been reported in other countries. Children’s National Hospital has reported 23 cases of the infection, which has also been referred to as PIMS (Pediatric Inflammatory Multi-system Syndrome). Earlier, public health officials thought COVID-19 primarily afflicted adults, while children largely escaped its severe symptoms. However, MIS-C appears to cause problems with the heart and other organs of a child, Fairfax authorities said. Symptoms include fever, irritability, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and swollen hands and feet. Children infected with the syndrome also test positive for COVID-19 or its antibodies, according to a clinician letter written by Virginia Health Commissioner Dr. Norman Oliver. He asked Virginia healthcare providers to report any patients with these symptoms to their local health departments. The Virginia child who was sickened with MIS-C went into the hospital on May 5 and was discharged to recover at home, according to Fairfax County health officials. In Maryland, a 15-year-old died after testing positive for the coronavirus, officials said, marking the first pediatric death in Baltimore County associated with the pandemic. Baltimore County spokesman Sean Naron said the girl was admitted to Johns Hopkins Hospital on May 11 and died there on Saturday from MIS-C.
The Supreme Court of Virginia rejected an injunction request from a Culpepper gym owner who is challenging Gov. Ralph Northam’s executive order that closed his business. Merrill Hall, who owns a chain of Gold’s Gym franchises and other gyms, sued the governor in Culpeper County. His lawyer, Republican state Sen. Bill Stanley, said Northam exceeded his authority by ordering fitness centers and other businesses closed to combat the spread of the coronavirus. On Tuesday, the state supreme court rejected the request for an injunction. Hall can still proceed with his lawsuit, but the governor’s order will remain in place while the issue is litigated.
After ending a hero bonus for its employees, Kroger and its subsidiaries Harris Teeter and Food 4 Less in the DMV have announced Thank You Pay that will provide $130 million in total payments for hourly employees. “Our associates have been instrumental in feeding America while also helping to flatten the curve during the initial phases of the pandemic,” Rodney McMullen, Kroger’s chairman and CEO, said in a statement. “To recognize and thank our associates for their incredible work during this historic time, we offered special pay in March, April and May.” The company said the new one-time payments of $400 for full-time employees and $200 for part-time associates, would be paid in two installments on May 30 and June 18. The announcement came after the company drew criticism for ending its hero bonus, which provided frontline workers with an extra $2 per hour for working during the crisis. In a Saturday statement, UFCW Local 400, the union that represents thousands of grocery workers in the region, urged Kroger to reinstate the hero bonus in addition to Thank You Pay. “Kroger workers were heroes last week and they will be heroes next week,” the statement said. “As other grocery chains have acknowledged by extending their premium pay programs, our members working on the frontlines continue to get sick and be quarantined, they deserve to be compensated for putting themselves and their families at risk every day they come to work on the frontlines.”
For the first time since World War II, Chincoteague has canceled its storied wild pony swim. In the annual summer tradition, wild ponies on Assateague Island are herded up with their foals and driven across a narrow channel to neighboring Chincoteague, where the foals are auctioned off. The event normally draws tens of thousands of spectators. “The foals of the pony herd will be sold by way of online auction, with a date to be determined by the Pony Committee,” wrote Alex Tucker, Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company president on Facebook. The firefighters are responsible for care of the ponies and for the annual swim and auction, which raises funds to support the fire department. “Please understand that this was not an easy decision to make, with the last pony penning being canceled over 78 years ago during the second World War,” Tucker wrote. Assateague Island is a national wildlife refuge, and the ponies have resided there for hundreds of years.They were made famous in the 1947 book, Misty of Chincoteague, and a 1961 film adaptation. The firefighters canceled the swim and accompanying carnival after analyzing Gov. Ralph Northam’s three phases for reopening the commonwealth. Phase I began in most of Virginia on May 15, loosening restrictions on some businesses. But limits on public gatherings could be in place well into the summer. This year’s swim was scheduled for July 29.
Public and private swimming pools in Montgomery County will not reopen for Memorial Day weekend. On Monday, county health officials announced the closured due to COVID-19 restrictions apply to pools operated by Montgomery County Recreation, as well as apartment and condominium complex pools, and private swim clubs. While parts of Maryland have started to lift some restrictions put in place to stop the spread of COVID-19, Montgomery County remains under a stay-at-home order. “We know that many in the community equate pool openings with the official start of the summer season, but ongoing COVID-19 restrictions make it impossible to safely open so that swimmers and employees are protected from the spread,” County Health Officer Dr. Travis Gayles said in a statement. The announcement did not say when pools might reopen, but it did note that when they do, guests “can expect to see new procedures in place to ensure the safety of everyone,” including that only county residents and current pass holders will be able to use the pools. Other restrictions may include limiting the number of people at the pool, closing some pool features, making sure everyone is at least six feet apart on the deck and asking guests to bring their own pool chairs.
Manassas Park has canceled its annual July 4th fireworks celebration due to the “still uncertain nature and related public health concerns” of the COVID-19 pandemic. “While we are disappointed to cancel one of our biggest events of the year, we believe this choice is best for the safety of our residents and our community,” the city said in a statement. According to the announcement, the city considered several alternatives that could hold the celebration, but canceled given the reality that “social distancing guidelines [are] likely to be in effect through the summer.” It was also a financial decision, as the city had to “work quickly” with the fireworks vendor if it wanted to change the date and not lose money. There are no plans to reschedule the fireworks this year, but city officials worked out a deal with the vendor to shift costs to next year. Vienna also canceled its fireworks and its Sprinklers & Sparklers event. Instead, the town plans to offer residents a $20 “4th of July in a Box,” which will include “everything you need to celebrate Independence Day at home with your family.” The boxes will include s’mores supplies for four, glow sticks, a picnic blanket, a craft activity for two kids and an assortment of patriotic accessories and toys. The McLean Community Center canceled its fireworks display last week. The pandemic has led to countless event cancellations. President Donald Trump has said he intends to host a repeat of last year’s “Salute to America” July 4th celebration on the National Mall, which included displays of military vehicles and flyovers. He did say attendance could be limited and that visitors will likely need to stand at least six feet apart.
Arlington National Cemetery remain closed to the public Memorial Day weekend. It will open only to family pass holders. The cemetery has been closed to visitors since mid-March. Those with family passes must wear face coverings when they are within six feet of others and may only visit their relative’s gravesite; visiting other site including historic locations will not be permitted. “We are expecting several thousand family pass holders to visit their loved ones graves this Memorial Day weekend,” said Superintendent Charles “Ray” Alexander Jr. in a statement. “Protecting the health of our employees, service members, contractors and our visitors is paramount.” Memorial Day ceremonies began at the cemetery on Decoration Day 1868. “For 152 years, the American public has come to know Arlington National Cemetery as the place to remember those who sacrificed many times before us and those who will make the sacrifice in the future,” Karen Durham-Aguilera, executive director of Army Cemeteries and Arlington National Cemetery, said in the statement.
D.C. has seen eight days of declining community spread of the coronavirus and could announce by Thursday when it would begin to reopen. While the city has already met some criteria necessary to reopen, including a hospital capacity below 80% and an ability to test certain high-risk groups, officials want to see a two-week decline in the “community spread of the virus” versus all cases, as they had originally announced. City officials calculate community spread by examining when patients first experienced COVID-19 symptoms. The metric excludes nursing homes, detention centers and other places where people are not likely to spread the infection outside their facilities. The city does not publicize data showing how they measure community spread. The city has, however, hired 130 new contact tracers who will work to identify new infections and their origin. It now has the 200 contact tracers needed for the first phase of reopening, but the city eventually wants to grow the force to 900. An advisory group Mayor Muriel Bowser formed to issue recommendations on how to reopen sectors of the local economy is slated to release a report this week, with a briefing scheduled Thursday. Bowser said she may provide an update on phased reopening then, barring an unexpected spike. The mayor last week extended the D.C. stay-at-home order, nonessential business closures and mass gathering ban through June 8, but said she might lift the restrictions sooner.
Beaches in Virginia Beach will reopen Friday, in time for Memorial Day Weekend. Over the weekend, crowds set up blankets and umbrellas, even though restrictions were still in place. In making the announcement on Monday, Gov. Ralph Northam said everyone visiting the beach must observe social distancing. “If people swarm the beaches and ignore social distancing rules, I will not hesitate to reinstate Phase One restrictions or even close the beaches outright,” he warned. “My message to Virginians is this, and it’s very simple: You must be responsible.” He said the beach can be used for activities like swimming and sunbathing, but group sports, alcohol, tents and groups of umbrellas will not be allowed. He added that parking will be capped at 50% capacity and high-touch surfaces will be disinfected periodically. The directive applies only to Virginia Beach and First Landing State Park, which is next to Virginia Beach. Virginia’s other beaches are only open for exercise.
A provision that would have allowed D.C. restaurants to expand outdoor dining capacity was pulled from emergency legislation that the D.C. Council will consider today. The council was scheduled to review a proposal that would have allowed individual restaurants to apply for free outdoor dining permits from the District Department of Transportation, which could close off nearby traffic to secure more outdoor dining space. But in the latest draft of the Coronavirus Support Emergency Amendment Act of 2020, the proposal was withdrawn. “There was objection to inclusion of it at this time from several sources, including the executive, and it was noted that the ReOpenDC Advisory Committee and [Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration] are working on this issue and will have their recommendations later this month,” read a statement from D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson’s office. Under the proposal, permit holders would have been allowed to maintain the added space for up to a year after the city’s state of emergency ended. To obtain a permit, restaurants with an existing sidewalk cafe would have had to demonstrate support for an expansion from their advisory neighborhood commission. The proposed street closure could not impose “significant public safety concerns.” Council is expected to take up a revised version of the dining proposal at its June 9 meeting. Under the mayor’s order, restaurants may only open for take-out and delivery through June 8.
Loudoun County will offer free COVID-19 drive-thru testing from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Wednesday at Philip A. Bolen Memorial Park, 42405 Claudia Dr., Leesburg. There are no age or residency requirements, and no appointments or prescription are necessary. Visitors also do not need to be showing symptoms to get a test. Test results will be available within a week. To get a test, enter the park on Crosstrail Boulevard from Sycolin Road. Visitors will be directed into parking lots and lanes to be tested. Visitors will be asked for their name, date of birth, address, phone number and if they have any symptoms.
D.C. Superior Court on Monday expanded the number of courtrooms that it operates remotely from eight to 19. “At this point, we are ready to add additional courtrooms and case types to the list of those that will be heard while the pandemic distancing requirements are still in place,” D.C. Superior Court Chief Judge Robert Morin said in a statement. The court’s remote hearings will address civil, criminal, domestic violence, family court and probate matters. The court said it expects to add more types of cases in June.
The Virginia Department of Education is investigating Fairfax County Public Schools over allegations it failed to provide equal learning opportunities to students with disabilities during the coronavirus shutdown, as mandated by state and federal law. The department opened its investigation Monday, according to the Washington Post. The investigation is based on a complaint filed this month by five parents on behalf of their six children, all Fairfax County students with disabilities, including dyslexia and autism. Under federal law, children with disabilities attending public school must receive a special course of instruction known as an Individual Education Plan, or IEP, meant to ensure they have the same learning opportunities as non-disabled students. But a few weeks after schools shut down, according to the complaint, FCPS told parents it was pausing these plans until brick-and-mortar schooling resumed. “Students have sustained lost educational opportunity where FCPS has materially failed to implement their IEPs,” the complaint says. FCPS spokeswoman Lucy Caldwell told The Post that the school district, which educates 189,000 students across Northern Virginia — 28,400 of whom follow IEPs — has received the complaint and is reviewing it. She confirmed that IEPs “will be implemented when we resume school” and said officials are working to develop temporary learning schedules for these students in the interim. The school district has until June 4 to respond. It can also try to reach an “early resolution” with the parents by that deadline, forestalling a formal investigation. If the investigation goes forward, FCPS may be forced to develop a plan to correct its violations, subject to approval from the education department. The district could also be required to award “compensatory services” to the complainants, including money.
High temperatures and a sunny day brought people in the DMV out Saturday, but many didn’t obey health rules, regulations and precautions in place due to the coronavirus pandemic. In Old Town Alexandria, where crowds were out in full force much of the day, social distancing was hard. It had police walking a delicate balance between spreading public awareness of the risks and enforcing the law. Although parts of both Maryland and Virginia began to reopen Friday, the DMV remains under stay-at-home orders due to rising coronavirus cases regionally. Alexandria has seen a steady increase in COVID-19 cases and added 383 cases in a week. Alexandria City officials and police told DCist they placed additional signs on sidewalks and in parks about social distancing practices. More officers and park ambassadors patrolled, reminding everyone of safe practices. But no one was cited over the weekend. Craig Fifer, Alexandria’s director of public communications, said the police’s first approach is “always to educate people and ask them to comply in support of the community,” but they do have the ability to enforce certain rules under Executive Order 62. According to Fife, gatherings of 10 or more people could be considered a Class 1 misdemeanor which carries a potential fine of up to $2,500 or up to a year in jail. “Although we ask businesses to remind customers not to congregate or consume alcohol outside, ultimately it’s the choices of the individual customers and not the businesses that are driving the crowds in Old Town,” Fife said. In Baltimore over the weekend, police used a helicopter and loudspeaker to tell crowds to disperse at Fell’s Point.
Prince George’s County lawmakers on Sunday criticized Gov. Larry Hogan’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, saying his administration has dismissed urgent requests for equipment and staffing needed to fight the virus in the county, which has the highest number of cases in the state. In a letter to Hogan, lawmakers cited numerous unmet promises from his administration regarding the allocation of resources to Prince George’s, from personal protection equipment such as masks and gowns for hospital workers to testing kits and hospital beds. “We are alarmed at your administration’s silence and lack of response to urgent requests from Prince George’s County, the hardest hit jurisdiction in the state — these requests being made earnestly in an effort to protect Prince Georgians and save lives,” state Sen. Joanne C. Benson and Del. Erek L. Barron wrote on behalf of the county delegation. “Prince George’s County requests … demands that our county should be prioritized, not further ignored. The county has suffered far too many sicknesses, serious hospitalizations, ICU admittances and ultimately too many deaths during this pandemic and we cannot and should not have to respond to this crisis alone, anymore.” Hogan spokesman Michael Ricci defended the state’s response to the county, point-by-point to the Washington Post, saying the letter “lacks credibility.” Ricci said the state has had multiple communications with county leaders in recent weeks to respond to inquiries and has delivered the county its share of supplies and resources. Prince George’s, which has become a hot spot in the DMV for COVID-19 infections. As of Sunday, the county had 11,316 confirmed infections and 429 COVID-19 deaths. The lawmakers criticized Hogan’s recently announced decision to reopen the state as premature. On Thursday, county executive Angela Alsobrooks extended the county’s stay-at-home restrictions through June 1. She said the county has not seen the declines in hospitalizations, deaths and new cases, or obtained the quantity of tests and protective equipment necessary to safely reopen. Ricci said the letter neglects to mention that the state is opening an ICU modular unit at Adventist Fort Washington on Tuesday and has set up 14 temporary units for the county. He said personal protective equipment is distributed to local health departments on a weekly basis and last week Prince George’s received 3,060 gowns, 81,000 KN95 masks, 60,750 N95 masks, 22,950 face shields, 162,000 gloves, 324,000 surgical masks and 450 IR thermometers.
Beginning today, educational and academic retail stores in D.C. will be allowed to provide curbside and front door pick-ups with a waiver from the city. Eligible shops include independently owned and operated bookstores, art supply stores, toy stores, office supply stores and music stores. Four businesses have applied for and received waivers: Lost City Books, 2467 18th St. NW; Middle C Music, 453 Wisconsin Ave. NW; Child’s Play Toys and Books, 5536 Connecticut Ave. NW; and Politics and Prose locations at 5015 Connecticut Ave. NW, 70 District Square SW and 1279 Fifth St. NE. All are offering “grab and go” pickup, except Child’s Play, which is also offering curbside service. Merchandise must be pre-ordered online or over the phone. To get a waiver, Stores must share data and information with the city about their operations. “The goal with this pilot, is to learn important lessons about reopening while ensuring safe operations,” according to the website. Businesses must provide their operation, sanitization and shutdown plans in case a serious safety violation occurs. Some businesses have been operating with curbside pick-up since the health shutdown began mid-March. Kramerbooks in Dupont Circle has offered the option since March and Looped Yarn Works near Dupont Circle began providing curbside pickup on May 5.
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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.