Is Bowser ‘Cooking the Books’ for Phase 2?
COVID-19 Cases Reach 131,383 in D.C., Md. and Va.
As of yesterday morning, 9,984 people have tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, in D.C. with 531 deaths; there have been 63,956 cases in Maryland with 2,923 deaths; and in Virginia there have been 57,443 cases with 1,607 deaths. Social distancing is recommended to help control its spread. You can read last week’s updates here.
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said Friday that with 15 days of decline in the community spread metric — one more than the goal — the city would move to Phase Two of its reopening plan on Monday. But Saturday’s numbers appear to show that community spread — when patients, not counting those in nursing homes, homeless shelter and the D.C. jail, first experience symptoms — dropped back to 11 days of sustained decrease. The city sent out its daily coronavirus data later than normal yesterday, prompting questions about whether the latest numbers would through a wrench in Monday’s move. When the data was released, a regular press release from Bowser’s office didn’t mention anything amiss. But a screenshot captured at 12:22 p.m. by Allison Hrabar showed the city registered a sharp increase in the community spread metric on June 11. That spike no longer appears on the reopening dashboard, which now stops at June 10, but it still says the city is currently at an 11-day decrease. Meanwhile, the main view of the tracker briefly said the city had “not achieved” the metric, noting the metric was at “11 out of 14 days,” as captured by Hrabar. It later changed to achieved “over 14 days.” Allison Reeves, a spokesperson for D.C. Health said in a statement, “On Thursday, the sustained decrease metric reached 14 days. Although this metric is met, we continue to monitor the data, and have predetermined triggers in place to identify concerning changes that may result in a change in recommendations.” Reeves added that the metric doesn’t need to be met continuously, only within the period of the current phase. While it appears that Bowser will continue as planned with her decision to move into Phase Two, officials have not directly answered that question. They have also not explained why the June 11 data no longer appears on the dashboard or what exactly are the “predetermined triggers” that could prompt the mayor to reconsider. Under Phase Two, mass gatherings will be allowed up to 50 people and places of worship can host services up to 50% capacity 100 people. “Nonessential” retail stores and restaurants will be able to welcome customers back indoors at 50% capacity. The D.C. Public Library announced it would expand its offerings later this month, the Basilica of the National Shrine said in-person services would resume, and the mayor announced yesterday that in-person services will resume at the city’s DMV offices.
Ahead of Father’s Day today, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced a plan to begin allowing limited outdoor visits to nursing homes. The plan also allows for limited communal dining and small group activities to resume with precautions. It is the first step in allowing nursing homes to begin a safe and phased reopening, in accordance with protocols established by the state Department of Health. “The COVID-19 pandemic has required all of us to make incredible sacrifices, including being unable to visit family members and loved ones in nursing homes,” Hogan said in a statement. “As our state continues on the road to recovery, this Father’s Day weekend we are able to begin safely allowing outdoor visits to certain nursing homes.” The governor also announced that nursing home staff will be required to be tested for COVID-19 weekly. Residents will be retested weekly at homes that continue to report facility-acquired COVID-19 cases. There are currently active COVID-19 cases in 107 of the state’s facilities. In order to relax restrictions, nursing homes must not be experiencing an ongoing outbreak of COVID-19, have no new cases in the past 14 days and return to pre-Phase 1 if a new case is detected, not have staffing shortages or be under a contingency or crisis staffing plan and require all residents, staff and anyone else entering the facility to wear a face covering at all times while in the facility. If nursing homes meet the requirements, outdoor visits can be held with visitors and residents wear a face covering at all times while maintaining proper social distancing. Also, the state strongly recommends no more than two visitors at a time per resident per visit.
Much to the displeasure of local lawmakers and despite D.C.’s coronavirus restrictions, President Donald Trump plans to host his Fourth of July celebration at the White House. The White House announced Friday that Trump, along with the Department of the Interior, will host the “Salute to America” celebration on the South Lawn of the White House and Ellipse on July 4, complete with music, military flyovers and a nightcap of “spectacular fireworks” over the National Mall. The announcement came after weeks of concern from local and federal officials. Trump said in late-April that he had no intentions of cancelling his second-annual Independence Day event, and a month later, members of Congress representing the National Capital Region came out against plans for large public celebrations in a letter sent to the secretaries of defense and the interior. “Given the current COVID-19 crisis, we believe such an event would needlessly risk the health and safety of thousands of Americans,” the letter said, adding that a large-scale celebration would likely take away tax payer dollars during the midst of a historic economic downfall. In response to Trump’s announcement, Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.), who led the letter against Trump in late May, condemned the president’s plans and the lack of safety precautions in them. “Hot off threatening to violate the constitutionally-protected rights of peaceful protesters earlier today, the President is again displaying his fondness for dictators and the trappings of autocracy,” Beyer said in a statement. “The President of the United States should be capable of celebrating Independence Day responsibly. Instead he is using the military to stage yet another costly political photo op.” Under Phase Two of the city’s reopening, which starts Monday, gatherings of more than 50 people are prohibited, unless they take place on federal property. As of May 27, the National Park Service, which typically coordinates with the D.C. government to plan fireworks on the Mall, had not received details from the White House on what the event would look like or if social distancing measures would be required. When Trump last spoke of his Fourth of July plans in April, he suggested that social distancing precautions would likely be in place with people standing 6 feet apart from one another and recognized that the pandemic would likely shrink the crowd sizes from last year’s celebration, which drew thousands of protesters and supporters to the Mall. “We’ll have to do that in a very interesting way,” he said in April. However, attendees at Trump’s indoor campaign rally in Tulsa today are not required to wear masks, although they will be provided. Ticket-holders needed to sign a waiver, agreeing that they cannot sue for any complications with the coronavirus after attending.
D.C. will enter Phase Two of reopening on Monday, June 22. Mayor Muriel Bowser made the announcement in a series of tweets Friday morning, citing 15 days of decline in community spread. Officials wanted to see 14 days of sustained decline before entering into Phase Two of reopening. In Phase Two, restaurants may reopen indoor dining at 50% of their normal capacity with tables must be 6 feet apart with parties of six people or fewer. Diners are encouraged to make reservations, and businesses are required to save their dining records, including customers’ contact information and time of arrival, for contact tracing. “Nonessential” retail can open for indoor sales at 50% capacity. Nail, hair, waxing, and tanning salons may reopen by appointment only and with social distancing practices in place. Customers and employees in nonessential retail or personal grooming businesses should a wear a face covering at all times. Mass gatherings of up to 50 people will be permitted, and places of worship can host services with up to 100 people or 50% capacity, whichever is less. Museums and galleries can also reopen with limited capacity and social distancing measures. Gyms and health clubs may operate with five people per every 1,000 feet, and participants must stay at least 10 feet apart during classes. Hot yoga classes remain closed, as well as locker rooms, steam rooms, showers and saunas at fitness facilities. City pools will open for structured activities like lessons and lap swimming, and apartment and condo pools may reopen in accordance with guidance. High contact sports like football and wrestling also remain closed. The move to Phase Two comes despite the fact that the city has only met four of the six metric Bowers and D.C. Health Director LaQuandra Nessbitt said were necessary before advancing. The two failed metrics relate to contact tracing.
Virginia Governor Ralph Northam on Friday directed $246 million in funds to long-term care facilities to support their response to COVID-19. “The lockdowns of long-term care facilities to protect residents and staff from the spread of COVID-19 have been hard on residents and their families,” Northam said in a press release. “These actions will help support long-term care facilities as they ease those restrictions, while keeping their residents safe and ensuring that the public gets accurate information on the spread of this virus in these facilities.” The money will come primarily from federal coronavirus aid and CARES Act funding, and will help nursing homes and assisted living facilities address staffing shortages, purchase personal protective equipment and increase infection control measures. Most of the money will go to nursing homes, which receive Medicaid payments. Northam also announced that the Virginia Department of Health will now be required to release facility-specific COVID-19 case and fatality data. Nursing homes and assisted living facilities have some of the state’s worst outbreaks, but the officials previously declined to share the names of facilities, citing privacy concerns, despite calls to do so from state legislators. Given the rapid spread of cases across the commonwealth, Northam’s office said in the release Friday that “it is now unlikely that releasing facility information would compromise anonymity or discourage facilities from participating in a public health investigation.” According to new VDH data, there are currently 17 “outbreaks in progress” at nursing homes, assisted living, and multi-care facilities in Fairfax County, in addition to three in Arlington County, and two each in Alexandria, Loudon County and Prince William County. The federal government began sharing facility-specific data a couple weeks ago, but Northam’s office said the data had been inconsistent and created “public confusion.” Virginia is also later to report facility-specific data than other parts of the region. Maryland and D.C. have both been reporting the information for more than a month. As of Friday, Virginia reported230 outbreaks at long-term care facilities across the state, with 6,519 cases and 1,000 deaths tied to those outbreaks. The latter number accounts for 62% of all COVID-19 deaths in Virginia. Northam’s office also said in Friday’s release that VDH is working with the Virginia National Guard to conduct point prevalence surveys – testing all residents and staff in the same time period – of nursing homes, with a goal to complete them by July 15.
The International Spy Museum and the Museum of the Bible will both reopen Monday morning. The private museums will open their doors to visitors for the first time since mid-March as D.C. enters Phase Two of reopening. Under the city’s Phase Two guidelines, museums and galleries can reopen with limited capacity and physical distancing measures in place. Guided tours and large tour groups are not permitted, but small events of up to 50 people are allowed. The Bible Museum published a list of 10 “COVID Commandments” ahead of its reopening. “Thou shalt wear a face mask,” “Thou shalt consider washing your hands frequently or using the provided hand sanitizer,” and “Thou shalt enjoy thyself!” are all on the list. Visitors will see new safety measures when they enter the museum. They will receive a free stylus to use on exhibit touch screens, encounter employees in personal protection equipment, plexiglass panels at ticket counters, gift shops and cafes, and arrows on the floor to facilitate social distancing. At the Spy Museum in L’Enfant Plaza, visitors will also be required to follow social distancing protocol, wear face masks and use a stylus on touch screens. The museum is also encouraging visitors to buy tickets online. So far, no other museums have announced concrete reopening plans. Linda St. Thomas, a spokesperson for the Smithsonian Institution, said in an email that the National Zoo and Udvar Hazy Center will open first, “probably sometime in July but not before the Fourth, and others will follow.” The National Children’s Museum, which opened just a few weeks before the pandemic, plans to reopen in August. The National Gallery of Art’s Sculpture Garden reopens today from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. with a capacity of 271. All visitors will be required to wear face masks. The museum does not plan to reopen indoor exhibits simultaneously. Earlier this week it announced it will begin a phased reopening of its buildings sometime during Phase Two, starting with the ground floor of its West Building. “We need to open the garden first and then we’ll decide about the ground floor, but that should not be too far behind the garden,” Anabeth Guthrie, a museum spokesperson, said in an email. When it does reopen, visitors will be required to wear face masks and reserve free timed entry passes, similar to the free ticketing system already in place at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.
Virginia will not enter Phase Three of its reopening plan for at least another week. “I am watching closely what is going on in other parts of our country and we will continue to follow our data, and as soon as we can do it safely and responsibly we will, but certainly not before June 26,” Gov. Ralph Northam said at a press conference on Thursday in Fairfax. During the press conference, which was conducted in English and Spanish, Northam said he would focus on alleviating the high infection rate of COVID-19 among the commonwealth’s Latino population. Most of Virginia moved into Phase Two on June 5. Northern Virginia and Richmond, which have seen the highest number of COVID-19 cases, moved into Phase Two on June 12. In Phase Three, Northam said, social gatherings would be allowed up to 250 people, gyms and fitness centers could operate at 75% capacity; recreation and entertainment venues, such as museums and zoos, can open at 50% capacity or a maximum of 1,000 people at outdoor venues; swimming pools can open for free swim; and nonessential retail and restaurants could operate at full capacity, but tables must be six feet apart and social distancing must be maintained, including in the bar area. Self-serve buffets can reopen with continuous staff monitoring. Initially, Northam had said he would announce Phase Three guidelines Tuesday, but instead he delayed the next phase, saying he wanted more time to look at data in light of surges of cases in other states. Nearly half the COVID-19 cases in Virginia with available demographic data are Latinos, far greater than their 10% share of the population. Northam said he was extending free testing to areas with large Latino populations, partnering with localities to serve patients and lowering barriers to enrolling in Medicaid. He urged immigrants to trust they would get health care and help regardless of their legal status. “We’re not checking papers at these testing events or at clinics,” Northam said. “We just want to help you and your families.” Fairfax County is using a mobile testing unit to visit sites with vulnerable populations.
An unknown number of results from COVID-19 tests conducted by state-funded “go teams” in lower-income Montgomery County homes were lost – meaning they were never communicated to patients – in April and May. It was publicly addressed last week at a Montgomery County Health and Human Services hearing. It isn’t clear who is to blame for the lost results, although it is apparent that missing steps in a quickly-put-together process undermined the program’s mission to test for COVID-19 and provide accurate, timely results to some of the county’s most underserved communities. It left many not knowing if they were sick, if they should go to work or if they should isolate themselves from family. On April 24, the Maryland Health Department launched the Vulnerable Population Taskforce — or “go teams,” as the county called them — to assist local health departments in the most heavily impacted jurisdictions of Montgomery County, Prince George’s County, Baltimore County and Baltimore City in testing at-risk populations. This included providing on-site coronavirus testing in homeless shelters and other congregate settings as well as in-home testing for individuals who were in significant need. The state contracted with Louisiana-based Ready Responders to conduct the tests for 45 days through June 3. Impact Silver Spring coordinated with the go teams and patients to arrange testing. According to numbers provided at the hearing, the nonprofit helped administer 252 tests in the county’s lower-income ZIP codes including 20902 and 20906, which cover parts of Silver Spring, Wheaton, Glenmont and Aspen Hill with median income well below the county average and the highest test numbers through the program. According to Dr. Travis Gayles, the county health officer, after tests were completed, they were dropped off at the Dennis Avenue Health Center, then sent to a state lab for analysis. However, Gayles said, some of those tests didn’t have certain information attached to them, like an order provider or a primary health care physician that would be the point of contact when the results were known, making it a challenge to find those results in the system.. It isn’t clear who was responsible to input the information, and Gayles wouldn’t blame at any one agency or organization. He did say that Montgomery County wasn’t the only jurisdiction that encountered this challenge of inputting an order provider. When the issue was discovered, there was a backlog of results from early in the 45-day period that had not been reported to patients. Gayles estimated 10%-15% had to be manually tracked and followed up by calling those awaiting results. In some cases, patients had to be retested. In a statement, the Maryland Health Department put the onus on the county, saying, “Test results from the state lab were returned to local health departments, who reported the results to the citizens.” Gayles said the situation was rectified as quickly as possible when it was discovered. The “go team” program ended on June 3. The contract with the Ready Responders was not renewed. While there is currently no in-home testing, Gayles said mobile testing sites will begin next week. That means pop-up walk-up testing sites in high-volume ZIP codes as well as in-home coronavirus testing for the most vulnerable.
A U.S. District judge on Thursday ordered changes at the D.C. jail to protect inmates from the coronavirus. The ACLU of D.C. and the Public Defender Service had filed a class-action lawsuit against the Department of Corrections on behalf of the inmates. In her preliminary injunction, Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly said the plaintiffs have provided evidence that the DOC was “aware of the risks” of COVID-19 and has “disregarded those risks by failing to take comprehensive, timely, and proper steps to stem the spread of the virus.” The ruling builds on and extends a “temporary restraining order” that she issued in April after independent inspectors toured the jail facility and found a number of safety failings. While the judge commended the DOC for taking some steps to improve hygiene and social distancing in the jail, she found many of the issues identified in the restraining order were still present. The DOC has come under sharp criticism as more than 200 of the jail’s 1,300 inmates have tested positive since March. As of June 1, almost 470 were under quarantine. One prisoner and one corrections officer have died from the virus, according to D.C. Health data. D.C. officials say they have reduced the jail’s population by around 500 inmates since the pandemic started. But since the majority of inmates are under some type of federal custody, it is unclear if they could do much more. Kollar-Kotelly ordered a number of changes to improve safety, which include making sure inmates have sufficient cleaning products, timely access to medical care and the ability to make confidential legal calls while in-person visits to the jail are restricted. The lawsuit also sought the release of more inmates from the jail to help mitigate the spread of the virus, which the court declined. But it did order the U.S. Parole Commission to come up with a detailed plan by July 1 for possible future reduction of the inmate population. The judge has ordered the jail to ensure all inmates in the general population can get medical care within 24 hours of reporting health issues. The jail relies on inmates to self-report if they are experiencing COVID-like symptoms, using a “sick call slip” system. There have been issues with the distribution and collection of these slips. The DOC said that, as of mid-May, staff are collecting the forms daily from housing units. But the court said it is unclear whether this will address challenges the inspectors identified when it comes to getting a slip in the first place. Also, the jail recently acquired 50 cellphones, 10 wired headsets and 500 tablets to facilitate communication, with more of these devices on the way, according to the court order. Kollar-Kotelly “credits [the DOC] for efforts to obtain new technology,” but said the new system has not been fully implemented. “As such, nearly four months into the COVID-19 pandemic, defendants have not yet developed a consistent procedure for all inmates to be able to make and receive confidential legal calls,” Kollar-Kotelly wrote in the ruling. And for inmates in isolation, she said the jail must ensure they have access to personal and legal phone calls, regular showers, as well as clean clothes and linens. Testing has also been a central issue in legal arguments over the jail. The judge noted that testing at the jail has improved, with personnel testing any resident before they are transferred to St. Elizabeth’s Hospital or a federal correctional facility, testing the cellmate of anyone who tests positive and all new arrivals. In early June, the DOC reported that more than half the 1,300 inmates at the jail had been tested for COVID-19. Kollar-Kotelly said the jail must continue this increased testing. The DOC is required to report back to the court by June 29 on its progress implementing these changes.
AMC Entertainment, the world’s largest movie theater chain, is set to reopen its more than 600 U.S. theaters next month with new safety and health measures to help curb the spread of the coronavirus. The chain operates several theaters in the DMV. The company said Thursday it will begin a phased reopening on July 15, adding that it expects to be nearly fully operational by the July 24 premiere of Disney’s Mulan. The chain, which closed its cinemas earlier this year because of the coronavirus pandemic, said it will be implementing a health and sanitation program it calls “AMC Safe & Clean.” “This has been the core element to all of our discussions about again opening our doors to moviegoers,” CEO Adam Aron said in a statement. He added that AMC was advised by the Clorox company and faculty at Harvard University’s School of Public Health while developing the measures. The program will have multiple safety and health measures, including: initially capping admission at 30% seating capacity; cleaning every theater between each show; disinfecting seats nightly using electrostatic sprayers; temporarily reducing menu selections at concession stands; upgrading ventilation systems in its theaters; and requiring every AMC employee to wear masks while at work. The company said that in any area of the country where masks are mandatory AMC will “abide by that ordinance and guests will be required to wear masks.” And in areas of the country where masks are not compulsory, AMC says it will “strongly” encourage guests to wear them. Earlier this month, AMC reported a net loss of $2.17 billion in its first quarter, and said revenue fell about 22% to $941.5 million, compared to $1.2 billion in the same quarter last year. “After a painful almost four-month hiatus due to the coronavirus, we are delighted to announce that movies are coming back to the big screen at AMC,” Aron said. AMC plans to show older films until new ones are released. Disney’s Mulan is scheduled to be followed by Warner Bros.’ Tenet, a thriller from director Christopher Nolan, on July 31. The company also said that phase two of its reopening, which will begin when “AMC deems it to be acceptable given local and regional health conditions,” will hit 40% of capacity. By Labor Day it expects that to be at 50% and full capacity by Thanksgiving. AMC will also implement “seat blocking” in its theaters, by blocking out seating next to, in front of or behind moviegoers depending on what type of theater they are in.
D.C. could enter Phase Two of its coronavirus reopening on Monday, June 22. Mayor Muriel Bowser made the announcement at a press conference Wednesday, adding that the city has seen 13 days of sustained decline in community spread – or symptom onset — of COVID-19, a key metric used by city officials to determine how quickly to ease restrictions. Bowser said if the trend continues, she will make an official announcement and issue an executive order about moving to Phase Two on Friday. Under Phase Two, restaurants could reopen indoor dining areas up to 50% of normal capacity with and placing tables at least six feet apart. A maximum of six people could be seated at a table and no buffet service would be allowed. Also, standing at a bar is still prohibited, but diners may be seated 6 feet apart at a bar if there is no bartender working behind it. Mass gatherings and museums would be restricted to 50 people. “Nonessential” retail businesses could open at 50% of their normal capacity. And personal care services such as nail, tanning and tattoo salons could reopen by appointment with stations 6 feet apart and no waiting inside the shop. Gyms, health clubs and yoga studios could reopen with five people per 1,000 square feet and group classes required to have at least 10 feet between customers. In addition, city pools could reopen for lessons and lap swimming. Bowser said her administration would release a more specific plan for pools in mid-July. People could play casually at public playgrounds, courts and fields, although permits won’t be issued for sports on city fields. Houses of worship would be allowed to hold indoor service of up to 100 people or 50% of capacity, whichever is less, with singing and shared items discouraged. Libraries could open at half of their normal capacity, and camps could reopen with no more than 10 people in a group. Meanwhile, colleges and universities would be allowed to reopen their campuses after submitting plans and receiving city approval. Theaters, cinemas and entertainment venues will remain closed, but can apply for waivers to hold arts, entertainment or cultural events. A third phase featuring further relaxed restrictions would follow phase two under the District’s reopening plan. More than 9,800 people have been diagnosed with COVID-19, and more than 520 people have died as a result of the disease, according to city data.
Montgomery County officials provided details on two changes to Phase Two of its reopening plan, which begins at 5 p.m. Friday. County Executive Marc Elrich said the county had seen a “significant reduction in cases last week, per day.” He outlined two changes to the county’s Phase Two reopening. Indoor and outdoor pools, which had been set to open only for lap swimming, can open for other activities. Rules are still in place regarding capacity and cleaning, and swimmers must wear masks when they aren’t in the water. Lap swimming is not the only permitted activity, but, Elrich said, “It doesn’t mean you should be horsing around with each other.” County-run pools will not reopen Friday, however. Eric Stoddard, director of the county’s Emergency Management Agency, said that the county needs time to hire and train more than 600 workers, teaching them a new way of operating under the pandemic. When they do reopen, however, reservations will be taken and time limits will give more people a chance to spend some time at the pools. And while shopping malls may reopen, food courts may not, and shoppers can’t gather. “They’re open for shopping, not socializing,” Elrich said. “Go to the stores you want to go to and shop.” He also announced a summer jobs program for young people in the county related to recovery from the pandemic. The COVID Corps will be hiring people ages 16-23 to support the county’s health and economic response in several ways. In a statement from the county government, the categories for the jobs, which pay $14 an hour, include helping the county and the school department package, distribute and deliver meals to vulnerable populations; community outreach and translation with the Montgomery County Volunteer Center and other nonprofits; teaching and mentoring older adults how to use technology and online resources and opportunities to stay connected; helping county departments prepare for employees’ return to work; and responding to urgent, unforeseen requests. Residents can apply through the county’s iRecruitment system and search IRC44327. Participants must pass a criminal background investigation, which will include state, federal and sexual offender background checks.
The D.C. Board of Elections will mail a ballot to all of the city’s registered voters for the November election, as well as double in-person voting centers to prepare for what officials say could be a “record-shattering turnout” and a possible second wave of COVID-19. The changes come in the wake of the city’s June 2 primary, which was marred by undelivered absentee ballots and waits of more than an hour at voting centers. During the primary, BOE officials decided to send ballots only to voters who requested one, saying that sending every voter a ballot — as Maryland did — was too risky in such a short time frame. While more than 92,000 voters requested absentee ballots and about 80,000 votes were cast via mail, election officials said in a report published this week that technical, staffing and time issues strained the agency and led to some voters not receiving ballots. “The DCBOE’s underlying assumption was that the absentee ballot process could scale to manage a significantly greater volume. However, the IT systems supporting the processes were overwhelmed,” the report said. “The technology systems we used to process the over 92,000 absentee requests had previously processed less than one quarter of the volume of requests received for the June election.” There were also technology issues with the app voters could use to request an absentee ballot. It didn’t work well on Android phones, leading some requests not to be processed. “There was confusion and frustration caused by the Vote4DC app,” said Alice Miller, director of elections, during a Wednesday meeting. That led to hourslong waits at 20 voting centers on Election Day, down from a normal 144 polling places. While fewer than 35,000 people voted in-person, the elections board said 65% of them voted on Election Day, with the others voting during two weeks of early voting. Day-of voters, some of whom had requested an absentee ballot but never received it, had to cast ballots in voting centers that were limited to 10 people at a time and where voting machines had to be disinfected regularly, further slowing the process. For the November election, BOE officials plan to double the number of voting centers across the city for early and day-of voting. They said they will also revamp the app, hire additional IT staff, increase staffing at a call center to field voter calls and launch a wider campaign on voting by mail. They are also talking to the U.S. Postal Service, to determine whether mail-delivery issues may have contributed to some absentee ballots and other election materials never being delivered. “A known unknown was how the postal service responded to this increased activity. We knew that could be an issue, but we didn’t know how,” said Michael Bennett, the BOE chair, on Wednesday. Election officials said they will hire an outside vendor to mail ballots, instead of doing so in-house as they did for the primary. But that also has risks. In Maryland, which mailed ballots to more than 4 million voters for the state’s June 2 primary, there were printing errors and delayed ballot deliveries. Advocates of vote-by-mail, which has long been used in Western states like Colorado, Oregon and Washington, say it is more convenient and increases turnout. But critics, including President Donald Trump, have raised unfounded allegations that it is more prone to fraud.
The Citi Open tennis tournament will be played in mid-August in Rock Creek Park, but without fans or a women’s competition. One of the longest-running professional tennis tournaments in the U.S., the 52nd annual Citi Open will take place from Aug. 13-21. It will be the first sanctioned event for ATP — the governing body for men’s professional tennis in the U.S. — since February. Mark Ein, owner of Kastle Systems in Falls Church and the Washington City Paper, acquired the l tournament last April. In a call with reporters Wednesday, Ein said there has been ample coordination between him, ATP and D.C. officials about making sure the tournament can be played in a safe manner. They are still finalizing the necessary permits and approvals for the event, he said. Ein said talks continue with the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA), but he wasn’t able to give specifics about whether negotiations will be concluded in time to include WTA players in the tournament. Later, a Citi Open spokesperson said they remain “optimistic” WTA players will be able to compete in the Citi Open. Last year, more than 78,000 fans attended the nine-day tournament setting an all-time attendance record. Current plans are to hold this year’s tourney without fans. “I commend the mayor and the administration for their conservatism… so we can get back to normal quicker,” Ein said. “I applaud them for that.” He expressed hope that this could change if the region moves into Phase Three reopening later this summer. Phase Two could begin on Monday. Ein said he has spoken to city officials about potentially allowing for a small number of fans. If that happens, Ein said, tickets would go to long-running ticket holders and those “who have been doing great things in the community.” As in past year, the Tennis Channel will broadcast the entire tournament. Ein hopes to attract more top-level players this year due to the condensed schedule and because this will be the first ATP event in months.
The D.C. Jazz Festival, an annual summer tradition since 2005, will be virtual this summer with 18 performances from June 21-29. “We decided back in March that we needed to postpone the festival,” executive director Sunny Sumter told WTOP. “Our jazz musicians around the city, their work has dried up. … We thought we should find some way this month since they were counting on [us]. Every year for the past 16 years, we were writing checks to D.C.-based artists.” Instead, musicians can apply for $1,000 grants, as well as tax-deductible GoFundMe donations, in partnership with New York-based Live From Our Living Rooms. “In line with social distancing practices, all of the shows will include soloists or small groups residing under the same roof,” Sumter said. “We have musicians from all over the country participating. We’ve got several Washington-based artists, but also some of the finest from around the country have agreed to lend their voice and their art to this cause.” The virtual schedule is online.
As universities develop plans for reopening in the fall, the University of Virginia unveiled a website with answers to questions about returning to class on Aug. 25. “In public spaces, students will be expected to follow all university and public health guidelines,” officials said in a message on the website. Masks or face coverings will be required in common areas, and everyone must stay six feet away from each other. Dining room seating capacity will be reduced by 50%. All students will be given face coverings, hand sanitizer and a touch-tool that they can use to open doors and press keypad buttons. “There will be guidelines for communal bathrooms, including assigning students to specific sinks, stalls and showers, and limiting the number of students at any given time,” officials said. “Public areas in residence halls will undergo increased cleaning efforts and hand sanitizer stands will be readily available.” While the university expects many students to return for the fall semester, it is offering online options to make sure that students can learn remotely if they wish. Large classes will be all online, and courses offered in-person will include a remote option. “Regardless of where students are, our aim will be to provide all of them an engaging and enriching academic experience,” officials said. Students, faculty and staff members will be required to track their symptoms every day using an app, and COVID-19 tests will be made available to anyone who exhibits symptoms. Separately, tentative plans are to test all students upon arrival. “The university has plans to isolate students living on grounds who test positive, and to quarantine exposed students,” officials said.
More than 400 coronavirus test samples taken last week at the Judiciary Square and Anacostia testing sites were unusable because of heat exposure. D.C. Health confirmed Tuesday that 407 samples taken a the two locations could not be processed due to heat exposure. Temperatures were in the upper 80s most of last week. It isn’t clear what happened Friday, and the city has not responded to questions about either the cause or the span of time during which tests were affected. “We apologize for the inconvenience and are taking steps — such as the addition of more refrigeration at each testing site — to ensure the issue does not arise again,” a health department spokesperson said in an email. Those whose tests could not be processed should have received an email from the department. The city told those whose tests were compromised that they would be “pre-registered” for “priority placement in line” for retesting at the Judiciary Square location today and tomorrow from 3-7 p.m. Since the beginning of June, the city has ramped up the number and availability of free, walk-up coronavirus test sites without needing an appointment. They include sites at Judiciary Square, Anacostia, the University of the District of Columbia’s Bertie Backus Campus and eight fire stations. Mayor Muriel Bowser has encouraged anyone who participated in police brutality protests in recent weeks to get tested. Many of the sites have seen long lines recently. Despite the challenges, test numbers in D.C. are rising. As of June 15, 67,126 people have been tested in the city. That is an increase of more than 5,000 people since June 11, and about a 13,500 person increase over the last 10 days. Just over 20% are not D.C. residents, as testing remains limited to people with symptoms or by appointment in most of the suburbs.
Virginia will not enter Phase Three of its reopening plan this week. Gov. Ralph Northam made the announcement Tuesday that was primarily to talk about his plans to introduce a bill making Juneteenth a holiday in the commonwealth. He was joined by Virginia Beach native Pharrell Williams. Although Northam said, “Our numbers continue to look favorable,” none of Virginia will enter Phase 3 of the lifting of safety restrictions this week. “We will not be moving into Phase Three this week,” Northan said. “I want to see how the numbers look before we make changes, especially as we see surges in other parts of our country.” He said numbers of cases and hospitalizations are trending down, including a 7.4% positive-test rate statewide, a new low. Northam said he would announce what Phase Three will look like on Thursday. He also said the Virginia Department of Health would soon be able to release more detailed, ethnicity-based demographic numbers regarding COVID-19 cases, including Latino-Americans, Asian-Americans and Native Americans.
A new computer modeling study published Tuesday shows that flushing a toilet can send a cloud of particles containing fecal matter, which could carry coronavirus, into the air. Doctors have shown that coronavirus can live and replicate in the digestive system, and evidence of the virus has been found in human waste. It is considered a possible route of transmission. Now a team at Yangzhou University in China has used computer modeling to show how the water from a flushed toilet could spray up into the air — as high as three feet, they wrote in the journal Physics of Fluids. “One can foresee that the velocity will be even higher when a toilet is used frequently, such as in the case of a family toilet during a busy time or a public toilet serving a densely populated area,” Ji-Xiang Wang of Yangzhou University, who worked on the study, said in a statement. Other studies have suggested that norovirus, a common cause of vomiting and diarrhea, can be spread via flushing toilets. In April, researchers suggested that toilets might provide a way for coronavirus to spread. Already, evidence of SARS-CoV-2 [coronavirus]contamination of surface and air samples outside of isolation rooms, and experimental data showing that SARS-CoV-2 can live in aerosols for 3 hours, should raise concerns about this mode of transmission and prompt additional research,” Carmen McDermott of the University of Washington School of Medicine and colleagues wrote in April in the Journal of Hospital Infection. “Fecal shedding seems to occur in patients without gastrointestinal symptoms, which could enable asymptomatic individuals with no respiratory symptoms to be a source of fecal transmission,” she added. The study authors suggest that whenever possible we should keep the toilet seat down when we flush, clean the toilet seat and any other contact areas frequently, and wash our hands after using the toilet. While this study is unable to demonstrate that these measures will reduce transmission of the coronavirus, many other viruses are transmitted.
Fairfax County Public Schools released more details Monday about reopening in the fall. The school district’s draft plan, presented during a school board work session, includes three scenarios based on different levels of coronavirus-related restrictions. In the first, learning would happen virtually with four days of live, teacher-led classes and one day of students working alone or with other students. The second includes students returning to reduced-capacity classrooms. “We’re working to develop a daily health screening form that would require parents to report that their children are asymptomatic and have not been exposed to anyone with COVID-19 symptoms prior to sending them to school each day,” said Assistant Superintendent Sloan Presidio. The plan imagined students returning to classrooms at 50% capacity and 25% capacity. “It may involve new instructional bell schedules to allow us to serve students on alternating days, and it might even involve prioritizing instruction for high-needs populations like special education students, English learners or our primary pre-K through grade 2 students,” Presidio said. If classrooms are allowed to be half full, the plan proposes in-person classes two days a week for students. If capacity is cut to 25%, the plan is for students to only physically go to school one day a week. Scenario 3 is a plan to offer all-online learning to students who are at higher medical risk, even if some or all students are able to return to classrooms. Another school board work session is scheduled next week to discuss the plans in more detail. The school board plans to decide by June 26 what format classes will take when the new school year starts Aug. 25. If the school system chooses a Scenario 2 reopening, elementary and middle school students will be notified by Aug. 10 which days they will attend in-person classes so that parents can make child-care plans. Under that same scenario, high school students and students attending all-online classes would be notified of their schedules by the week of Aug. 17-21.
American University students will have the option of taking classes in-person or online for the upcoming fall semester. American made the announcement Tuesday, joining George Washington University as one of the first universities in the DMV to unveil its medium-term operational plans amid ongoing concerns about the coronavirus. To help curb the spread of COVID-19, American will also reduce density in its dorm buildings by housing students across roughly 2,300 single-occupancy rooms. Preference will be given to freshmen and, space permitting, some sophomores. “To provide safe and accessible educational opportunities, we will offer a residential campus experience with a blend of in-person and online classes and activities,” the university said on its website. “This provides flexibility to navigate changing health and safety conditions and the ability to increase in-person opportunities over time as allowed by health guidelines.” Classes will begin on Aug. 24, except law school classes, which will begin Aug. 21, and end on campus Nov. 24 with classes and final exams to be completed remotely. Classes will be taught live online with in-person class meetings every other week; live online with periodic in-person class meeting throughout the semester; line online only; online only; live online with a combination of in-person and live virtual lab sessions; or live online with a combination of in-person and live virtual studio sessions. Each school or program will identify which courses are prioritized for face-to-face instruction. But classes with more than 40 students “will likely be online due to space constraints, with the possibility of face-to-face labs or smaller group sessions.” More than 100 classrooms will be limited to accommodating fewer than 10 people each at a time. Face coverings will be required except in residence hall room or private offices. “We will continue to closely monitor the evolving situation. Additional adjustments to our plan and operations may be needed based on updated guidance from the D.C. government, the American College Health Association (ACHA) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).” Meanwhile, GW said Monday it will hold in-person classes in the fall, under various mitigation efforts, including mask-wearing and social-distancing requirements, according to The GW Hatchet. An associate vice president at the school told the student newspaper that its plan was a “roadmap” based on public health guidelines from the D.C. government. Among other changes, students will return to campus over the two weeks immediately preceding the start of classes Aug. 31, instead of on a single weekend as usual. Bunk beds will be removed from dorms, most rooms will house a maximum four students each and residential lounges will be closed. Other area universities are restructuring their fall semesters as well. The University of Maryland outlined a rough framework for a phased campus reopening Monday, saying its fall semester would kick off Aug. 31 as scheduled and that more information would be available by mid-July. And Howard University has said it is making plans for in-person classes to resume in the fall, with an update expected in mid-June.
The Montgomery County Council on Tuesday approved a financial assistance program for child care centers struggling with reopening and general losses during the coronavirus pandemic. The Childcare Recovery Program allocates $10 million in emergency funding for providers, who can begin applying for grants later this month. “We know that many businesses have suffered financially due to COVID-19, and childcare programs have been hard hit,” County Executive Marc Elrich said in a press release. “Before COVID hit, we already knew that we had a shortage of accessible, quality child care. And they are really struggling now. We know we need to help our providers so that they can continue to provide the quality early childcare and education that is so important to the success of our children.” Licensed center programs, registered family childcare homes and letter of compliance programs are eligible for up to a month of expenses, along with financial losses caused by COVID-19. Grants range in value from a maximum of $75,000 for a single site to $250,000 for providers that have four or more sites. To qualify, childcare providers must have a licensed facility in Montgomery County, provide care to kids ranging from newborns to 5 years of age, be in good standing with the state of Maryland and must be able to reopen by Aug. 31. During Phase One of Maryland’s reopening, providers were restricted to caring for the children of essential workers only with stringent capacity limits. But during the county’s Phase Two reopening, which begins Friday, centers can reopen with up to 15 people per classroom.
Montgomery County will enter Phase Two of reopening this Friday. County Executive Marc Elrich announced the move at a press conference Monday. Beginning at 5 p.m. Friday, restaurants, which have been limited to outdoor seating, can offer indoor dining at 50% capacity if social distancing can be maintained. Retail stores and gyms can reopen with up to one customer per 200 square feet of sales space. Malls can open their indoor concourses, but only so people can get in and out of stores. Pools can also reopen, with restrictions. Houses of worship may hold indoor and outdoor services with one congregant or family per 200 square feet of service space, as can gyms; hair and nail salons, and barbers by have the same limitation by appointment only. Childcare can reopen with up to 15 people. Other businesses, like libraries, concerts, senior centers, recreational facilities and theaters, will remain closed. As Maryland continues to reopen, state and local leaders have stressed the coronavirus has not gone away and that it is important to stay vigilant. Most of Maryland entered Phase Two last Friday, and Prince George’s County followed yesterday. Health Officer Dr. Travis Gayles said said the county achieved the benchmarks necessary to enter Phase Two. County data shows declines in hospitalizations, new cases and positivity rate. The county was hit hard by the virus and delayed entering both Phase One and Phase Two.
Beginning today, service hours for Montgomery County Publis Schools food sites are changing. Students can pick up breakfast, lunch and dinner at school and mobile truck sites from 10 a.m.-noon on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. On Wednesdays, students will receive meals for Thursday also. Bus distributions will take place from 9-10 a.m., Montgomery County Public Schools announced Monday. A list of meal pick-up sites is available online.
D.C. residents can now get free antibody testing as part of the city’s effort to track COVID-19 transmission in the community. Officials announced the test on Monday. The test identifies antibodies in blood that might indicate someone fought off COVID-19. Residents should call 855-363-0333 to make an appointment. All testing is done at 200 L Street SE. Some doctors say the presence of antibodies might protect people from catching the coronavirus again. However, health experts say a positive test does not guarantee immunity. D.C. Health Director Dr. LaQuandra Nesbitt stressed that point at a press conference. She urged city residents to continue following social distancing practices, wearing face masks and washing their hands, even if they tested positive for antibodies. Private doctors and labs in the region also provide antibody testing, but it isn’t always free. The federal CARES Act requires insurance companies to cover the cost, but many labs do not accept insurance. Also, beginning today, children who are 6-years-old or older can get tested at D.C.’s testing sites. Children’s National Hospital continues to provide drive-thru and walk up testing for pediatric patients who have a doctor’s referral.
Beginning Saturday, the National Gallery of Art’s Sculpture Garden will reopen to the public. The 6.1-acre garden is home to 21 modern artworks by artists including Ellsworth Kelly, Magdalena Abakanowicz and Roy Lichtenstein. The reopening is one of the first among the museums and Smithsonian institutions along the National Mall, all of which have been closed since mid-March. The garden will be open from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. daily with a capacity of 271. All visitors ages 2 and up will be required to wear face masks. Visitors will enter at Seventh Street and Madison Drive NW and exit at Seventh Street and Constitution Avenue NW. The Pavilion Cafe, located inside the garden, will be open for outdoor seating and have restrooms available. It will only sell prepackaged sandwiches, salads and drinks by credit card. Cash won’t be accepted. Also, picnics will be permitted, but no outside alcohol. “I find great relief in being able to welcome our visitors back to the Gallery by way of our oasis-like Sculpture Garden,” director Kaywin Feldman said in a press release. “Our horticulture division has been hard at work maintaining the grounds during the closure — albeit at a safe social distance on a modified schedule — and it really looks quite beautiful.” Jazz in the Garden, the popular summer concert series will not restart at this time. Museum officials also released details on how they eventually plan to reopen the museum’s East and West buildings. The museum will first reopen the ground floor of the West Building when D.C. moved into Phase Two of the city’s reopening. Two special exhibits will reopen at that time: Degas at the Opéra, which will run through Oct. 12, and True to Nature: Open-Air Painting in Europe, 1780–1870, which will be on display through Nov. 29. Visitors will be required to wear face coverings and reserve free timed entry passes to enter the museum, similar to the system at the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Timed entry will help with crowd control and facilitate contact tracing, officials said. The rest of the West building will reopen during Phase Three. The East Building is undergoing a major roof renovation and is not yet included in the reopening plan. The roof project started two weeks ago when crews lowered the 920-pound Alexander Calder mobile from the ceiling. The mobile will be cleaned and returned to the atrium by the end of 2021.
The National Capital Barbecue Battle is moving from Pennsylvania Avenue to online this year. It was scheduled to take over a few blocks of Pennsylvania Avenue around Sixth Street Northwest the weekend of June 27 and 28. But because of the coronavirus pandemic, it will be a virtual event that lasts all month. While barbecue fans won’t be able to sample glazed ribs, smoked chicken or savory burnt ends, they will still be able to put their own creations up in a virtual competition judged by Myron Mixon, Tuffy Stone and Moe Cason, three champion pitmasters. Giant Food has compiled videos of Mixon, Stone and Cason with tips on subjects such as ribs and burnt ends. The trio will also judge a virtual competition where home cooks can present their own barbecue recipes for chicken, beef, turkey and pork ribs. Contestants need to write out their step-by-step recipe and submit photos and videos of the finished product. The first round ends June 21. Finalists will then advance to judging from the celebrity panel. Winners can earn Giant shopping sprees up to $1,000. Other events usually include wellness screenings and live music. While those won’t happen, the website has some health and nutrition tips, as well as links to vote on a “battle of the bands” and two livestream concerts. The Dirty Heads performed last Friday and Elle King, a country and blues singer best known for her single Ex’s & Oh’s, will perform online this Friday at 7 p.m.
The Maryland Live! Casino will reopen to the general public at 6 a.m. on June 29. Live! Rewards cardholders will be allowed in on a phased schedule ahead of the general public from this Friday through 5 p.m. on June 28. According to a press release, Chairman’s Club members can return starting at 5 p.m. this Friday followed by Jade Card members at 6 p.m. and Black Card members at 7 p.m. Beginning at 6 a.m. Saturday, Gold and Platinum Card member will be admitted. And beginning at 5 a.m. Monday, Classic Card members can enter. Even after the general public returns, online reservations will be necessary for everyone except Chairman’s Club, Jade and Black cardholders due to reduced capacity. All gambling areas will be open including slots, table games, the poker room, club 21, the Orchid gaming and smoking patio, high limit slots and high limit tables. The hotel will remain closed.. Also, most restaurants will remain closed except for Luck Fu, Orchid Kitchen, R-Bar and the Orchid Bar. The Prime Rib, Cheesecake Factory and Bobby’s Burger Palace will not be open. The parking garage will remain closed except for Chairman, Jade and Black cardholders and valet parking will not be available. Visitors are required to wear a face mask or covering over their nose and mouth.
After nearly a four-month delay due to COVID-19, the WNBA will tip off in late July, providing the Washington Mystics a chance to defend their 2019 title. But fans won’t be there to cheer them on. All games will be played at the IMG Academy, a 600-acre student-athlete boarding school in Bradenton, Fla.. And, like all U.S. professional sports leagues attempting to play this season so far, there won’t be any fans in the bleachers. Teams will play a 22-game regular season, down from a 36-game season, with a traditional playoff format, according to a press release. Unlike Major League Baseball, which is in the midst of a battle over prorating player salaries, the WNBA agreed to pay players’ full salaries. “Despite the disruption caused by the global pandemic to our 2020 season, the WNBA and its Board of Governors believe strongly in supporting and valuing the elite women athletes who play in the WNBA and therefore, players will receive their full pay and benefits during the 2020 season,” the press release said. The league also said that it will support players who choose to speak up about social justice. “The WNBA opposes racism in all its forms, and George Floyd and Breonna Taylor are the latest names in a list of countless others who have been subject to police brutality that stems from the systemic oppression of Black Lives in America, and it is our collective responsibility to use our platforms to enact change,” WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert said in the statement. While the league has not announced an official start date, the New York Times reported that July 24 will be opening day. The league didn’t provide testing protocols, except to say that testing will be performed upon players’ and staff’s arrival at IGM Academy and throughout the season. ESPN is also reporting that players with children will be allowed to bring a caretaker.
Beginning today, D.C. is expanding free COVID-19 testing to four firehouses Monday through Saturday. The fire station testing sites are walk-up and no appointment is needed. During the past two weeks, two fire station have been open each evening, Monday through Friday, for free testing. So far, more than 2,300 people have been tested at a station. Testing at sites is done by personnel from the D.C. Fire and EMS, the Public Health Lab and the Department of Health. The new schedule includes Engine 4, 2531 Sherman Ave. NW, Engine 11, 3420 14th St. NW, Engine 24, 5101 Georgia Ave. NW and Engine 31, 4930 Connecticut Ave. NW from 4-8 p.m. on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, and Engine 8, 1520 C St. SE, Engine 10, 1342 Florida Ave. NE, Engine 30, 50 49th St. NE and Engine 33, 101 Atlantic St SE from 4-8 p.m. Thursday and Friday and noon-4 p.m. Saturday. The fire station testing sites are in addition other free testing sites across the city, including the walk-up testing site at F Street NW between Fourth and Fifth Streets NW at Judiciary Square, and the drive-thru and walk-up testing sites at 2241 Martin Luther King Jr Ave. SE and the University of the District of Columbia Bertie Backus campus across from the Fort Totten Metro station.
During it closure due to the coronavirus, Arena Stage has produced May 22, 2020, a filmed docudrama that looks at how life has changed for 10 residents in the DMV since the COVID-19 pandemic began. The project was the brainchild of Molly Smith, Arena Stage’s artistic director and was released over the weekend. The 55-minute film is available for free on the theater’s website and YouTube channel. “The concept of May 22, 2020 is to capture a moment in time that will never occur again,” said Smith. “We are being hyper local here as the interviewees, writers, directors, actors and video makers are all from the Washington, D.C. metro area. Our purpose as a regional theater reflecting our city is a powerful motivator. This part of America is unlike any other part of America and we want to capture it. Docudramas are immediate and full of individual stories. Newspapers do a brilliant job of this type of storytelling and this is our opportunity to catch the zeitgeist of the moment through filming 10 monologues that range from an emergency room nurse to a beekeeper to a D.C. detective.” It is one of two films Arena Stage will release as part of its spring/summer 2020 season, with virtual programming including master classes, the company’s weekly in-conversation series called Molly’s Salon and an upcoming artists marketplace, which expected to launch this month and will allow patrons to commission or buy goods, including paintings, special live performances, and more from artists and artisans who have worked with Arena Stage. The second movie,Inside Voices: a film by Arena Stage’s Voices of Now ensembles, features more than 120 student artists in Arena Stage’s drama program, Voices of Now, and premieres on this coming Friday. For May 22, 2020, Smith enlisted the help of 10 playwrights, including Randy Baker, the co-artistic director of Rorschach Theater, local dramatist Karen Zacarías, Aaron Posner and others, who interviewed 10 Washingtonians between the ages of 18 and 89 on that same date in late May and asked them about life during the pandemic. The playwrights were asked to seek out people they knew who are good storytellers and might be willing to participate, but another of the other playwrights conducted the interviews to maintain what Smith called a “journalistic coolness” between the writer and subject. The playwrights had one week to write monologues, a form chosen because two actors couldn’t be in a scene together because of social distancing concerns. The actors, who have appeared at Arena Stage in the past and include Edward Gero and Nancy Robinette, had a week to rehearse over Zoom. They filmed outside in Southwest D.C., featuring single-shots on the characters, all while wearing masks and maintaining six feet of distance from one another during the 14-hour shoot. Arena Stage has not announced if it will resume productions in the fall or wait until at least the new year like Bethesda’s Round House Theatre and Theater J.A decision is expected later this month.