Area Universities Plan Mix of Classes for Fall
COVID-19 Cases Reach 137,913 in D.C., Md. and Va.
As of yesterday morning, 10,216 people have tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, in D.C. with 548 deaths; there have been 66,450 cases in Maryland with 3,030 deaths; and in Virginia there have been 61,247 cases with 1,724 deaths. Social distancing is recommended to help control its spread. You can read last week’s updates here.
More universities around the DMV announced last week that they would switch to a mix of online and in-person classes when they reopen for the fall semester. Howard, Catholic and George Mason universities all said that they will use a “hybrid” system where some students and faculty will be in the classroom and others will be online. All three will begin classes on Aug. 24 and end when students leave for Thanksgiving. American and George Washington universities previously announed plans to offer both in-person and online classes. Howard University said final exams can be administered in person before Thanksgiving or online after. “I am pleading with you to be understanding, patient and flexible,” Howard University President Wayne A.I. Frederick said in a statement. “The future has a myriad of unknowns that makes static decision making nearly impossible. We will do all we can to make changes quickly and with prudence.” Howard students will be required to complete a COVID-19 test within seven days before arriving on campus. No large gatherings will be permitted and students will be given personal protective equipment, such as face coverings and sanitizer. “To the extent possible, deans and chairs will discuss with faculty and provide flexibility regarding course instructional format and teaching responsibilities,” Frederick wrote. George Mason University must wear masks, stay six feet apart from each other and track their symptoms daily. “We’re asking everyone to voluntarily fill out an online public health risk assessment,” said Anne Holton, the university’s interim president. “Report any symptoms you’re experiencing, and if necessary, we’ll direct you to the appropriate CDC recommendations or advise you to contact a health care provider.” The university plans to keep its on-campus student occupancy rate around 75%, intentionally keeping 1,500 beds empty to make housing less dense and free up room for students to potentially quarantine. At Catholic University, the last two weeks of classes and final exams will be conducted online. Officials said they are working to establish a coronavirus testing center on campus. “The focus of this effort will be in testing symptomatic students and those who have come into direct contact with positive cases of COVID-19,” university officials said in a statement. The university plans to have touchless points of sale for dining services so students can order food ahead of time using an app to help prevent long lines. “We are currently developing health and risk reduction strategies (not limited to housing, but in all activities) to allow students to return to residential living,” officials said.
The Montgomery County Agricultural Fair, which was scheduled for Aug. 13-21, has been canceled. Since 1949, the fair has drawn people to see the farm animals, ride the rides and enjoy the food. However, as with other events in the DMV, organizers said the coronavirus makes it too risky to proceed as planned. The fair, which draws hundreds of thousands to Gaithersburg each year, is run mostly by volunteers, many of whom are high-risk. “In order to protect our volunteers, our exhibitors, the citizens of our community and those who work at the fair in a variety of different jobs, the board of directors has made the difficult decision to cancel,” organizers said in a press release. This is the first time since it began that the fair was canceled entirely. Next year’s fair has been scheduled for Aug. 13-21. Anyone who purchased tickets for this year may request refunds or rain checks.
Maryland has committed $30 million in federal funds to help renters at risk of eviction during the coronavirus pandemic. Gov. Larry Hogan’s office made the announcement Friday. About 20% of renters in the state have fallen behind on rent payments. A third of the money will pay rent for residents of government-subsidized rental housing. The remaining $20 million will be distributed to the state’s 24 jurisdictions for local rental assistance programs. The funds come from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which provided $150 billion to states to help them weather the pandemic. The Hogan administration did not specify when the rental assistance funds will become available. But, the $30 million falls short of what advocates for low-income residents sought to prevent evictions across the state. According to the Aspen Institute, the COVID-19 pandemic has put more than 356,000 Marylanders at risk of eviction by the end of September. In May, advocates pressed Hogan to dedicate $153 million to help renters who have lost income during the health emergency. The groups also asked him to extend a statewide ban on evictions for nonpayment of rent, which is set to expire once Maryland’s state of emergency is lifted. The CARES Act banned evictions from federally funded residential properties until July 25. Hogan’s announcement comes one day after Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam announced a $50 million fund for eviction and foreclosure prevention in the commonwealth. Tenant advocates say 568,000 Virginians are at risk of eviction later this year.
The 28th annual RAMMY Awards, the Oscars for local restaurant owners and chefs, has been pushed from July 26 to Sept. 20, and it will be different. The Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington, which sponsors the awards program for its members, said there will still be a red carpet event for finalists, sponsors and the media at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, but much of the awards ceremony will be virtual for other attendees. RAMW said the format for the awards program and event will be updated in line with current safety guidelines, with more details as the date approaches. “In this year, where restaurants have encountered so much, the RAMMYS have even greater significance as they are an opportunity to rebuild, to create marketing visibility where it is needed and to engage partners to be part of that industry resurgence,” said Kathy Hollinger, president and CEO of RAMW, in a press release.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan on Friday announced a safe phased reopening plan for the state’s assisted living facilities, which requires universal screenings and face coverings for staff and visitors, mandates widespread testing and allows for limited visitation. The move comes on the heels of Maryland health officials fining the Pleasant View Nursing Home in Mt. Airy, between Ellicott City and Frederick, $70,000 for failing to properly isolate patients who tested positive for COVID-19 in May. The 104-bed facility had the state’s first known outbreak. Since March, 87 residents and 45 staff members have contracted COVID-19, and 28 residents and one employee have died, according to Maryland Department of Health data. In mid-May, inspectors from the state’s Office of Health Care Quality discovered that new residents arriving between May 7-20 were not properly isolated, causing what regulators called “immediate jeopardy to the health and safety of residents.” According to records, health violations cited in the office’s $5,000-per-day fine included moving a resident who had tested negative for the virus to a part of the facility reserved for those who tested positive, nursing staff working in rooms of patients who were positive and negative for coronavirus, and insufficient staffing to prevent the spread of the virus. Pleasant View also neglected to tell the state that its nursing director resigned in April, yet one administrator told the regulators that month, “I have no concerns regarding staffing at this time,” according to the report. In March, Carroll County health officials reported 66 positive test results at the facility in one day, raising concerns about the facility’s staffing and practices. Through staff interviews and a review of Pleasant View’s records, state officials reported that “the facility failed to properly implement infection control practices to prevent COVID-19 and was not following infection control safety practices and guidance recommended by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), during a COVID-19 pandemic.” Documents obtained by the Baltimore Sun show inspectors found shortcomings at other homes including the Hebrew Home of Greater Washington in Rockville, where 21 residents have died, and Sagepoint Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in La Plata, where 37 have died. There have been more than 6,600 cases among staff and residents, and more than 1,000 deaths related to the coronavirus, according to state data. Long term care facilities account for nearly two-thirds of the state’s COVID-19 deaths and a tenth of the overall cases.
Enjoy the fireworks on the Fourth of July, but watch from home in small gatherings. That was D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser’s message on Thursday as she expressed concern about another wave of coronavirus transmission if residents do not remain diligent about social distancing. “The virus has not disappeared. It is still in our community, and we have largely flattened the curve…[but] we have not eradicated the virus. We’re still reporting new cases each day,” Bowser said, reiterating that the city is still in a public health emergency. Even outside, she said, “large gatherings are still a high-risk activity.” Despite the ongoing pandemic and D.C.’s prohibitions on gatherings of more than 50 people, President Donald Trump has proceeded with plans for a second “Salute to America” Independence Day event on the National Mall. “We hope that the crowds that come in non-pandemic years won’t materialize this year,” she said urging people to stay home. D.C. is seeing 30-40 new cases a day as cases plateau. New cases are not connected to each other, which indicates moderate community transmission, said D.C. Health Director Dr. LaQuandra Nesbitt. That means there could be another wave of the virus if people aren’t careful about mitigating risk. The criteria for entering Phase Three of reopening is now available on D.C.’s coronavirus website. They are similar to those for entering Phase Two: The city must have sufficient ability to track new cases and hospital bed capacity, among others. Officials offered no timeline for entering Phase Three. “We need to see more of our cases being sporadic or connected to each other,” Nesbitt said. “It’s difficult to predict when that would occur from a timeframe perspective.” While parts of the country have seen a jump in cases, Nesbitt pointed out many of the hardest-hit areas had higher cases of community transmission when they reopened than D.C. and allowed bars and clubs to reopen. Nonetheless, Nesbitt said D.C. residents, especially those in high-risk groups and those who are in close contact with vulnerable people, should continue to be cautious. Bowser urged people to get tested if they think they might have been exposed. “We don’t want to see any rebound in cases,” Bowser said. “Wear a mask, keep a 6-foot distance from others and continue to choose your activities wisely. … Just because something is open doesn’t mean that I have to go. Just because there are going to be fireworks downtown, doesn’t mean I have to go.”
Prince George’s County will enter into full Phase Two of reopening on June 29, allowing nearly all nonessential businesses to open at limited capacity. Retail stores, shopping malls, gyms, beauty salons, houses of worship, casinos and outdoor recreation facilities will be allowed to reopen at 50% capacity while observing social distancing guidelines, according to a Thursday press release. Amusement parks may open at 40% capacity and outdoor pools will reopen, but indoor pools will remain closed as do senior centers, theaters, nightclubs and concert venues. Gatherings with no more than 100 people will also be allowed to resume while observing social distancing among people outside the household. County government buildings will stay closed to the public and continue offering online services. “We remain cautiously optimistic as we move forward with our phased reopening and recovery of Prince George’s County,” County Executive Angela Alsobrooks said the press release. “I am encouraged by the progress that we have made together as a community to slow the spread of this virus, and I know that if we all continue to take certain precautions, we can continue to contain the spread of COVID-19 in this next phase of our reopening.” The county entered a modified version of Phase Two after largely lagging behind most other parts of the state. While Prince George’s and Montgomery counties have been some of the hardest-hit by the coronavirus in the state, Montgomery entered a full Phase Two reopening earlier this month. The decision to move into full Phase Two was made in part by continued downward trends in cases, deaths and hospitalizations due to COVID-19, according to the release. Deaths per week in the county have decreased by 64% from a high of 74 per week in April to 27 deaths the week of June 13. The county hospitalization rate has also dropped from a daily average of 244 COVID-19 patients in early May to 80 patients per day this week. Medical bed use and the number of patients in the ICU are also reportedly down, according to health department data. The county said it now has 58.8% of its medical beds and 48.1% of ICU beds available — well above its goal of 30%. The county reported expanded testing capacity and the addition of a fifth testing site in Hyattsville. Appointments are no longer needed at the five testing center. more than 9,000 residents are being tested per week and the positivity rate is down from 43.1% in April to 7.8% as of Thursday.
The Virginia Supreme Court did not extend a statewide moratorium on evictions that expires Sunday, Gov. Ralph Northam said during his Thursday press conference. Instead, he will use federal CARES Act funding to create a $50 million program to help with rent and mortgage payments. “Once the moratorium is lifted, it is expected that thousands of Virginians will face eviction and that’s just not acceptable,” Northam said. “So today, I am calling on our chief circuit court judges around the state to further extend the moratorium as appropriate in their locality.” The Virginia Rent and Mortgage Relief program will launch Monday, June 29. Additional assistance will be available to help cover energy payments and debts, the governor said. Dr. Karen Remley, who heads the commonwealth’s testing task force, said testing in Virginia has ramped up; and the commonwealth was hitting its target of 10,000 tests a day in June. She said the state would use federal funding to expand the capacity of public health laboratories in Fairfax and Richmond, and partner with three other facilities to ramp up testing. She added there are 26 free clinics testing for COVID-19, up from four in April. “Nobody let your guard down, because it’s going to be a long summer and a long fall for COVID,” said Remley, who is leaving to take a job with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Northam will end his regular twice-a-week briefings, moving to an as needed schedule. Even as restrictions ease, business has not returned to normal. On Thursday Northam doubled a current 90-day extension on renewing driver licenses and registrations that expire before July 1. Department of Motor Vehicles offices are open by appointment only.
More than 61,000 new unemployment insurance claims were filed in the DMV for the week ending June 20, an increase of more than 7,300 from the week before due to a jump in claims in Maryland. An additional 1.48 million Americans filed new unemployment insurance claims last week, bringing the total number of new claims since mid-March to 47.3 million. While last week’s claims totaled 60,000 fewer than the week before, they represent the 14th consecutive week in which more than 1 million people filed. In February, by comparison, weekly claims were about 200,000. While new claims dropped slightly in D.C. and Virginia last week compared to the week before, nearly 8,500 more people filed for unemployment in Maryland. D.C. reported 3,0004 new claims, down 61 from a week earlier. Maryland had 31,944 new claims, up 8,484 from the prior week. And Virginians filed 26,072 new jobless claims, down 1,114 from the prior week.
The Washington Nationals are ready to defend their World Series title at Nationals Park after months of delay due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but D.C. must okay their return to the city first. On Tuesday night, after weeks of negotiations, Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association reached an agreement that will bring baseball back starting next week with “spring training 2.0” expected to start July 1 at home ballparks. Games will begin July 23. However, D.C. remains in Phase Two, which prohibits the gathering of more than 50 people. With rosters expected to include at least 30 players, plus coaches, trainers and other personnel, there will be more than 50 people at Nats Park. It is unlikely that the city will move to Phase Three by July 1, which would raise the limit on the number of people. The MLB’s health and safety protocol manual says the league will strictly adhere to local laws. The mayor’s office is developing a waiver that would allow the Nationals and other sports teams to apply for an exception and proceed with their seasons. “We are in touch with Major League Baseball and the Nationals. We have not received a waiver request for training at Nationals Park in June, but [the Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency] is reviewing the League’s protocol for games to return in July,” Mayor Muriel Bowser’s chief of staff, John Falcicchio, said in May. The mayor’s office confirmed Wednesday that the Nationals have submitted a waiver application, and the city is reviewing it. In addition, they also confirmed that both D.C. United and the Washington Wizards have had their waivers approved, setting the stage for both teams to return to play. If they receive a waiver, the Nationals and other teams must still adhere to social distancing. According to MASN, workouts will be staggered throughout the day and evening to provide ample room for players to exercise and social distance. Once games begin, the 101-page manual calls for a ban on spitting and high-fiving and discourages showering at the stadium. Players, coaches and support staff will be tested for COVID-19 every other day during training camp, the regular season and postseason. Players will also receive temperature/symptom checks at least twice per day, and antibody testing will be conducted approximately once a month. High-risk individuals or anyone with a household member in a high-risk group can sit out the season. Games will be played without fans in attendance.
Metro will reopen Silver Line stations and one Orange Line station on Aug. 16, three weeks ahead of its previous Labor Day schedule. McLean, Tysons, Greensboro, Spring Hill and Wiehle-Reston stations on the Silver Line and West Falls Church on the Orange Line will open first, followed by Vienna, Dunn Loring and East Falls Church stations on the Orange Line around Labor Day. There will be ongoing construction at the Orange Line stations after they reopen. Free shuttle buses will continue to Vienna, Dunn Loring and East Falls Church after Aug. 16, but Vienna and Dunn Loring riders will be able to connect at West Falls Church, rather than Ballston. “Metro’s commitment to customers is to restore service as soon as it is safe to do so, even if the project is not 100% completed at that time,” Metro said in a release. The transit agency is rebuilding station platforms on the Orange Line and connecting the current Silver Line to the upcoming Phase 2 extension. Metro said the pace of work on the Orange Line is “excellent” and will allow earlier opening. Metro previously had concerns that social distancing efforts could slow that work. Work is also done on the Silver Line connection, but some work at the Orange/Silver Line split station at East Falls Church needs to be finished before the Silver Line can reopen. Metro previously planned to do the Silver Line work with months of weekend closures. But when the pandemic hit, it decided the work would be easier if the line was completely closed. With ridership down nearly 90%, it made less of an impact on riders. “By combining the schedules of our two biggest capital priorities in Virginia during a time of historically low ridership, we believe we have positioned Metro and the region for a strong recovery,” Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld said in the statement.
The Fairfax County Health Department will offer free COVID-19 testing today from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. at the Episcopal church of Santa Maria, 7000 Arlington Blvd., Fall Church. No ID or doctor referral is needed, but registration is required by calling 703-267-3511. The testing was originally scheduled inside the church, but was moved to the parking lot after parents of two preschools at the church raised concerns for the safety of their children. Building Blocks Day School and Metaphor Academic Center for Russian Language & Culture operate out of the church. The event was scheduled to be in a different room than the preschool classrooms. But many parents were apprehensive and considered not sending their children during the testing event. Building Blocks’ Director Mabel Espinosa told WTOP that she considered shutting down the preschool over parents’ concern about exposure. The Fairfax Health Department said the risk of spread would be mitigated during an indoor event like the one originally planned. However, it decided to respect the wishes of the many parents and teachers who voiced concerns, ultimately choosing to move the event to the parking lot.
The National Park Service is again issuing permits for demonstrations, commercial filming, photography and special events on the National Mall after a three-month hiatus because of the coronavirus pandemic. Organized sports will remain prohibited on the Mall for now, in accordance with public health recommendations. Officials say they expect to allow additional activity on the Mall and in other federal parks in July. Demonstrations have taken place for weeks now as protesters have gathered by the thousands to demonstrate against racism and police violence. Officials said that resuming permits will help them better prepare for events and keep people safe as the region continues to grapple with the coronavirus. Officials are asking organizers to include anti-COVID-19 measures in their event plans, such as wearing masks and following social-distancing guidelines. The change comes after an NPS order that had suspended the acceptance of permits and cancelled or postponed previously scheduled events expired on Tuesday. In that order, NPS said it would “reevaluate the postures of each jurisdiction” in crafting future guidance because local jurisdictions have different coronavirus reopening plans. Large events are already slated for the National Mall this summer. The Trump administration has announced a fireworks display over the Mall on July 4, and Al Sharpton’s National Action Network is organizing a march on Washington for Aug. 28. During a typical year, the National Mall sees more than 4,000 permitted activities, according to the NPS.
The Marriott Wardman Park hotel in Woodley Park may close permanently due the COVID-19 pandemic. The hotel has been closed since mid-March. On Sunday, employees were told that the hotel would be shuttered and a Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) would be filed, permanently terminating them, Unite Here Local 25, the union representing the hotel’s workers, said Wednesday. “Marriott International has provided advance notice to employees, government officials and union officials about a potential closure of the Washington Marriott Wardman Park,” the company said in a statement. “The hotel has been temporarily closed since March. At this time, no decision has been made about the hotel’s future operation and reopening, as discussions are ongoing.” A WARN notice was filed with the D.C. Department of Employment Services on June 8 affecting 731 employees, but that notice had an effective date of March 13 and categorized the events as a layoff, not a closure. It is the third-largest hotel in the DMV and second biggest in D.C., with nearly 1,200 rooms and 196,000 square feet of event space. It ranks in the top 10 for meeting and banquet facilities. Pacific Life Insurance Co. owns 66.67% of the property with Bethesda-based JBG Smith Properties and CIM Group owning the rest. Marriott has a contract to operate the hotel through 2029. Union officials said Marriot told them it was in discussions with Pacific Life over whether the hospitality giant could continue to operate the Wardman Park under the current management agreement. JBG Cos, JBG Smith’s predecessor, previously proposed a turning the hotel into nearly 1,300 residential units, but withdrew the plan in 2016. The third through eighth floors of Wardman Tower, a 350-room, 8-story addition built in 1928, were recently converted into 32 luxury condominiums. There are six units currently for sale ranging from $2 million-$8 million. Industry insiders say Upper Northwest hotels, such as the Marriott and Omni Shoreham, have struggled to attract conferences since the 2.3 million-square-foot Walter E. Washington Convention Center opened in 2003. When the Marriott Marquis Washington opened beside the convention center in 2014, it added more competition to the already-crowded hotel scene. The Marriott Wardman Park was built in 1917 and 1918, during the height of the Spanish Flu pandemic, and opened on Nov. 23, 1918. The hotel has been host to presidential balls and home to a long list of politicians and celebrities, including Lyndon B. Johnson, Herbert Hoover, Spiro Agnew, Dwight Eisenhower, Bob Dole and Marlene Dietrich.
The Birchmere in Alexandria is reopening with limited capacity with the Billy Price Charm City Rhythm Band on July 10. “We have taken enhanced health and safety measures for our fans and staff, and are following all procedures set forth by the CDC and Commonwealth of Virginia,” the Birchmere said on its website. During the public health emergency, there will be a $25 food and beverage minimum and a $5 “Covid fee.” There will be no bar service and no gathering in the stage or bar areas. All tickets are general admission, and customers will be escorted to their seats. Masks must be worn when leaving your seat, including when you go to the bathroom or to the store to buy merchandise. Band will only play one set beginning at 7:30 p.m. and ending by 9 p.m., and there will be no opening acts. Tickets, which cost $15 plus $5.50 tax and facility fee, are available at the box office only. The box office is open from 4-7:30 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday for in-person sales only by exact cash or credit card.
Goodwill of Greater Washington has temporarily closed all 18 of its donation centers because donations during the coronavirus crisis has left them short on space. The centers will reopen July 8 and will be available for drop-off from noon-3 p.m. “While Goodwill is overwhelmed with gratitude for the generosity the D.C. area community has demonstrated with the volume of quality donations it has received since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, sadly, Goodwill has exhausted all possible storage space as the donations continue to pile up,” the organization said in a press release. “While Goodwill had hoped that the reopening of its retail stores over the past two weeks would measurably reduce the backlog of goods, the volume of donations has only increased.” The organization hopes that closing its donation centers for two weeks will allow it to free up some space as donations are moved to stores and sold. All of Goodwill’s 20 stores in the DMV are now open except the D.C. store at 2200 South Dakota Ave. NE, which is expected to open soon. The donation centers closed for a period in early May due to a lack of space.
Virginia, including Northern Virginia, will move to Phase Three of reopening on Wednesday, July 1. Gov. Ralph Northam made the announcement at a Tuesday press conference. Phase Three allows social gatherings of up to 250 people, gyms and fitness centers to operate at 75% capacity and capacity caps to be lifted on nonessential businesses, including restaurants. Last week, the governor delayed moving the commonwealth into Phase Three, saying he needed to look more closely at the data, particularly the higher infection rate of COVID-19 among the Latino population. Unlike with the other two phases, it is expected that Northern Virginia and Richmond will also move into Phase Three with the rest of the commonwealth unless officials there say otherwise. When asked for clarification, Northam said it is his expectation they will do so, but that he is open to having a conversation if local leaders feel their data tells a different story. “To date, I haven’t heard that [Northern Virginia and Richmond] don’t intend to be with the rest of the state,” he said. During the press conference, Northam touted increased testing capabilities, the downward trend of hospitalization, hospital capacity and improved contact tracing as the reasons for the move. He said the commonwealth currently has 1,000 contact tracers and will be adding more in the coming days. According to Virginia’s coronavirus dashboard, data has generally shown a movement in a positive direction. Northern Virginia remains one of the areas hardest hit by the coronavirus; Fairfax and Prince William counties have reported more than 13,500 and 6,900 cases, respectively. Over the last month, the number of cases per day has fallen. Since May 26, the positivity rates have been cut in half from 12.6% to 6.4% on June 19. However, the number of people being tested, on a seven-day rolling average, have held mostly steady since the beginning of the month and remains rather restrictive. In Phase Three, physical distancing and face coverings indoors will still be required. But many businesses will be able to reopen at some capacity, including museums, zoos and outdoor entertainment venues at 50% capacity with a cap of 1,000 people. Childcare services may open at full capacity and swimming pools may open at 75% capacity. However, overnight summer camps remain closed. Teleworking also remains highly encouraged. The announcement about Virginia’s move to Phase Three came with a warning, however. “If we become complacent and don’t continue to follow these guidelines, then the possibilities are there that we would have to go back,” Northam said. “I don’t want that, and I don’t think anyone wants to do that.”
Part of 18th Street NW between Columbia and Kalorama roads in Adams Morgan will be closed to vehicles from Friday through Sunday, creating a temporary pedestrian and bicycle zone. John Falciccho, the interim director of the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development, said it is a pilot for other street closures around the city. The pedestrian zone will also leave room for walking and recreation, he said. The closure is a pilot for the city’s “streateries” program, designed to help restaurants serve more patrons safely outdoors amid the coronavirus pandemic and help pedestrians social distance from both diners and each other. The streateries program allows restaurants, including those without outdoor dining permits, to apply for expanded outdoor dining space on sidewalks and in the street. The closure schedule is being finalized, but 3 p.m.-midnight Friday and 8 a.m.-midnight Saturday and Sunday has been tossed around. From Columbia Road to Belmont Road, the street will be completely closed to traffic; between Belmont and Kalorama, the southbound lane will remain open to cars. Businesses in Adams Morgan don’t have to apply for special permits to operate in the expanded space this weekend. Falcicchio said 18th Street was chosen as the pilot in part because neighborhood businesses and the local ANC were among the first to approach the city to talk about creating a pedestrian zone in their neighborhood. After the pandemic began, businesses in the area formed the Adams Morgan Commercial Development Coalition and began advocating for expanded outdoor dining space in May. The city will be evaluating several metrics for the success of the pedestrian zone pilot, according to Falcicchio, including how well patrons and pedestrians are social distancing and how well restaurant workers and patrons are able to adjust to the expanded dining space. There are also bus routes that run along the section of 18th Street, Falcicchio said, so the city will also be evaluating how well WMATA is able to adjust around the closures. Sean Townsend, the city’s director of nightlife and culture, said the city will also be evaluating how beneficial the streateries are for local businesses. On Monday, Townsend will meet with 18th Street businesses to discuss what worked and what didn’t during the pilot. “We want to make sure we accomplish the goal of the streatery program, which is to provide relief to businesses,” Townsend said. Despite the expanded space, businesses will have to operate under the rules of Phase Two of reopening: they will only be able to serve diners indoors at 50% and there is still no service at the bar, among other restrictions. The city has also been in conversations with the Dupont Circle BID, the Downtown BID, and Eastern Market and Barracks Row businesses for similar pedestrian zones.
Thousands of Virginians are at risk of losing their homes during the pandemic under an order issued by the state Supreme Court. The order, released Monday by Chief Justice Donald Lemons, allows courts across the state to resume hearings for evictions on June 29, the day after a temporary stay expires. A second order lets courts immediately resume eviction hearings that aren’t related to nonpayment of rent, such as if a tenant breaches the terms of their lease. Gov. Ralph Northam requested a pause on evictions for most of June while the state prepared a rent relief program to help tenants who lost income during the pandemic, but its hasn’t been implemented. It isn’t clear whether Northam will request another pause on evictions while the relief program is underway. Advocates for low-income renters say the order is both surprising and disappointing, after Virginia’s Supreme Court had approved multiple delays for eviction cases as the public health crisis continues. Advocates say they are rushing to find ways to delay evictions for Virginians at immediate risk of homelessness. Some are continuing to encourage local sheriffs to delay issuing writs of eviction in areas with high COVID-19 rates, as well as communicating with landlords’ attorneys to ask whether their clients plan to pursue eviction proceedings during the pandemic. But while the judicial order allows courts to resume evictions as early as Monday, bureaucratic issues may slow the process. Many eviction writs issued last month during a two-week period when there was no statewide eviction ban in place have expired, as they are only valid for 30 days. Some courts may also choose to hear evictions later, depending on how many high-priority hearings they have to get through first. Also, evictions remain banned at properties with federally backed mortgages or federal subsidies, per the federal CARES Act. Virginia’s General Assembly allowed tenants to seek a 60-day eviction continuance if they appear in court and prove they lost their income due to the pandemic. But hundreds of Virginia residents whose evictions were approved last month may still be out of luck. According to the most recent household pulse survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau, 14.8% of Virginians report being housing insecure, meaning they missed last month’s rent or mortgage payment, or have “slight or no confidence” that they can pay next month’s rent or mortgage.
Major League Baseball returns July 23 with a truncated 60-game season. Commissioner Rob Manfred implemented the season after owners and the MLB Players Association failed to reach an agreement after a month of back-and-forth negotiations. A March 30 agreement in which teams agreed to advance $170 million to the players, and award them a year of service time if the season were lost gave Manfred the ability to mandate the season, but give player full pro-rated pay. However, on Tuesday they did agree on health and safety protocols. Players will undergo COVID-19 testing upon arrival, then begin workouts if they test negative. Players, coaches and support staff will be tested for COVID-19 every other day during training camp, the regular season and postseason. Anybody testing positive will be quarantined. Two negative tests are required for a return. Players will also receive temperature/symptom checks at least twice per day, and antibody testing will be conducted approximately once per month. “All remaining issues have been resolved,” the MLBPA announced in a statement Tuesday night, “and players are reporting to training camps.” Spring training is scheduled to begin July 1, mostly at teams’ home stadiums after MLB ordered spring-training facilities in Florida and Arizona closed Friday following a COVID-19 outbreak at the Philadelphia Phillies’ camp and a suspected positive case in Toronto’s camp. Sometime in July, teams will likely play a handful of exhibition games. Then, provided there are no further significant setbacks to player health and public safety, Opening Day will be July 23 and 24. But COVID-19 restrictions will bar fans from the stands. For the first time, the designated hitter will be used in the National League, perhaps for just this season. Extra-inning games will begin with a runner on second base, with tie games a possibility. All games will be played against teams in each club’s own geographic region — 40 games against divisional rivals and 20 against the five clubs in the corresponding regional division in the other league.
MGM National Harbor, Maryland’s largest casino, will reopen at 6 a.m. on June 29 at 50% capacity. It joins Live! Casino & Hotel, the state’s second-largest, in setting a June 29 reopening date for the general public. MGM will hold an invitation-only event ahead of the public reopening. Every other slot machine has been disabled and plexiglass barriers have been installed at many of the table games, although poker will not be available during its first phase of reopening. Guests will have their temperatures checked before entering the casino floor. Restaurants at MGM that will be open during its initial re-opening phase include Voltaggio Brothers Steak House, Ginger, the food hall at National Market and Bellagio Patisserie, all with QR codes for menus and text messaging for reservations. Several of the bars at MGM will open. Rocky Gap Casino Resort in Flintstone and Hollywood Casino in Perryville both reopened June 19. The Horseshoe Baltimore Casino is set to open June 28. Maryland’s six casinos have been closed since March 16, leaving thousands of employees furloughed or laid off. The closures put a dent in gaming revenue for the casino owners, as well as tax revenue and the state’s share of gaming revenue for Maryland. Total gaming revenue at the state’s six casinos is down $373 million or fiscal 2020, which ends June 30.
The Kennedy Center canceled most of its previously announced performances and events for the rest of the year. The Kennedy Center Honors and the presentation of the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor will be postponed until March 7, 2021, and June 20, 2021, respectively, and the National Symphony Orchestra Opening Night Gala originally scheduled for Sept. 26 is canceled. The center previously announced it would postpone or cancel all performances through Aug. 9, including the return of Hamilton, which was set to run from June 16-Sept. 20. The Kennedy Center said it will announce plans in July for new programming that will comply with the city’s reopening restrictions, including socially distant events outside and relocating previously announced performances to new venues. The center also said it will announce updates on expanded digital programming and new seasons for theater, dance and ballet later this summer that it hopes to resume in January. “Our lives as we have known them have been upended by COVID-19, but the world continues to spin forward and we need artists now more than ever to help light the way,” Kennedy Center President Deborah Rutter said in the release. “I am deeply proud of our staff and artists who have been forging new digital stages for audiences in the nation’s capital and across the country, and I am equally excited by the work being done to safely allow us to experience the arts once again in person as well. For our patrons with tickets to fall performances, we do ask for your patience and flexibility as we readjust season schedules.” The center said it will lose $45.7 million in ticket sales and other income for the 2020-2021 season as a result of the postponements and cancellations, and is looking for cost savings, including discussions with its unions. The center instituted mass layoffs and furloughs in March and April, despite receiving $25 million in federal aid. Ticket holders will be able to request a refund, exchange their ticket for a gift certificate or use the value toward a future program, or donate the value to help sustain the National Symphony Orchestra.
Metro will reopen 15 rail stations on Sunday, June 28, that it closed due to low ridership during the coronavirus pandemic. The stations set to reopen include Federal Center SW, Federal Triangle, Mount Vernon Square, Judiciary Square, Archives/Navy Memorial, Smithsonian, Eisenhower Avenue, Virginia Square, Van Dorn Street, Clarendon, Cleveland Park, Grosvenor-Strathmore, Cheverly, College Park and Morgan Boulevard. East Falls Church, Greensboro and McLean will reopen with shuttle buses replacing trains as platform reconstruction work on the Orange and Silver Line in Virginia continues. Station entrances at Anacostia, Farragut North, Dupont Circle, Metro Center, Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, U Street, Gallery Place-Chinatown, Friendship Heights and L’Enfant Plaza will also reopen. Metro closed these stations, which had the lowest ridership, to conserve cleaning supplies at the beginning of the pandemic. Beginning Sunday, the only station without service is Arlington Cemetery, which is closed to the general public. Changes to bus service will also begin Sunday, with more on the way Monday. Buses will be added to the 14 busiest bus lines to provide more capacity and more frequent service as the region reopens. An additional 136 trips are being added across 14 routes, including the 54, 70, 92, 30N, 30S, A4, A6, A8, P6, V4, W4, F4, P12 and T18. Metro will temporarily suspend service on the NH2, C14, G2 and M6 routes that currently have extremely low ridership. Rear door boarding and mask requirements are still in effect until further notice. “Metro cannot guarantee that social distancing will be possible at all times, and the transit agency continues to ask customers to consider all of their transportation options, including walking, biking, or scooters whenever possible, to make space available for other riders,” Metro said a release. Metro does not plan to return to full service and regular hours until Spring 2021, but plans to increase service to meet demand as the region reopens.
A Capitol Fourth returns for America’s 244th birthday this year, but the coronavirus pandemic means the Independence Day extravaganza will not be broadcast live on PBS from the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol, but instead will feature 90 minutes of prerecorded music starting 8 p.m. on July 4. D.C.’s fireworks will still be broadcast live. “For four decades A Capitol Fourth has paid tribute to our nation’s birthday and the hopes and dreams of all Americans,” Executive Producer Michael Colbert said in a statement. “This year, our broadcast will reflect what we as a country have faced and the challenges ahead, while showcasing our message of inclusion, patriotism and love.” Actor John Stamos and singer Vanessa Williams will host the show’s 40th anniversary broadcast, which will include a tribute to the nation’s health care workers, service sector employees, scientists and others on the front lines of the coronavirus crisis. There will be a salute to wounded service members and a segment “honoring the contributions of African American heroes from our nation’s past and present,” a news release said. This year’s show features Patti LaBelle, John Fogerty, Renee Fleming, Trace Adkin, The Temptations, Chrissy Metz and the National Symphony Orchestra. It will also include highlights from previous years. The show will be streamed on its website, YouTube and Facebook feeds.
Beginning June 29, one library of each D.C.’s eight wards will reopen for customers to go inside to pick up and return library books and use computers and printers. Eight of the library’s 25 branches will reopen daily from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. and 3-7 p.m. They will close daily from 2-3 p.m. for cleaning. The branches that are reopening include Anacostia, Benning, Cleveland Park, Mount Pleasant, Northeast, Shepherd Park, West End and Woodridge. Library staff will implement new safety measures, such as limiting the number of people inside at one time, requiring face masks and enforcing social distancing. The number of computers will start small and increase after two weeks. Book lovers won’t be able to spend as much time as they might like in the reopened libraries. Patrons will not be able to browse the stacks, use the readings rooms or outdoor terraces, or reserve meeting rooms until a later phase of reopening. Six other branches will open for outdoor book return on July 6 and for expanded services on July 13. They include Bellevue, Capitol View, Francis-Gregory, Petworth, Shaw and Tenley-Friendship. Under the city’s Phase Two reopening plan, libraries can reopen with limited capacity. Demand for library services has grown during the coronavirus pandemic. “Since the library closed on March 16, we’ve had about seven thousand people register for library cards,” D.C. Public Library executive director Richard Reyes-Gavilan told NPR. “We’ve had over 300,000 books borrowed since mid-March, which is astounding considering that our collections are limited.” That is 37% higher than the same period last year. Libraries in Arlington remain closed. Fairfax County libraries are also still closed but offer curbside service. Montgomery County Public Libraries resume some services on June 29. Prince George’s County libraries have not announced a reopening date.
Come July 4, the National Mall outside the Smithsonian museums will be empty this year as the Smithsonian Folklife Festival goes online this year because of the coronavirus pandemic. Visitors will be able to watch daily events spotlighting “the role of culture in addressing today’s global challenges” live on YouTube and Facebook. This year’s theme is “Beyond the Mall” and focuses on the United Arab Emirates, Northeast Brazil, the U.S. Department of EnergySolar Decathlon and the Smithsonian Conservation Commons. It begins at noon this Wednesday with stories of “Earth Optimism.” Other events include a conversation on “Black religions in the Age of Black Lives Matter,” a discussion on “cross-cultural barbecue” featuring a pitmaster in the United Arab Emirates, ); a presentation on innovative solar-powered homes and a performance by two renowned Latina DJs. See the full schedule online. ASL interpretation will be available via Zoom, as will real-time captioning via Streamtext. Organizers say festival merchandise will soon be available through an online store. The festival runs through July 5.
Performances at the National Theatre in D.C. won’t resume until Spring 2021, and the District Improv Festival has been canceled for this year. The theater announced Monday that its season will begin in the spring. The theater said it will share show titles and other information this fall. During the summer, it will feature content from past shows and Broadway on social media. “Please know the safety of our theatregoers and employees is our highest priority, and that we appreciate your understanding and flexibility,” the theater said in a statement. Also on Monday, District Improv said that its District Improv Festival that was planned for September has been canceled. The company’s board said canceling the eighth annual festival is the right decision, as it weighed the safety of the performers and the audience. “We can’t wait to celebrate the spirit of improvisational comedy with you again at the 2021 festival,” District Improv in a statement.
Prince George’s County corrections officials have made “sufficient progress” and provided a “reasonable” plan for improving conditions to protect inmates from contracting the coronavirus. U.S. District Judge Paula Xinis on Monday credited county officials with taking significant steps to train medical staffers and correctional officers, hire additional nurses and conduct broad testing that shows low infection rates within the facility. “This pandemic is moving and morphing for all of us,” Xinis said during a hearing held by videoconference because of coronavirus concerns. “Every institution is dealing with this rapid-fire information.” As of Thursday, jail officials reported testing a total of 715 inmates, with 26 testing positive. In a recent round of testing of 448 department employees, there were two positive results. “We surpassed what she asked us to do,” Department of Corrections Director Mary Lou McDonough said after the hearing Monday. “We’re doing everything we can, as quickly as we can.” Despite the judge’s assessment and test results, civil rights advocates insisted Monday that inmates are still encountering filthy conditions, delays in medical care and subpar screening for symptoms of COVID-19. “There is a consistent mismatch between what the jail represents it is doing and what it’s actually doing,” said Katie Chamblee-Ryan, a senior attorney with the Civil Rights Corps. In May, Xinis found the county acted with “reckless disregard” in response to a virus outbreak at the jail in April and ordered jail officials to submit plans for ensuring testing, training employees, and improving conditions and treatment to protect medically vulnerable inmates. At the end of the yesterday’s two-hour hearing, Xinis said she would not extend her temporary order and found the jail has complied by implementing a “reasonable” plan to respond to the risk. “While not necessarily perfect, it’s not an unreasonable plan,” she said. She suggested the two parties continue to share information, including regular updates on testing, and ordered jail officials to continue to ensure an adequate supply of soap, cleaning supplies and masks. She also ordered the jail to keep shoring up social distancing measures.
Dupont’s Eighteenth Street Lounge has closed indefinitely as uncertainty remains over when it can reopen due to the coronavirus pandemic. While D.C. entered Phase Two of its reopening yesterday, the nightclub cannot reopen until Phase Three, according to the ReOpen D.C. Advisory Committee’s recommendations. Even then, nightclubs cannot have more than five people per 1,000 square feet. At about 10,000 square feet, the lounge would only be allowed 50 customers. Clubs cannot return to their previous normal until Phase Four, which will only occur when there is either a cure or vaccine for the coronavirus. “I am taking time to listen to the science on public health and rethink strategies for the future of how we can deliver the best experiences to patrons moving forward,” said owner and co-founder Farid Nouri in a statement. Nouri said he couldn’t reach agreeable terms on a lease renewal with the lounge’s landlord once the current lease expires this summer. “Staying idle for the foreseeable future, it makes sense to wrap up,” he told the outlet. Nouri was among the D.C. club operators who wrote an open letter to Mayor Muriel Bowser and the D.C. Council calling for aid, legal protections and the ability to renegotiate leases. “We are effectively closed with zero revenues and mounting rent dues and insurance premiums, that will set us so far into debt we will not be able to reopen our businesses,” the letter said, adding that 80% or more of nightlife businesses could become obsolete. The lounge opened 25 years ago. It remained a pillar of the city’s nightlife even as other neighborhoods replaced Dupont Circle as the city’s go-to location. It has attracted a mix of locals, tourists and even celebrities, including Robert Downey Jr. and Dave Chappelle and Ed Sheeran performed a duet of Radiohead’s Creep in 2017.
D.C. passed an unfortunate milestone as of Sunday morning, reporting more than 10,000 residents have tested positive for the coronavirus since the pandemic began in March. D.C. reported 36 new positive cases Sunday — the average number of new cases it reported over the past week. The total number of cases now stands at 10,020. It also recorded two new deaths from the virus, for a total of 533 deaths. Mayor Muriel Bowser said Friday that with 15 days of decline in the community spread metric, the city would move to Phase Two of its reopening plan today. That means gyms, spas and retail stores can reopen with limits on the number of customers. Restaurants have made plans to begin seating some customers indoors. The International Spy Museum and the Museum of the Bible said they will reopen this morning. But on Saturday morning, D.C. reported a sharp spike in community spread on its coronavirus dashboard. But that spike disappeared from the data shortly after. D.C. Health has not explained the discrepancy. D.C. has not said what metrics need to be met to enter Phase Three, which would allow higher-risk activities, like reopening pools with safeguards, more capacity increases for restaurants and businesses and allowing gatherings of up to 250 people. The only guideline so far is “sporadic transmission” of the disease. Since the pandemic began, about 1.42% of D.C.’s population has been infected with the coronavirus compared to 1.06% in Maryland and 0.67% in Virginia.
Several departments of motor vehicle offices throughout the DMV will reopen their doors this week to provide in-person services for the first time since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. The D.C. Department of Motor Vehicles reopens its doors by appointment beginning Tuesday. The reopening includes all service centers, adjudication services and the Brentwood Commercial Driver License Office. Appointments can be scheduled online on the DMV’s appointment website. Face coverings are mandatory inside the DMV, social distancing must be practiced and only the person receiving the service will be allowed inside, except for people with disabilities. Road skills tests needed for driver’s license requirements will resume on June 30. Self-service emissions inspections kiosks will be available with 24/7 access, while the inspection station will be open on a first-come, first-served basis. Driver’s licenses and other documents scheduled to expire after March 1, 2020, have been extended through the end of the city’s public health emergency with the coronavirus. Five Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration offices, including branches in Gaithersburg, Glenmont and Beltsville, reopen by appointment starting today. They join 17 others that reopened June 8 as part of a multi-phased plan. Services include learner’s permits, commercial driving tests, noncommercial driving tests, driver’s license and identification card renewals and title work. Appointments can be scheduled through the MVA’s Central Scheduling System or by calling 410-768-7000. Vehicle emissions stations remain closed to help administer COIVD-19 tests. However, self-service emissions testing stations are open. In Maryland, licenses, registrations and other documents will remain valid until 30 days after the state’s state of emergency is lifted. Four Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles customer service centers, including those at 2681 Mill Road, Alexandria, and 14960 Northridge Drive, Chantilly, will reopen today. Offices in Arlington, Franconia, Leesburg, Manassas and Tysons Corner already reopened. The state’s DMV centers began reopening on May 18 on an appointment-basis. More than 30 offices are now open for driver’s licenses, identification cards, titles, vehicle registrations, disabled parking permits and vital records. Appointments can be made online up to 32 days in advance. All of the opened offices are running on temporary, extended hours to accommodate all appointments. Vehicle documentation renewal deadlines have been extended for up to 90 days, depending on their original date of expiration, however, all documents must be current beginning Sept. 1.
The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception will reopen today after being closed for more than three months due to the coronavirus pandemic. In accordance with D.C.’s Phase Two reopening today, only 100 people will be allowed inside at a time. All visitors are required to wear a face covering and have their temperatures checked. “While we anxiously await the day when we can more fully open the doors of Mary’s Shrine, we are grateful to take this first step in reopening America’s Catholic Church,” Monsignor Walter R. Rossi, Rector of the Basilica, said in a statement. “The priests, religious and staff of the Basilica are eager to welcome the faithful back and ask for prayers and patience as everyone adjusts to this ‘new normal’ in these continued, unprecedented times of the coronavirus pandemic.” The Basilica will be open from 7:30 a.m.-5 p.m. daily, with confession available from 9 a.m.-11 a.m. Monday through Saturday. Daily Mass will be held at 8 a.m. and 12:10 p.m. and Sunday Mass will be held at 9 a.m., noon, 2:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. Visitors must sit in marked pews to maintain social distancing. During the extended closure, which is believed to be the longest in the Basilica’s history for a non-weather-related event, the Basilica was cleaned and sanitized and heightened protocols were put in place to prepare for reopening.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will be conducting a COVID-19 survey in areas of Manassas, Manassas Park and Prince William County beginning today. The survey is part of the CDC’s effort to help stop the spread of the coronavirus in ZIP codes with more positive cases and in the Latino community, which has seen a disproportionate impact from the virus. The three ZIP codes — 20109, 20110 and 20111 — are among the top ZIP codes in the state for COVID-19 cases. All three have seen cases more than double in the past month. As part of the survey, teams will go house-to-house with a 30-question survey related to health care and COVID-19. The survey is voluntary and no personally identifiable data will be collected. “The information collected will help the health professionals at the Prince William Health District and the CDC understand what resources are most needed by the community,” the city of Manassas noted in a press release. The CDC may also reach out by telephone as they are looking for participants who have tested positive in the past.