Area Motor Vehicle Offices Begin to Reopen
COVID-19 Cases Reach 116,148 in D.C., Md. and Va.
As of yesterday morning, 9,269 people have tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, in D.C. with 483 deaths; there have been 57,482 cases in Maryland with 2,616 deaths; and in Virginia there have been 49,397 cases with 1,460 deaths. Social distancing is recommended to help control its spread. You can read last week’s updates here.
D.C., Maryland and Virginia are beginning to resume essential motor vehicle services that were shut down in mid-March because of the coronavirus pandemic. Some Department of Motor Vehicles branches in the District and Virginia are open so residents can schedule appointments for state ID and driver’s licenses. Maryland will reopen some Motor Vehicle Administration offices on Monday. It could be months before normal operations return. Offices are operating by appointment only, restricting the number of customers and employees and are requiring everyone to wear face coverings. People are encouraged to go online for transactions such as purchasing license plates or renewing vehicle registrations. Some license and ID renewals can also be done online, including existing Real ID cardholders in D.C. and Maryland or if the renewal is for a non-Real ID credential in Virginia. DMV and MVA offices should be used for services that are not available electronically such as obtaining a Real ID credential and driving exams, officials said. All three jurisdictions have extended driver’s licenses, vehicle registrations and other documents that expired during the health emergency or that are expiring soon, allowing residents more time to renew without penalty. Last Tuesday, D.C. reopened the DMV branch in Southwest for appointment-only services for driver’s license and registration transactions, including the written driver’s test and Real ID transactions. Applicants need to schedule appointments online. Other DMV locations in the city will remain closed through Phase One. Most of Virginia’s DMV offices remain closed, but five Northern Virginia centers in Arlington, Franconia, Leesburg, Manassas and Tysons Corner reopened last week by appointment only. State officials plan to reopen offices each week through August, when all DMV locations are expected to be open. The centers have temporary extended hours: 8 a.m.-6 p.m., Monday through Saturday, which will continue at least through the summer to make up for changes in capacity. In Maryland, the MVA will open 15 MVA branches Monday, including one each in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties. MVA staff will reschedule appointments that were canceled during the closure before opening the online appointment system to new appointments, officials said. Emissions inspections stations remain closed, and some are being used as drive-thru coronavirus test sites. But some 24-hour self-service VEIP kiosks remain open. Vehicle owners who were required to do an inspection from March and through June should receive a new inspection due date in the mail. Driving tests will resume as MVA branches reopen. The state is temporarily modifying the behind-the-wheel test. Applicants will not be taken to the road as part of the test. Instead they will be tested on vehicle inspection and parking skills at a parking lot, and the agent will score from outside the car. The state, which has mandatory REAL ID, also can’t issue any license renewal or learner’s permit online because applicants must present the required documents in person.
While the DMV remains in Phase One of reopening, nightclubs and concert venues are seeking financial help to get by until they can reopen. Nightclub and concert venue owners are asking Congress for financial help during the pandemic. Audrey Fix Schaefer, director of communications for the National Independent Venue Association (NIVA) and IMP, which owns the 9:30 Club and The Anthem and operates the Lincoln Theatre and Merriweather Post Pavillion, said that for every $1 spent on a ticket, a total of $12 in economic activity is generated in communities on restaurants, hotels, taxis and retail establishments. “Music venues are not just the cultural heart and soul of the community, but they’re also the financial engine for the community.” Fix Schaefer said. NIVA was started when the pandemic hit. It now has more than 1,800 members across the country. “The concert industry was the first to close and will be the last to open and with zero revenue and all of the expense, we are facing the potential of our demise,” Fix Schaefer said. She said a poll of NIVA members showed that 90% of independent venues reported they will close permanently in a few months without federal funding. Daniel Brindley, owner of Union Stage and Jammin’ Java, said that when they are able to open in Phase Three, it won’t be worth it because only 50 people will be allowed inside at one time. “We’re not going to be able to really actually do our thing until there’s a vaccine,” Brindley said. He said that any modifications would alter the experience they aim to give customers. “We are in the business of gathering people together in often pretty tight quarters. It’s what makes our music venues, frankly, so magical,” Brindley said.
The earliest D.C. would begin Phase Two of reopening is June 19, provided recommended metrics are met. D.C. Health Director Dr. LaQuandra Nesbitt released the metrics, which include community spread, positivity rates, hospital capacity and contact testing, at a press conference Friday. Nesbitt said the metrics are things city officials would like to see before Phase Two and noted that any triggers or spikes in those metrics in the coming days could lead to new restrictions or further delay Phase Two. Nesbitt and Bowser said it is unlikely they would re-implement a stay-at-home order and other restrictions that were in place in April and May. Instead, the benchmarks would trigger more narrow measures to contain the virus such as canceling elective surgeries if hospitals near their capacity. Similar to Phase One metrics, officials want to see 14 days of decline in community spread of the coronavirus in order to enter Phase Two. Community spread measures symptom onset in the general population and excludes communal living centers like nursing homes and jails. For the purpose of determining when to move to the next phase, D.C. began counting community spread yesterday, because the impact of Phase One won’t show up in data immediately following the city’s easing restrictions on May 29 due to its 14-day incubation period, Nesbitt said. There have been four days of sustained decline in community spread since Phase One started, following a spike on May 30. Officials are looking for a percent-positive rate below 15% for seven consecutive days (currently at 17.7%) and health system capacity at less than 80% for 14 days. Finally, officials want to further boost contact tracing before Phase Two begins. Currently, a first contact attempt one day after a new confirmed case occurs in 56% of new cases. This should happen in 90% of cases before the city further eases restrictions, Nesbitt said. The mayor has not yet decided what restrictions to lift in the second phase of recovery, but Nesbitt said it would probably involve restaurants and nonessential retailers allowing customers inside with social distancing, and allowing more than 10 people to gather.
As parts of Maryland moved into Stage Two of the state’s three-tier reopening plan yesterday, Prince George’s County remained in a modified version of Stage One. The county has one of the highest infection, hospitalization and death rates in the state, County Executive Angela Alsobrooks said in a statement. As a result, it has lagged behind other jurisdictions reopening. Gov. Larry Hogan announced on Wednesday that all nonessential businesses in Maryland were allowed to reopen on Friday, but allowed jurisdictions like Prince George’s and Montgomery counties to reopen at their own pace. Both counties entered a modified State One reopening on Monday. Alsobrooks said that the county could enter a modified phase two as early as June 15. For that to happen, Prince George’s County Health Department officials must see a decline in coronavirus deaths. They will also assess positivity rates, hospitalizations and medical/surgical bed utilization in determining whether to move onto the next phase. “We are encouraged by the trends we are seeing in our data since announcing our modified phase one reopening, but we must remain vigilant,” Alsobrooks said. “All of our indicators tell us that COVID-19 is still active in our community, and while I am eager to continue reopening our county, we must do so in a safe, smart and responsible manner that is data driven.” A modified phase two would allow a reopening of personal services, outdoor recreation, retail and food establishments, and houses of worship. A full Stage Two reopening in Maryland allows all nonessential businesses to reopen at 50% of capacity and with safety protocols, such as requiring employees and customers to wear face coverings. Ball courts, playgrounds, fitness facilities, beauty salons, tattoo shops and county government buildings remain closed under phase one restrictions.
Alexandria could move into Phase Two of reopening by this coming Friday, at the earliest, although Mayor Justin Wilson cautioned that it will be the data that will make the determination. Wilson made the comments Wednesday night at a virtual town hall meeting. “The rest of the commonwealth will move into Phase Two on Friday. We would not move into Phase Two until, at the earliest, the following week — next Friday,” Wilson said. “Ultimately, we will have to see where the data goes before we determine when to move into Phase Two.” Virginia, except for Northern Virginia and Richmond, moved into Phase Two on Friday — restaurants can operate indoors at half capacity and social gatherings of up to 50 people are permitted. Museums, zoos, botanical gardens, outdoor concerts, and sporting and performing arts venues are allowed to reopen. Swimming pools may open for exercise and instruction. Masks continue to be required indoors. Since May 28, the number of cases and positivity rate in Alexandria is on a downward trajectory. However, the number of testing encounters in the city has fluctuated over the last weeks, spiking on May 26 while dropping this past week. Wilson said the city is looking for progress on reductions of positive tests and hospitalizations, along with an increase in contact tracing and hospital capacity before moving to Phase Two. While the region isn’t there yet, he said, it is moving in the right direction. He noted that Phase One was intended to last from two to four weeks and the rest of the commonwealth moved forward after week three. If Northern Virginia is on the same schedule, then it could be June 19 when the region moves into Phase Two.
Free walk-up COVID-19 tests is available for D.C. residents at eight fire stations across the city. Mayor Muriel Bowser announced the testing sites at a press conference on Friday. D.C. EMTs and paramedics will conduct testing from 4-8 p.m. at the following fire stations: Engine 4, 2531 Sherman Ave. NW, and Engine 12, 2225 Fifth St. NE, on Mondays and Fridays; Engine 8, 1529 C St. SE, and Engine 33, 101 Atlantic St. SE, on Tuesdays; Engine 10, 1342 Florida Ave. NE and Engine 30, 50 49th St. NE, on Wednesday; and Engine 11, 3420 14th St. NW, and Engine 31, 4930 Connecticut Ave. NW, on Thursdays. There are no fire stations in Southwest that are hosting testing.
The National Arboretum will reopen on to visitors on Monday, June 8, with limited capacity and hours, as well as new rules to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. The 446-acre facility closed March 24, after reports that thousands of visitors had flocked there the prior weekend without practicing social distancing. Arboretum grounds will be open from 1-5 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Parking will be limited to 200 cars, and only the New York Avenue entrance will be open. The R Street entrance will remain closed. Visitors should wear masks, and be prepared to walk, as most roads will be closed to cars. There will be no drinking water available and no food or drink for sale, but restrooms will be open. Some areas of the arboretum where social distancing is not possible will remain closed. They include the bonsai museum, the visitor center, the Arbor House, the Asian collections, Fern Valley and the herb garden.
Longtime D.C. police officer Keith Williams is the first member of the department known to have died from complications of COVID-19. “The Metropolitan Police Department has a heavy heart today for the passing of one of our senior police officers,” Chief Peter Newsham said during the mayor’s daily press conference. Williams, a married father of four who joined the force in 1989 and lived in Maryland, died Thursday “surrounded by loved ones,” Newsham said. Williams served in various capacities throughout the city during his career, most recently as a school resource officer in the department’s Third District. The designation “senior police officer” is given to officers who retire from the force but subsequently return to the job. Williams rejoined the department after retiring in 2017. At least 140 MPD officers have tested positive for COVID-19, and all but 27 have returned to work, officials said.
The number of new unemployment claims fell slightly last week in the DMV, the latest sign that the shutdown because of the coronavirus is bottoming out. More than 1.87 million new jobless claims were filed for the week ending May 30, down 324,750 from the week before, the U.S. Department of Labor said Thursday. More than 1.3 million claims have been filed in the DMV since the pandemic shut down much of the economy in March, and the number of people out of work remains high. In D.C., 3,532 new jobless claims were filed last week, down 1,603 from the previous week. In Maryland, 31,343 initial claims were filed, down 2,648 from the week prior. And in Virginia, there were 32,202 new claims filed, down 7,040 from a week earlier.
The Fields at RFK will reopen for open play with appropriate safety protocols on June 10. Greg O’Dell, president and CEO of Events D.C., the city’s convention and sports authority, announced the reopening in a letter to stakeholders on Thursday. He said the guidelines and safety protocols for the Phase 1 reopening and use of the fields will be released Monday on The Fields website.
Georgetown is extending sidewalks to give pedestrians more space to social distance by closing some street parking, but it will be done differently than in the past. Georgetown has temporarily widened M Street and Wisconsin Avenue sidewalks in the past for weekend events, such as area universities’ parents days and family weekends, by using portable barriers on streets. But current plans, being led by the Georgetown Business Improvement District, are designed to keep wider sidewalks in place through at least Phase Four of D.C.’s reopening plan, which could be as late as next year. “It can’t look like a war zone or a construction zone,” Georgetown BID CEO Joe Sternlieb told WTOP. “And what we are balancing is what is important for business functions, such as the ability to take delivery of goods, get their trash hauled out and for those restaurants doing take-out and delivery, to make it easy for them. And we have to figure out what is safe for pedestrians, for bikers and cars, and for buses to operate. And it all has to be ADA compliant.” That will mean a combination of planters, water-filled barriers and jersey barriers sturdy and safe enough to be in place for months, yet still not permanent. The Georgetown BID calls it “longer-term temporary.” The BID is waiting for the District Department of Transportation to complete repaving along M Street and Wisconsin Avenue, but hopes to start the project by late-June. It will take away a lot of already hard-to-come-by street parking in Georgetown. “We are talking with parking garage operators to restructure pricing to be more consumer friendly with lower hourly rates; we will need for customers to come back,” Sternlieb said.
Beginning at 5 p.m. Friday, Maryland will begin moving into Stage Two of its reopening plan with professional offices, nonessential businesses and government agencies allowed to reopen, including nail salons, tattoo parlors and the state’s Motor Vehicle Association. Gov. Larry Hogan announced on Wednesday he is allowing individual jurisdictions to move into the next stage of his three-step “Roadmap for Recovery” plan at their discretion, following continued drops in hospitalizations for COVID-19 and a steady decline in the state’s positivity rate. The state’s largest jurisdictions, including Montgomery and Prince George’s counties, which have been hardest hit by the coronavirus, delayed moving into State One. Prince George’s and Montgomery counties just began reopening Monday. Officials in both counties said Wednesday that they would also delay entering the second phase of reopening. Facilities are limited to 50% of their maximum capacity in Stage Two, and businesses like barbershops and beauty salons may reopen by appointment only. The state’s Motor Vehicle Administration will also reopen some locations on an appointment-only basis. Outdoor recreation areas including campgrounds, drive-in movie theaters and swimming pools will also reopen, but kiddie wadding pools, spas and hot tubs, spray and splash pads, and lazy river pools must remain closed. All manufacturing businesses. Nonessential businesses will be able to partially reopen with restrictions seen in other stages, such as requiring employees and customers to wear face masks. However, gathering of more than 10 people are still prohibited and houses of worship are limited to 50% of capacity. Indoor dining at restaurants is still prohibited, and malls, theaters, gyms and other recreational establishments remain closed.
New numbers out Wednesday from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show how shielded the DMV has been from the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic compared to other metropolitan areas of the country. While 12 metro areas had unemployment rates of at least 25% in April, two employment centers in the DMV fared better than any other in the country. The Silver Spring-Frederick-Rockville division had the lowest unemployment rate of all 38 divisions in the country, at 8.8%, followed by Washington-Arlington-Alexandria/D.C.-VA-MD-WV at 10.1%. Both also saw the smallest jumps in unemployment since April 2019, according to the BLS. Joblessness in Silver Spring-Frederick-Rockville increased 6.2 percentage points over the year, with Washington-Arlington-Alexandria/D.C.-VA-MD-WV increasing 7.3 points. By comparison, unemployment is substantially higher in the Michigan divisions of Detroit-Dearborn-Livonia at 25.9%, followed by Warren-Troy-Farmington Hills. MI with 23.6%. Both also experienced the steepest joblessness increases of any division, at 21.6 and 20.3 points, respectively. The DMV had an unemployment rate of 9.9% last month, up from 2.8% in April 2019. The national unemployment rate was 14.7%.
Seating on Virginia Railway Express trains is restricted to every other window seat on each side of the train cars to ensure proper social distancing. Closed seats are clearly marked with large, blue and red “Do Not Sit in Marked Seats” decals. VRE is also placing hand sanitizer dispensers on platforms, in station waiting rooms and near the priority seating on trains, and is adding additional signage promoting social distancing on trains, on platforms and stations. VRE said it cleans ticket vending machines at stations twice a day, but encouraged riders to use the its mobile app as an alternative to paper tickets. The app supports SmartBenefits and can be used to display tickets on a smartphone. VRE is running on reduced schedules with four trains running northbound in the morning and southbound in the evening on both the Fredericksburg and Manassas lines. It is able to operate a total of 32 trains per day and says it will lengthen and add more trains to maintain social distancing as ridership grows.
Montgomery County’s Ride On bus service will expand beginning Sunday, June 7 and the Bethesda Circulator and Silver Spring Van Go bus services will resume on Monday, June 8. The Montgomery County Department of Transportation said Wednesday that routes being put back into service were chosen to maximize the geographical coverage of Ride On. Service was reduced during the health crisis as MCDOT implemented an “Essential Services” plan. The “Essential Plus” plan starting Sunday will include 53 weekday routes, 49 Saturday routes and 42 Sunday routes. Only 36 routes operated seven days a week during the “Essential Services” plan. https://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/DOT-Transit/essential-plan.html Service hours and bus frequency will continue to be provided on a reduced basis. No routes will begin service after midnight. Also, buses will return to inside the Silver Spring Transit Center for the first time since December. The transit center has reopened after being closed for Purple Line construction disruptions. “I am pleased to announce that we are increasing bus service to serve more people and reach more areas of the County as we do our best to support reopening efforts during Phase I,” MCDOT Director Chris Conklin said in a statement. All passengers are still required to wear a face covering, maintain social distancing and board through the rear door, unless they need the ramp o accommodate a disability or stroller. Services will remain free to all passengers
D.C. is making free personal protective equipment starter kits available to city businesses, and the Business Improvement Districts are distributing them. The kits include thousands of disposable face masks, dozens of locally manufactured hand sanitizer bottles made by Republic Restoratives, the Ivy City distiller, and gallons of cleaning disinfectant, and are being distributed to help small businesses meet cleaning and PPE protocol guidelines for reopening. The kits are free, but businesses need to register online and locate a pickup zone for getting the packages based on the business location. The kits are being made available to businesses authorized to open under the city’s Phase One reopening plan. Supplies are limited.
Most of Virginia except Northern Virginia will enter Phase Two of the governor’s plan to reopen after being shutdown for month due to the coronavirus pandemic. “We’ve been in Phase One for nearly three weeks, and our health data continues to look good,” Gov. Ralph Northam said at a press conference Tuesday. Northern Virginia, Richmond and Accomack County, which were hard hit by the virus, only started their initial Phase One reopening on May 29, two weeks after the rest of the state. Northam has not set a day for when Northern Virginia and Richmond will advance to the second stage. Accomack, which experienced an outbreak at a poultry plant, will enter Phase Two on Friday. “We need more time to monitor [Northern Virginia and Richmond’s] health data,” the governor said. He cited several positive trends to support moving most of the commonwealth into Phase Two, including steady hospital bed capacity, an increase in testing and a decline in Virginia’s positivity rate, which calculates the percentage of positive COVID-19 tests compared to the total conducted. When Northern Virginia is excluded, that figure is about 10%, Northam said. The World Health Organization advises that countries, states and localities should aim for a rate less than 10%, if not 5%. Phase Two allows restaurants to offer indoor seating at 50% capacity, gyms can reopen at 30% capacity and entertainment venues like aquariums, botanical gardens, museums, zoos, and outdoor sports, concert and performing arts venues with restrictions. Also swimming pools may expand operations to both indoor and outdoor for exercise, diving and lessons.. “But we are still safer at home,” Northam said, “Gatherings will be limited to 50 people rather than 10. We still strongly encourage teleworking and physical distancing.” The requirement to wear masks in indoor public places remains in effect.
San Francisco-based Instacart, the grocery delivery company, will give D.C. employees access up to 14 days of paid sick leave if they contract COVID-19 or someone they live with tests positive for the disease. D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine announced the agreement Tuesday in a press release. As part of the agreement that Instacart and the Office of the Attorney General reached after OAG asked the company to expand eligibility for its extended pay program during the coronavirus pandemic, Instacart will allow employees who are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, even if they aren’t tested but have a diagnosis from a doctor, to take paid leave. Instacart will also provide workers who have symptoms with free telemedicine appointments through Doctors on Demand. The telemedicine option will be piloted in D.C. before being expanded to other places, according to Racine’s office. “During this pandemic, grocery delivery workers are risking their health to connect District residents to essential goods,” Racine said in the press release. “Instacart’s new policy will ensure that workers who are sick can stay home and seek care, and it helps protect their colleagues, consumers and the public during this crisis.”
In the city, employees will also get up to 14 days of financial assistance in June if their child’s school or daycare is closed due to COVID-19. “The assistance will be based on workers’ recent earnings and will be available to active Instacart workers who meet certain conditions,” Racine’s office says. In addition, Instacart will donate $50,000 to the Capital Area Food Bank to help residents facing food insecurity in the crisis. “As this pandemic continues to affect our communities, we believe it’s important to expand our offerings to support the ongoing needs of shoppers during this critical time,” says Nilam Ganenthiran, Instacart president, in a statement.
The city of Laurel on Friday canceled all events through August due to the coronavirus pandemic including its annual Fourth of July fireworks and 150th anniversary celebration events. “In mid-August, we will get back together and see what events we are able to do,” said Mayor Craig Moe. This is the first time in the 42 years the city has hosted a Fourth of July celebration that it is has been canceled for reasons other than weather. Funds from this year will be saved for next year. “They did a great job planning a year-long event,” Moe said of the 150th Anniversary Executive Committee. “Some of these events we will shift to next year.” As a result of the cancellations, the 150th passport program, which encouraged participants to attend events to receive stamps with the possibility of winning a prize at the end of the year, has been scrapped. “We had 36 events planned and only sneaked in three of them before COVID,” said Audrey Barnes, director of communications for the city and marketing director for the anniversary committee. She hopes by April 4, 2021, the city’s actual incorporation date, that everyone will be able to celebrate together. Other canceled events include a Touch a Truck event, free concerts, the police department’s National Night Out and the Laurel Board of Trade’s Back2School Jam.
Economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic will shrink the national economy by about $8 trillion over the next decade. That is according to projections released Monday by the Congressional Budget Office. In a letter to U.S. lawmakers, the CBO said the U.S. economy will grow by $7.9 trillion less from 2020-2030 than the office had projected in January. That represents a 3% decline in U.S. gross domestic product compared to initial estimates. The stark illustration of the pandemic’s economic impact came one week after White House officials said they would not release their own projections this summer in their annual “mid-session” budget review. The pandemic will hamper U.S. economic growth by reducing the amount of consumer spending and shuttering many businesses, the CBO said. Part of the impact will be mitigated by the more than $2 trillion the federal government already approved in emergency spending for households and businesses. “Business closures and social distancing measures are expected to curtail consumer spending, while the recent drop in energy prices is projected to severely reduce U.S. investment in the energy sector,” said CBO Director Phillip L. Swagel, a former economic expert at the American Enterprise Institute, a center-right think tank. The pandemic’s impact on the U.S. economy has been swift. The unemployment rate jumped from 3.5% in February to 14.7% in April. Tax revenue plummeted, government spending skyrocketed and the economy quickly contracted after years of growth. The CBO’s letter says while “real” GDP will fall by about $8 trillion, “nominal” GDP will fall by $16 trillion over the next decade. That measure is viewed by economists as less significant because it does not include the impact of inflation. Lawmakers are debating whether to renew several federal aid programs that are about to expire, including a sizable increase in unemployment benefits that will lapse at the end of July.
On Sunday, the city reported a spike in community spread and halted the countdown of sustained decrease. On Monday D.C. Health confirmed a new peak and reset the city’s Phase One count. Because of the rioting and looting the city has seen since Friday, most of the mayor’s daily press conference addressed plans for Monday night and the 7 p.m. curfew. But Dr. LaQuandra Nesbitt, director of the health department, explained the count resets at the beginning of each new phase, and 14 days of decline are needed for the city to move into the next phase. The peak reset the count to Day 0 as of Sunday. The department said the earliest possible date for the city to enter Phase Two is now June 14. Nesbitt said city officials would discuss the metrics needed to move in Phase Two in more detail later in the week.
After a record-setting first day Friday, Maryland Department of Health’s COVID-19 testing site at Six Flags America in Upper Marlboro will expand testing to twice a week. On Monday, Gov. Larry Hogan announced that drive-thru testing at the amusement park would be expanded to two days a week – Wednesdays and Fridays from 10 a.m.-2 p.m.—after 1,686 people were tested on Friday, a record for community-based state testing sites. Tests will be provided at no out-of-pocket cost and no doctor’s order or appointment is required. Marylanders do not need to exhibit symptoms or suspect exposure to COVID-19 in order to get tested at Six Flags. “As part of our long-term COVID-19 testing strategy, we are continuing to increase access to testing from one end of our state to the other,” Hogan said in a statement. “With 100 testing sites across the state and growing private sector partnerships, we encourage Marylanders to get tested — even if you don’t have symptoms or suspect that you’ve been exposed — so that we can continue our safe, gradual and effective recovery efforts.” The state conducted 357,545 tests statewide in May, a 117% increase from April. Other state testing sites open this week by appointment include Clinton Vehicle Emissions Inspection Station (VEIP) in Prince George’s County, the Cheverly office of the Prince George’s County Health Department and the White Oak VEIP in Montgomery County.
D.C. opened two new COVID-19 testing sites on Monday. A new drive-thru and walk-up site in a parking lot at 2241 Martin Luther King Jr. Ave. SE replaced the United Medical Center testing site. An appointment and doctor’s order are required. Testing is conducted from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. A new walk-up site also opened on a temporarily closed F Street NW in Judiciary Square between Fourth and Fifth Streets NW (at the top of the Metro escalator between it and the National Building Museum) from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday through Friday. No appointment is required.
Dominion Energy Virginia has asked state regulators to give utilities the option to suspend service disconnections and late fees for another four months due to the coronavirus pandemic. The state’s largest electric utility made the request Monday in a filing with the State Corporation Commission, which in March issued a 30-day suspension of electricity, gas, water and sewer utility service disconnections for nonpayment. It later extended the moratorium through June 14. The commission recently invited public comment on next steps, noting the importance of the issue to Virginia’s millions of utility customers. “We recognize the challenges that many are facing and want customers to know we are here to help, as we continue to navigate this pandemic together,” Robert Blue, co-chief operating officer and executive vice president, said in a statement.
Area officials on Sunday raised concern that protests against police brutality following George Floyd’s murder in Minneapolis could lead to a new wave of coronavirus infections, wiping out progress as the DMV began reopening over the weekend. “When you put hundreds or thousands of people together in close proximity, when we’ve got this virus all over the streets, it’s not healthy,” Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said on CNN’s State of the Union. “There’s about a 14-day incubation period, so, two weeks from now, across America, we’re going to find out whether this gives us a spike and drives the numbers back up or not.” D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser urged protest attendees to self-isolate or to get tests depending on their exposure. “While I saw some people with masks last night, others didn’t,” Bowser said on NBC’s Meet the Press. “While I saw some people social distancing, others were right on top of each other. We don’t want to compound this deadly virus and the impact that it’s had on our community.” Their comments came as the last D.C. suburbs prepared to begin reopening Monday, marking the end of a nearly two-month shutdown to help stop the spread of the COVID-19. Montgomery and Prince George’s counties will allow retail businesses to offer curbside pickup and restaurants to begin outdoor seating today, following similar moves in D.C. and Northern Virginia on Friday.
As Maryland recorded its lowest positivity rate ever — 10.9% — and Virginia saw a slight slip in reported cases, D.C saw a new peak in community spread after 17 days of decline. In total, the DMV recorded 1,842 new cases and 30 new deaths on Sunday morning, counting both confirmed and probable cases. After D.C. reached its 17th day of decline in community spread Saturday, city health officials are pausing the measure to review a new peak in cases. On Sunday, the city reported 84 new cases, following Saturday’s reported 179 new cases, which was the highest in six days. The peak comes two days after the city entered its first phase of reopening. A 14-day decline in community spread was necessary to begin reopening, which was reached last Wednesday. Community spread is calculated by counting new infections on the date people reported developing symptoms after excluding cases in communal spaces like nursing homes and jails. It is unclear how a new peak could impact D.C.’s reopening. Last week, Mayor Muriel Bowser said that the 14-day decline in community spread did not guarantee a steady decrease in the data once the city reopened. However, in a press conference Sunday Bowser said she is concerned about case increases as large crowds gathered over the weekend protesting the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis. As of Sunday, D.C. has 8,801 total cases and has tested 46,483 people. Four additional deaths were recorded, bringing the city’s death toll to 466.
Parking lots and restrooms at parks along the George Washington Parkway in Virginia will reopen on Wednesday after being closed to help slow the spread of coronavirus. The National Park Service announced that parking and restrooms will be reopened at Theodore Roosevelt Island, Gravelly Point, Fort Hunt Park, Jones Point Park, Collingwood Picnic Area, Riverside Park, Belle Haven Park and Fort Marcy. Parking already reopened at Great Falls Park. The park service said full operations will be phased in and services may be limited. Allowing access to the facilities is in line with guidance provided by the White House, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state and local health officials, the park service said. “The value of access to green space for health and wellness has been evident throughout the COVID-19 pandemic,” George Washington Parkway Superintendent Charles Cuvelier said in a statement. “George Washington Memorial Parkway appreciates the collaboration among our regional partners including the City of Alexandria, Fairfax and Arlington counties, NOVA Regional Parks, Visit Fairfax and Fairfax County Park Authority in providing additional access to local green space as part of their phased reopening. We encourage everyone to recreate responsibly and thank visitors and neighbors for their ongoing support.”