Montgomery County Pools Reopen Monday
COVID-19 Cases Reach 144,897 in D.C., Md. and Va.
As of yesterday morning, 10,447 people have tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, in D.C. with 557 deaths; there have been 69,341 cases in Maryland with 3,111 deaths; and in Virginia there have been 65,109 cases with 1,849 deaths. Social distancing is recommended to help control its spread. You can read last week’s updates here.
It is the Fourth of July weekend with temperatures in the 90s, but many pools in the DMV remain closed due to coronavirus restrictions. But as restrictions are eased, swimming pools and water attractions are starting to reopen. On Monday, Montgomery County Recreation will reopen its seven outdoor pools and three indoor aquatic centers. All pools will be open to pass-holders only. Outdoor pools will be open for two-hour sessions of recreational swimming between noon-8 p.m. daily. Indoor aquatic center will be open for lap swimming only. The centers will be open for two-hour sessions from 6 a.m.-8 0.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m.-5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. All sessions require reservations, which can be made online. Anyone 2 and older must wear a face covering on the pool deck, in common areas and when social distancing is not possible, but not in the water. Fitness rooms, saunas, hot tub and the lazy river will remain closed, as will wading to baby pools. Slides and diving boards will be available. At outdoor pools, visitors are encouraged to bring their own chairs or blankets, and shared equipment such as kickboards will not be available. Locker rooms and bath houses, however, will be open. The Martin Luther King Jr. aquatic center remains closed as it is remodeled. In Prince George’s County, both public and private outdoor pools may open with a maximum capacity of 25%. Indoor pools remain closed. In D.C., communal pools may only reopen 9j Phase Three, with limited capacity and safeguards. Even then, Department of Parks and Recreation pools will only open for “structured activities” such as lessons and lap swimming. In Virginia, indoor and outdoor swimming pools may be open at up to 75% capacity under the commonwealth’s Phase Three reopening. Open swimming is allowed and people not from the same household must maintain 10 feet of physical distance. Hot tubs, spas, saunas, splash pads, spray pools and interactive play features remain closed for Phase Three. In Arlington County, Ocean Dunes Waterpark, operated by NOVA Parks, will not be opening this summer. Three public indoor pools that are managed by Arlington Public Schools are expected to open in in mid-July. Fairfax County’s Water Mine Family Swimmin’ Hole in Reston and Our Special Harbor Spray Ground in Alexandria will not open this summer. The Martin Luther King Jr. outdoor pool in the Alexandria section of the county is also closed.
The Washington Nationals returned to the field at Nationals Park Friday for the first time since the World Series in October. They have three weeks to get ready for their first game of an abridged season. Half the season has already been wiped out, but Major League Baseball plans to play 60 games if it can keep COVID-19 at bay. Manager Dave Martinez said the team doesn’t have much time to get ready. “These guys are here, and they’re ready. They understand what we’re trying to do, and they understand that they have to do it quickly,” Martinez said, adding “It’s not something that you build up gradually. We have to come out, and we have to be ready to go.” General manager Mike Rizzo said he liked what he saw from his veteran team in their first day of summer camp, considering the layoff from their last day in spring training. “Tip of the hat to Davey and the coaches who stayed on the players,” Rizzo said. “We stayed in constant contact with all players that were considered in our 60-man roster.” Conditioning is one thing, but observing safety protocols will prove more important this year. The whole team was tested for coronavirus on July 1, then quarantined for 48 hours until they were cleared. However, Martinez said it is the players’ and staff’s actions after testing, practicing and game days that will be different as they adjust to new routines. “You can’t just leave the ballpark and go to a restaurant and go out,” Martinez said. “You got to really focus on your teammates and what we’re trying to do here. And that’s to keep everybody safe.” Rizzo said that, in his opinion, the safest teams will end up becoming the best teams in this abbreviated season. It will be pressed upon the players to maintain their safety outside the stadium and that will be done as a team effort. “If we want to win, we have to stay together,” Rizzo said. “No going out, stay as safe as you can in those hotels and give ourselves the best chance to keep a safe roster, a healthy roster. If we do that, we’ll have as good a chance as anybody winning.” It will be nine months since winning the World Series. Martinez said he cannot wait to defend their championship that he does not plan to be defeated by a virus and will try his best to be as safe as possible. “I didn’t spend three months isolated on a farm to come here and get sick,” Martinez said. “I want to make sure I keep myself safe, so I can keep the coaching staff safe, the players safe and everyone else around me.”
The Maryland Department of Health is instructing doctors to order a coronavirus test for anyone who requests it. Gov. Larry Hogan announced the order on Thursday as the state took steps to expand testing. It applies to anyone who asks for a test regardless of symptoms. “While other states are experiencing testing shortages, the State of Maryland will continue to have an abundant supply of testing available at no out-of-pocket cost to anyone in our state who wants to be tested,” Hogan said in a press release. “As more and more people are returning to the workplace, and as more Marylanders are beginning to interact with larger numbers of people, testing will become even more critical. We are making great strides in further expanding testing in Maryland, and strongly encourage anyone who is interested to get tested.” While Maryland has locations where people can get a free test without a doctor’s order and without symptoms, some testing sites continue to require a doctor’s order. “From the Baltimore Convention Center and Six Flags America, to VEIP stations, urgent care centers, drop-in clinics and retail partners, we are committed to making testing convenient for everyone across the state,” said Fran Phillips, deputy secretary for public health. “As Marylanders go back to activities outside the home, we will continue to provide testing and expand those services where needed.” Maryland health officials are also strongly encouraging anyone who works in close-contact settings and people who have returned to Maryland from out-of-state travel to get tested.
A survey of Prince George’s County Public Schools parents, educators and staff found that 46% of the parents who responded want to continue at-home instruction when classes resume in the fall. Another 42% want a combination of distance learning with in-school instruction and only 12% want students back in the classroom, according to PGCPS CEO Monica Goldson. “Our team is still working through the logistics of a safe return to school this fall. This is no easy task,” Goldson wrote in a message to the community Wednesday. She also advised that whatever decision comes from the school system, it will also take into account the latest health-related data and advice from county and state officials. She has asked for continued feedback on the three options: continuing at-home instruction, combining at-home instruction with classes in schools and in-school instruction. Concerns about how to bring students back into school buildings and maintain safe social distancing measures have school systems around the DMV trying to come up with plans for everything from busing kids to school to sanitizing and arranging classrooms. Prince George’s County has the highest number of COVID-19 cases in Maryland. As of Thursday, data from the Maryland Department of Health showed Prince George’s County had 18,861 cases and 664 confirmed deaths. Neighboring Montgomery County has had more confirmed deaths — a total of 709 — but fewer cases, with 15,021 confirmed. Montgomery County Public Schools Superintendent Jack Smith has said plans for resuming instruction will be presented in mid-July. Schools in Anne Arundel, Howard and Baltimore counties are also looking at how to move ahead, with decisions on how to continue instruction coming in late July or early August. The Maryland Department of Education requires school districts have their plans available to the public by Aug. 14.
The D.C. Council will consider legislation Tuesday creating a new $100 million grant program for companies coping with the coronavirus fallout targeting restaurants, hotels, retails and other hard-hit businesses for relief using funds the city received through the CARES Act. The city previously used some of that federal money to give $33 million in microgrants to struggling businesses. The new program would be the largest effort in the region for business aid. The bill, drafted by Councilman Kenyan McDuffie and co-introduced by Councilman Charles Allen, stipulates 40% of the funds should go to restaurants, 30% to hotels, 15% to retailers and 15% to the “sports and entertainment sector.” It also allows businesses to apply if they were forced to close by Mayor Muriel Bowser’s health restrictions, which includes places like concert venues, bars and nightclubs. Lawmakers have been working for months to find a way to target relief toward hospitality and entertainment businesses that have been hit especially hard by the COVID-19 shutdown, particularly amid warnings that many could shut down permanently without help. McDuffie said he opted for grants, rather than some sort of tax cut, in order to get cash into the hands of owners now, rather than hoping for them to realize savings when it comes time to pay taxes. The legislation would also allow anyone leasing space to one of the targeted businesses to apply for a grant, although they would have to provide rent relief to that company “in an amount equal to twice the amount of the grant.” That provision mirrors earlier legislation requiring any building owner receiving mortgage relief to pass the savings to commercial tenants. The bill does not include a dollar-limit on how much businesses can receive, but it requires companies to demonstrate they have had at least a 50% decline in gross receipts over the course of March, April and May compared to the same period in 2019. Businesses will be able to receive grants of 15% of that lost revenue as long as that amount doesn’t exceed gross receipts for any single month during 2019. McDuffie included language prioritizing businesses owned by people of color and women, noting many of those firms have struggled to get access to federal loans.
Howard University’s annual homecoming celebration will be virtual in 2020 instead of in person. The change is part of the university’s reopening plan for the fall. Howard routinely draws thousands of students, alumni and visitors for homecoming, but concerns over the coronavirus pandemic led to the change. President Wayne A. I. Frederick said on WHUT that having homecoming on campus would put too many people at risk. “That is not something that I think we can do safely because of the nature of it,” he said. Howard announced in February that its homecoming would be Oct. 10-18, with the football game against Delaware State played on Saturday, Oct. 17. Details for the virtual celebration have not yet been announced. Last week, Frederick said Howard, like other area universities, will use a hybrid system of in-person and virtual learning in the fall.
Some 400 patients received free coronavirus testing over two days at a Fairfax Coutny Health Department pop-up testing site in Chantilly. The program is in response to persistent high rates of infection among Latino communities in Virginia. In Fairfax County, half the COVID-19 cases for which demographic data is available are Latino, three times their share of the population. In the past, the county delegated its COVID testing to nonprofits and clinics, while supporting them financially. “Early in this pandemic there were limitations on testing because there were issues with the supply of test kits, the supply of test materials that were needed to do testing,” said health department spokesman John Silcox. “That’s changed over time.” Now, Silcox said, a team within the department picks sites for testing based on outbreaks among lower-income, vulnerable populations. Sites are within walking distance of residents and patients can walk up without a doctor’s referral. Although the county has taken a more robust role in testing, it is still leaning on outside groups for follow-up care. If patients test positive for COVID-19 and do not have primary care doctors, Silcox said, the county refers them to federally qualified health centers or free clinics. The initiative is among several government projects to help Latino communities with COVID-19. In May and June, the Virginia Department of Health set up one-day drive-up testing sites across the state. In mid-June, Gov. Ralph Northam held a coronavirus briefing in Fairfax County and invited multiple Spanish speakers to give information about the pandemic. Dalia Palchik, the first Latina elected to the Fairfax County board, urged residents to call a Spanish-language hotline for help with healthcare or basic needs and said services would be offered confidentially and without regard to immigration status. The work is bolstering the efforts of nonprofits that were already helping deliver healthcare and financial assistance to Latino communities. Virginia has hired 456 contact tracers, and Fairfax and Arlington combined hired another 110. In addition to reassigned healthcare workers, Virginia has a total of 1,204 contact tracers. Luis Aguilar, director of the immigrant advocacy group CASA Virginia, who spoke at Northam’s June 18 press conference, said the increased government response is welcome but incomplete. “We continue to see people needing support for rental assistance, food assistance, healthcare assistance,” he said. Some people did not know about the free testing efforts. Others faced an economic crisis because of the pandemic and were not connected to the county’s resources.
As COVID-19 cases spike around the country, two Montgomery County Council members say the health department isn’t doing enough to test residents, especially if the DMV sees a surge or a second wave of cases. “Where we are headed, we are going to need to conduct 50 or 100 times more tests than we are [currently] doing per day,” said Councilmember Hans Riemer. “The capacity has been there for months, but what’s lacking is an implementation of a testing strategy.” Councilmember Gabe Albornoz agreed, saying the volume of tests available to the county is “light years ahead from where we used to be,” but there is a gap between capacity and what is actually being used. “It’s not just the tests themselves, but the manner in which we administer them,” said Albornoz. “It’s the system building that needs to take place to be able to provide those tests, particularly in the ZIP codes that have been disproportionately impacted [by COVID-19].” According to state data as of July 2, 95,394 people have been tested in Montgomery County, the most of any county in Maryland. However, that is only 8.8% of its population, slightly below other jurisdictions in the state, like Prince George’s County, which has tested 10% of its residents, and Baltimore City, which has tested 11%. In general, the country is testing more people than a month ago, but there is a fear those numbers will slow down. Testing capacity isn’t just the number of test kits and supplies, but also the infrastructure and systems necessary to provide testing and results in a timely manner. In May, Montgomery County signed a contract with Rockville-based AdvaGenix to provide 20,000 saliva-based testing kits per week by June 8. Dr. William Kearns, AdvaGenix’s president and scientific officer, said the lab is able to fulfill the county contract and that it will be able to exceed 30,000 tests per week, starting next week. However, only about 10,000 people are being tested each week in Montgomery County, county health officer Dr. Travis Gayles said. That includes tests being administered by the county, as well as by hospitals and private health providers. That is far below the number of tests that AdvaGenix said they can provide and process. Reimer said a big reason for the gap is a lack of urgency in providing ways for people to get tested. There are currently only three public testing sites in the county, which are open on alternating days from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. While testing is free and no doctor’s order is needed, appointments are necessary. “If we wanted to have an aggressive strategy, we would have [them open] 12 hours a day, sites in 25 or 30 locations in the county,” Reimer said. He points to testing being done at D.C. firehouses since the beginning of June as one example of how to rapidly expand testing sites. “Montgomery County has everything within its boundaries to lead the country in testing,” Riemer said. “We need to implement a testing strategy that will conduct enough tests so that we can successfully reopen and not have to go backward.” Albornoz said that county health officials need to ramp up testing in lower-income communities. He said that there are often a lot of underlying conditions that result in a positive test — employment status, housing situation, socio-economic challenges and “cultural competence” issues related to how the county is providing information. He cited the lack of bilingual county-employees who answer calls to schedule appointments. He also said there is often little trust in the government in these communities due to national rhetoric, public policy and past mistakes; such as when an unknown number of test results went missing mostly from the county’s most underserved communities. But Gayles said it is more complicated to set up testing sites than some realize. “Certainly, we would have loved to ramp up faster, but it has taken time to get the logistics worked out,” he said. “We’re trying to move as quickly as we can, but we also want to make sure that we are putting something out there that works for people.” He said that the health department is adding “pop-up sites” throughout the county, similar to the one held in Takoma Park last week, but he has been saying that since the beginning of June. The county received $183 million in federal aid in April to help with economic recovery. Gayles said this could be used to help set up more testing since it is “an important component of recovery,” however he couldn’t say how much of that aid has been spent already or earmarked specifically for testing infrastructure. Kearns of AdvaGenix said they are in the process of increasing their capacity and that by the end of 2020, they will be able to supply and process upwards of 90,000 tests per week. That would mean that about 9% of the county’s population could be tested weekly if systems are in place to provide the testing. “I think we have the means,” said Riemer. “The question now is whether we have the will and the direction to pull it off. Those are still very much open questions. But I’m hopeful.”
While Montgomery County is seeing a decline in key COVID-19 health metrics, it won’t enter Phase Three of the state’s reopening plan until county officials can be sure there won’t be a spike linked to Fourth of July celebrations and travel. County Executive Marc Elrich said Wednesday that he was proud of efforts made in the county and neighboring Prince George’s County and D.C. that have so far kept the DMV’s numbers declining, even as parts of the country see surges in new cases. Elrich and county health officer Dr. Travis Gayles said the county’s plans for entering Phase Three would not likely be unveiled for at least another week, as data is analyzed to ensure the area does not see a spike of cases from the Fourth of July holiday weekend. “We evaluate this on a daily basis, particularly since we’re seeing so much evidence from other jurisdictions who have moved forward past us into other phases and who have had significant issues with the numbers going back up,” Gayles said. “So I would say that we’re going to continue to follow the data, we’re going to continue to see how we move forward and as the data suggests, particularly in this phase, that would determine when we start introducing and thinking about when we move forward. I can tell you that it’s not going to happen on Friday, we’re not going to move to Phase Three on Monday, because right now, all of the data suggests that everybody across the country is taking a step back and pausing to see what is going to happen to determine if the influx of new cases in these other areas impacts us. Also coming up this weekend we have a holiday. So what’s going to be the impact of folks traveling on the holiday, whether they’re going to beaches or going to other jurisdictions and then coming back home? No imminent announcements about moving to Phase Three are coming at this point.” Elrich, who hold a weekly press conference every Wednesday, added, “Next Wednesday we won’t be telling you we’re reopening yet. We are going to wait until we have at least a week from this weekend to make sure we don’t see a spike in cases. Assuming a lot of people go to the beach, not just county residents, but people county residents know, we want to make sure that we do not get a spike next week. We’ll know how the weekend plays out in little over a week from now. We’ll be discussing this next weekend and move forward as appropriate. Hopefully the numbers will be good and hopefully residents will pass on going to the beach this year and find great things to do in Montgomery County, like walk in our parks and hang out in your yard because you don’t have to work. Going to the beach may not be the best thing.” Elrich also sees is a spike of evictions approaching as Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan’s moratorium is set to expire soon. If that happens, Elrich said that tens of thousands of households in the county could face eviction. He said he would like to see landlords work with tenants to create payment plans with those who have lost their income amid the COVID-19 pandemic. “It will be a major, major issue if we get that level of displacement in the county,” Elrich said. He advised people hoping to gather with friends to celebrate this weekend to try to do so outside if possible, and maintain social distancing measures and mask use.
Fairfax City and the Fairfax City Economic Development Authority have created City Square, which turned parts of Main Street and University Drive into an outdoor dining area for Old Town Fairfax restaurants. City Square is open from 11 a.m.-10 p.m. every day this summer and includes six outdoor seating areas. Four of those areas are designated for East Wind, Havabite, Bellissimo and Eerkin’s, while the other are available for anyone who buys takeout from area restaurants, including Auld Shebeen, Sister’s Thai, High Side, Caribbean Corner, De Clieu Coffee & Sandwich and Old Firestation. The dining areas take up one lane on parts of both streets adjacent to restaurants, with remaining lanes open to vehicles. Fairfax City is paying for City Square, using the city’s allocation of federal CARES Act relief funding, and has provided all the tables and chairs.
Montgomery County Public Schools students will resume school in the fall, but school officials are trying to figure out what that will look like, amid the coronavirus pandemic. During a meeting Monday, staff discussed the possibility of full-time remote learning or a hybrid of in-person and at-home classes, with students attending on alternate days. Changes would include social distancing and face coverings on buses and in classrooms. Administrators showed a video demonstrating how it would work, with desks placed inside taped boxes, along with signage and markers throughout schools to encourage distances of at least 6 feet. “Social distancing requirements alone will bring a whole new dimension of on-site management from the time they arrive at school to dismissal,” said Janet Wilson, chief of teaching, learning and schools, who outlined plans to reopen during the fall. How students learn will also look different. Students will not be allowed to share materials, like crayons and other school supplies. Officials say summer classes, which begin this month, will serve as a trial. So far, just over 14,300 students are registered across the county. “It’s imperative that we plan for contingencies. As we all know, this is an evolving situation and will evolve again as we approach fall,” said Wilson, adding there will be protocols in place for teachers and parents to test children. There will also be plans based on guidance from the county health department if there is a diagnosed case of COVID-19 within a school. Evaluating how school closures have affected students is a major concern as well. “We acknowledge that students have been impacted in immeasurable ways,” said Wilson, who added there will be resources for parents to help support students, including training on the county’s online parent portal. School board member Jeanette Dixon stressed the importance of students returning to school, but shared the concerns of teachers in regards to safety. A more detailed outline of reopening plans will be presented to the county school board on July 14th.
The Loudoun County School Board this week voted to allow parents to choose whether they want their children to be in their school classrooms twice a week with three days of distance learning or do 100% distance learning for the fall semester. During a nine-hour meeting Monday night, the board approved the hybrid learning plan, which would have some students return to classrooms for the first time since mid-March when schools closed because of the coronavirus pandemic. The plan assumes Phase Three of Virginia’s reopening plan is still in effect. Families must pick an option by July 10. Regardless of the choice, the first day of school has been moved from Aug. 27 to Sept. 8, to provide additional professional development and planning time for teachers. In the weeks since Superintendent Eric Williams announced plans for the two-day-a week option, community members have voiced opinions and concerns. Some worried maintaining Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for social distancing in a school setting would be impossible, or at least impractical. Others urged the district to follow recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics, which includes having all students in classrooms. While only 10 students and one teacher would fit in a typical elementary school classroom while maintaining 6 feet of social distancing, the district could add a few more desks, if additional steps are taken to lessen risk of spreading the coronavirus. In the 100% distance learning option, Williams and teachers said the online education experience would be much better than last year’s, with more live teaching. Last year, in the quickly-put-together emergency plans, a large portion of the students’ work was done on their own. The school system will hold an electronic town hall meeting on July 8 to explain the hybrid options to parents and answer questions.
Just over 58,000 new unemployment insurance claims were filed in the DMV for the week ending June 27, a drop of about 3,000 from the week before. An additional 1.43 million Americans filed new unemployment insurance claims last week, bringing the total number of new claims since mid-March to 49.0 million. While last week’s claims totaled 55,000 fewer than the week before, they represent the 15th 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 Maryland last week compared to the week before, more than 7,750 more people filed for unemployment in Virginia. D.C. reported 3,026 new claims, down 47 from a week earlier. Maryland had 29,929 new claims, down 10,620 from the prior week. And Virginians filed 33,062 new jobless claims, up 7,769 from the prior week.
If you are heading for the beach this Fourth of July holiday weekend, officials are warning you to go at your own risk. Big crowds are expected at beaches this coming weekend, leading to concerns of a possible spike in coronavirus cases. The July Fourth weekend usually draws a large number of people to Ocean City, and officials expect this year to be no different, despite the COVID-19 pandemic. “There is certainly concern,” said Jessica Waters, Ocean City’s acting tourism director, noting that “beach destinations across the country are noticing spikes.” The city’s annual music and fireworks shows have been canceled to stop people from gathering in large crowds. Masks are not required outdoors in Maryland, so Waters said it is a “go at your own risk” situation for people who choose to be among crowds. “Visitors have to decide what they’re comfortable with,” Waters added. Although she urged everyone to wear a mask, public health officials recommend staying home if you are sick and taking all other precautions. “If you’re coming to the beach this weekend, really make sure that you are taking personal responsibility,” Waters added. Over Memorial Day weekend, photos on social media showed large crowds on the Ocean City boardwalk with most people not wearing masks. Waters said those photos only showed one area and did not represent the entire town. “We’ve really seen great compliance so far,” Waters said, referring to mask-wearing and social distancing. The potential surge in cases has already hit Delaware as state public health officials said there has been a surge of cases at beaches over the past week. As of Wednesday, Rehoboth Beach requires anyone older than 12 to wear face coverings in all public spaces, including sidewalks, streets, parks, the boardwalk and beach, but not while in the water. Some restaurants at both Rehoboth and Dewey beaches decided to close as a result, and both towns have canceled their fireworks as well. Delaware Gov. John Carney ordered all bars closed again in eastern Sussex County, including Lewes, Rehoboth, Dewy, Bethany Beach, South Bethany, Fenwick Island, West Fenwick, Ocean View and Millville to limit the spread of COVID-19 in the state’s beach communities. Three Rehoboth Beach lifeguards also tested positive for COVID-19. “All lifeguards were notified of the exposure and will be tested within the next 24 hours,” Rehoboth police Chief Keith Banks said in a statement. “We believe at this time there was very little contact with the public.”
A group of teens from Loudoun County contracted COVID-19 after attending senior week in Myrtle Beach, S.C. “Beginning last week, we saw an increase in adolescents” testing positive for COVID-19, county health director Dr. David Goodfriend told WTOP, adding that the doctor of one of the patients tipped officials off to the possibility that the Myrtle Beach trip was a factor. “We have about 100 folks who recently went down to Myrtle Beach as part of a high school age-related trip,” though it wasn’t an official school trip, Goodfriend said, “who we know have come back positive as a result of that trip.” He said there has also been an outbreak of the virus in Myrtle Beach. “If you were part of this trip, consider that you may have been infected,” he warned. If you have symptoms, consider getting tested, he said; if you don’t, but you have been within 6 feet of any of these patients for 10 minutes, you should stay home. “Stay home; isolate. If you’re a close contact of those individuals, quarantine at home,” Goodfriend said. “Let’s keep this an isolated, though large, outbreak.” In the last week, Loudoun County has seen a significant increase in positive coronavirus tests among people between the ages of 10 and 19, and 20 and 29. According to a news release on Monday, 150 people between ages 16 and 18 tested positive for the coronavirus last week, and more than half of the county’s positive cases in that time period were people 29 or younger. “This age group tends to be at lower risk of serious complications,” Goodfriend said, adding he isn’t aware of any of the young patients having been hospitalized. “The greater risk,” he said, “is that when they get home, they pass it on to family members who are at increased risk.”
This year’s “Salute to America” on the National Mall will include flight demonstrations, including the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds and the U.S. Navy Blue Angels, and a “monumental” firework display. The Department of the Interior and the National Park Service released the details on Wednesday. President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump will host a celebration on the South Lawn of the White House and the Ellipse that will be live streamed, but details on who is invited or how the general public can attend were not revealed. A press release did say that he National Mall and surrounding areas will remain open and available to the general public for viewing of both the flyovers and fireworks, although D.C. currently prohibits gatherings of more than 50 people under its Phase Two guidelines. Interior Secretary David Bernhardt said the fireworks display will be “the largest in recent memory” with more than 10,000 fireworks. Flyovers that feature aircraft from WWII time period to the future warfare era. Garden State Fireworks and Fireworks by Grucci will proved the pyrotechnics, which will be launched from the area between the Inlet Bridge at the south end of West Potomac Park to north of the Lincoln Memorial, as well as on the grounds of the Washington Monument. The show will be approximately 35 minutes long. Military flyovers will occur between 6:45-8 p.m. followed by the fireworks beginning at 9:07 p.m. The Interior Department said there will be more than 100 hand washing stations located on the Mall and 300,000 cloth face coverings will be available. The Mall from 17th Street NW to the Lincoln Memorial and between Constitution Avenue NW and Independence Avenue SW will be fenced off with access and screening beginning at 1 p.m. at Constitution Avenue NW at 20th Street NW, Constitution Avenue NW between 23 Street NW and Henry Bacon Drive NW, 17th Street NW near the World War II Memorial and East Basin Drive south of the Jefferson Memorial.
D.C. Public Schools teachers are unhappy with preliminary plans to reopen schools in the fall, arguing school officials have not adequately addressed health and safety concerns. In an email sent Tuesday night, school officials told teachers that classes will include a mix of in-person and virtual instruction. Teachers were asked to fill out a form indicating their plans for next school year and could choose between teaching in-person or taking a leave of absence because they are at high risk of contracting the coronavirus or live with someone who is. “I was disappointed to learn that DCPS has sent teachers ‘Return to Work Guidance,’ prior to providing a fully developed plan for how we safely and effectively resume instruction in the fall,” said Elizabeth Davis, president of the Washington Teachers’ Union, in a statement. “DCPS has decided to move forward without engaging the union, our members or the community in a meaningful dialogue about what education in our public schools will look like in the fall.” The union has advised teachers to withhold telling the district if they plan to return to work until officials provide more details about reopening. It is also urging DCPS to allow teachers who do not feel safe returning to classrooms to continue teaching remotely. It is unclear if signing the form would bind teachers to one decision or the other. School officials said they plan on releasing more information about returning to in-person learning in coming weeks and will use feedback from the form, which must be signed by July 10, to finalize decisions. Chancellor Lewis D. Ferebee said in a statement that the school system has surveyed teachers, students and staff about their preferences for reopening, and will “continue to gather critical feedback from our entire community.” School districts across the country are grappling with plans for the fall. In Fairfax County Public Schools, families can choose an online-only learning option or have students split time between in-person and virtual instruction. The American Academy of Pediatrics earlier this week recommended holding in-person classes in the fall. Remote learning, the academy said, will likely result in severe learning loss and social isolation that can lead to serious emotional and health issues for students. But teachers have increasingly signaled they are worried about contracting COVID-19. In its email to teachers, DCPS outlined safety precautions it plans to take when schools reopen, including providing face masks, hand sanitizer and cleaning supplies. Social distancing measures would be put in place, including limiting the number of students in a class and separating students’ desks. But teachers say it would be hard to keep younger students six-feet apart or prevent them from moving around. A report by the union given to disctict officials included several recommendations, including staggering school start times so fewer students are clustered together at one time.
A Virginia Circuit Court judge on Monday upheld the commonwealth’s “mask or face covering requirement” in a legal challenge brought by a Fauquier County winery owner. “Wearing a mask is such an easy, effective way to help control the spread of COVID and to show your fellow Virginians that you care about the health and well-being of your friends, neighbors and community,” Attorney General Mark Herring said in a statement Tuesday. Philip Carter Strother filed the lawsuit on behalf of Philip Carter Winery, challenging Gov. Ralph Northam’s ability to order the use of face coverings, and claiming the order conflicted with the criminal statute barring the wearing of a mask in public “with the intent to conceal his identity.” Strother sought an injunction to opt out of the mask law at his winery. But Judge Jeanette Irby of the 12th Judicial Circuit denied the request. Irby ruled that the governor’s powers “do not preclude him from issuing orders requiring face coverings, and in fact, VA CODE ANN 182.3-422 explicitly anticipates such an event.” She also found that there “is no conflict between the criminal code and the executive order” because the executive order provides a specific purpose for the mask — “facilitating the protection of one’s personal health” — that makes the mask law inapplicable.
As Virginia enters Phase Three of its reopening plan today, bar seating in restaurants will remain off limits. Gov. Ralph Northam announced the last-minute change on Tuesday. “I am watching what is happening in other states — we are taking a cautious approach as we enter Phase Three and maintaining the current restrictions on bar areas,” Northam said in a press release. “In Virginia, our hospitalization rates have fallen, our percentage of positive tests continues to trend downward, and we are conducting more than 10,000 tests each day. We want these trends to continue, but if our public health metrics begin moving in the wrong direction, I will not hesitate to take action to protect the health and safety of our communities.” Leaders in the region reacted with caution as Virginia prepared to lift caps on restaurants and non-essential retail, and ease other restrictions. Fairfax County Supervisor James Walkinshaw wrote to Northam earlier Tuesday, urging the governor to reconsider allowing bars to operate at full capacity. “If @GovernorVA thinks people will stay six feet apart after a few drinks at the bar, I’ll take him on a Fairfax County bar crawl Friday night. If people are six feet apart, I’ll buy him all the Virginia bourbon he can drink,” Walkinshaw tweeted. Eric Terry, president of the Virginia Restaurant, Lodging and Travel Association, lamented the late notice. “We are disappointed in this last-minute change by the governor. Our restaurants have spent significant amounts to prepare for bars opening and six hours before we pull the rug out,” Terry wrote. In Phase Three, capacity limits are lifted for non-essential retail and restaurants, although social distancing is still required. The maximum gathering size jumps to 250 people.
One day before “summer camp” was scheduled to begin, the Washington Nationals were granted a waiver from the D.C. government to practice and play games at Nationals Park. The World Series champions submitted their request for a waiver early last week when Major League Baseball and the players’ union reached an agreement to play the 2020 season, with a modified “summer camp,” to resume today. “I think that we will be approving their waiver today,” Mayor Muriel Bowser said during a news conference Tuesday “We will waive them for training and games, no spectators.” The team was required to apply for a waiver based on Bowser’s order that temporarily shuttered nonessential businesses to stem the spread of the coronavirus. In Phase Two of reopening, which the city is currently in, gatherings are limited to 50 or fewer people. “The initial waiver was for training, then of course MLB announcing that games would resume,” said Christopher Rodriguez, director of the city’s Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency. “We had discussions with the Nationals on what that would look like: no fans, no spectators So they submitted plans that we approved to have the games.” The 2020 regular season is scheduled for 60 games over 66 days, with the Nationals reportedly hosting the New York Yankees on Opening Day, July 23. Under terms of the agreement struck between MLB and the players’ union, rosters are to start with 30 player then be reduced to 28 two weeks after Opening Day and to 26 for the remainder of the season. Each team will have a pool of up to 60 players to form their rosters. Health concerns caused Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman and pitcher Joe Ross to opt out of playing this season. The season also will be played without fans at all stadiums out of an abundance of caution, particularly with reported cases surging across the country since Memorial Day.
Minor League Baseball has been officially canceled for this year because of the coronavirus pandemic. The announcement had been expected, but it was made official Tuesday. The High Class-A Frederick Keys and Fredericksburg Nationals plus the Double-A Bowie Baysox all said they were disappointed the season wouldn’t happen. “We are aware that our community shares our disappointment in learning that there will be no Bowie Baysox Baseball games this season,” said general manager Brian Shallcross. “We now turn our focus to the 2021 season and the hopes of playing a full season next year.” Minor league teams rely on fans in the stadiums, ticket sales and concessions, which were highly unlikely options this year. Lucrative TV contracts would not save them like other major sports. This year was set to mark a transition for area teams. It was supposed to be the first season in Fredericksburg for the Nationals. And the Frederick Keys appeared on a list of teams slated to be cut from MLB affiliation as part of a minor-league reorganization next year. MiLB players will be allowed to play in other independent baseball leagues. “These are unprecedented times for our country and our organization as this is the first time in our history that we’ve had a summer without Minor League Baseball played,” said president Pat O’Conner in a statement. “While this is a sad day for many, this announcement removes the uncertainty surrounding the 2020 season and allows our teams to begin planning for an exciting 2021 season of affordable family entertainment.” Minor League Baseball, which began as the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues, was founded in 1901. Officials said ticketholders will be contacted soon about refunds.
AMC Theaters, the nation’s largest movie theater chain, and Regal Cinemas pushed back plans to begin reopening by two weeks to July 30 and July 31, respectively, with Christopher Nolan’s Tenet release getting bumped back to Aug. 12 by Warner Bros. Pictures and Disney’s Mulan getting pushed to Aug. 21. AMC said Monday that it would open approximately 450 U.S. locations on July 30 and its remaining 150 theaters the following week. The company had planned to begin opening theaters in mid-July. AMC CEO and President Adam Aron said that its general managers across the U.S. started working full time Monday to get their buildings ready to reopen. “We continue to devote extraordinary resources into our plan to operate our theatres with a hyper commitment to the safety and health of our guests and associates,” Aron said in a statement. Regal was slated to begin reopening theaters on July 10. “We know audiences are ready to return to the movies and have been anticipating the strong slate of summer films ahead,” said Mooky Greidinger, CEO of Cineworld, Regal’s parent company. “We are excited to welcome theatergoers back to our cinemas and are confident that they will once again be immersed in the timeless theatrical experience they know and love.” Most indoor theaters have been closed since mid-March because of the coronavirus. But both independent locations and major chains are readying to reopen within the next month. However, plans could change given the surge of cases in a number of states.
D.C.’s Diner en Blanc — the pop-up, mystery-shrouded picnic whose attendees may only wear white — will take a break this year and celebrate from home. Over the last six years, the party has taken over Yards Park, Pennsylvania Avenue, the grounds of the Carnegie Library, Henry Bacon Park near the Lincoln Memorial and even Nats Park. Bryer Davis, one of the organizers of this year’s picnic, broke the news to “team leaders” in a message Monday. “We’re all incredibly bummed and sad to not be able to celebrate it this year,” Davis told WTOP. “I think the toll a lot of us are feeling [from the coronavirus] is the (lack) of relationships and spending time with family and friends. So to not have this to look forward to at the end of the summer to round out what are a great couple of months of reconnecting with people, it’s just a huge bummer.” Davis estimated that about 5,000 revelers celebrated D.C.’s edition last year. Diner en Blanc started in Paris and is celebrated in big cities all over the world, all summer long. Last year, the event took over a section of Pennsylvania Avenue just east of the White House, close to the Trump Hotel and Freedom Plaza. This year’s event, at a yet-to-be disclosed location, was scheduled for Aug. 22. Davis said Dinner en Blanc is not an event that can be easily recalibrated for social distancing. It is designed to bring strangers together. “The whole concept is to sit next to strangers and share a meal, and leave after you’ve done that as new friends,” she said. What will happen in 2021 is still up in the air. “When you have an open field like Henry Bacon Park, you obviously have much more room and you can spread out. So it’s something we’ll be thinking … about the 2021 venue.” Davis and other organizers are still finalizing plans for a virtual version, which they hope to announce some time this summer. “Having a lapse in a year of celebrating will make the next year even more electric,” she said, “because the energy is just so incredible in the crowd and the excitement in the days leading up to it on social media and then that night is so great.”
Independence Day will look different in the DMV this year. Many of the region’s annual July 4th celebrations have been canceled due to limits on mass gatherings that remain in place. Last week, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser urged people to celebrate at home by watching fireworks in small, socially-distanced groups and not on the National Mall. While most larger celebrations have been canceled or replaced with virtual programming, there are still a few fireworks shows. Among the events canceled in D.C. are the National Independence Day Parade along the National Mall; PBS’ annual A Capitol Fourth concert will not be held live on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol grounds, but instead a pre-recorded show will be broadcast on PBS; the National Archives will not host its traditional reading of the Declaration of Independence, but will host a virtual celebration instead; the NoMa Bid’s annual July 4th Bash has been canceled; and the Capitol Hill neighborhood’s annual Eighth Street parade will be replaced by short videos from organizations that typically participate. In Maryland, Montgomery County has canceled its Fourth of July Celebrations, Germantown Glory and Mid-County Sparkles; Annapolis canceled its fireworks and parade; Baltimore canceled its fireworks; Rockville’s Independence Day celebration has been canceled; and Laurel canceled its in-concert and fireworks, but is replacing them with virtual events. Finally in Virginia, Fairfax City’s annual Independence Day parade through downtown has been canceled and replaced with a Hometown Wave parade through local neighborhoods; Alexandria’s 271st birthday and Fourth of July celebration has been canceled along with fireworks in Falls Church, Great Falls, Manassas, McLean, Vienna and Reston. President Donald Trump’s Salute to America will take place at the White House with a fireworks display over the National Mall. An American Celebration at Mount Vernon will also go on, but at with limited capacity and with social distancing measures. And in Arlington, there will be a parade in Lyon Village and a bike parade in Waycroft-Woodlawn.
Washington Nationals’ first baseman Ryan Zimmerman and pitcher Joe Ross will sit this season out due to the coronavirus pandemic. Zimmerman announced Monday he won’t be participating in the 60-game MLB season. Zimmerman is the longest standing member of the Nationals roster. He was drafted by the team in 2005, the same year the franchise relocated to D.C. from Montreal. “After a great deal of thought and given my family circumstances – three young children, including a newborn, and a mother at high risk – I’ve decided not to participate in the 2020 season,” Zimmerman said in a statement. “Everyone knows how much it means to me to be part of a team, and I will miss that camaraderie dearly this year. Of course I would love to pursue back-to-back titles. I cannot speak for anyone else, but given the unusual nature of the season, this is the best decision for me and my family, and I truly appreciate the organization’s understanding and support. To be clear, I am not retiring at this time. I have not decided on my future in baseball past 2020. But this year, I’ll be staying safe at home and pulling as hard as anyone for the guys to defend our championship.” His mother has multiple sclerosis. Nationals General Manager Mike Rizzo said the franchise stands by the two players’ decision. “We are 100% supportive of their decision to not play this year. We will miss their presence in the clubhouse and their contributions on the field,” he said in a statement released by the team. Players have the option to opt out of the 2020, but they will only receive their prorated salary if they are considered at high risk of COVID-19. Neither will receive his salary or service time. The defending World Series champs will start workouts later this week in advance of Opening Day against the New York Yankees on July 23. No fans will be allowed into Nationals Park for the games.
Teachers in the Fairfax County Public Schools said last week they won’t teach in-person next year, until district officials revise their strategy. Fairfax Superintendent Scott Brabrand announced a hybrid learning program in an email to parents Wednesday. Under the plan, families will be able to choose between 100% virtual learning or part-time in-person classes. In the first option, students would receive “virtual, interactive instruction” four days each week, without ever stepping inside a school; under the second, students would attend schools for face-to-face learning at least twice a week. Brabrand said families and teachers must choose by July 10. But the Fairfax County Federation of Teachers, the Fairfax Education Association and the Association of Fairfax Profession Educator, which represent teachers, issued a joint statement saying the plans for face-to-face teaching imperil teachers’ health and that officials failed to provide sufficient time for families and staff to make their decisions. The three groups are asking members to select the distance-learning option until administrators work with association leadership to develop more detailed plans that better prioritize the safety and well-being of students and staff. “Our educators are overwhelmingly not comfortable returning to schools,” said Tina Williams, president of the Fairfax County Federation of Teachers. “They fear for their lives, the lives of their students and the lives of their families.” Lucy Caldwell, a school district spokesperson, said the school district is sticking with its July 10 deadline and noted that teacher associations participated in the back-to-school planning process. She wrote in an email that the plan provides teachers and families with a choice, as many had requested in recent weeks via surveys. The “health and safety of all staff and students” remains the administrators’ primary concern, she wrote. “Scheduling in a NORMAL year is a complex task. This hybrid plan will be even more complex. Flexibility and patience will be required by all of us.” Kimberly Adams, president of the Fairfax Education Association, said her group doesn’t think teachers should return to work until a vaccine or treatment becomes widely available. She said all school staff members must be allowed to teach virtually for as long as they feel is necessary. Becca Ferrick, president of the Association of Fairfax Professional Educators, took issue with the July 10 deadline, which she called “arbitrary” and “absolutely unacceptable.” The superintendent’s brief email, she said, offered almost no details about how in-person and virtual learning would take place, nor how those offerings would compare. Among questions she has are: Will teachers working virtually and at school be required to teach the same curriculum, at the same pace? How will teachers’ possible medical conditions be factored into their application to work full-time from home, if at all? “Asking our employees to make such an uninformed decision is akin to asking them to sign a blank check,” Ferrick said. “We will not do that.”
D.C.’s pilot “streatery” along 18th Street in Adams Morgan was popular over the weekend. Photos posted on social media showed crowds on Friday and Saturday night, with not much social distancing or mask-wearing at times. Morning and afternoon crowds were thinner. But some businesses and patrons praised the pilot program and want to see it continue. Dave Delaplaine, general manager of Roofer’s Union, told WAMU the 10 extra tables they set up were great for the business and a chance to bring back more staff. But he said it was challenging to adapt to a new concept on the fly. “Structurally, we’re suddenly serving a space that is not set up … we don’t have handhelds [point of sale systems] or anything, so we’re having to figure out,” Delaplaine said. “We’re running in, running out, doing all that troubleshooting. [We wanted] to serve our guests and make sure they still have a great experience, but at the same time, putting safety first and trying to be efficient with it.” He said it felt much safer to be serving people outside, rather than indoors. The D.C. Department of Transportation used barriers and vehicles to block off the street between Columbia Road and Kalorama Road, allowing restaurants to put tables in the streets. Concrete barriers, which people often used as seats, blocked off the middle part of the road so emergency vehicles could travel through the area if necessary. The roads were reopened at 11 p.m. Under the city’s Phase Two guidelines, bars and restaurants that serve alcohol must close by midnight. There were still people out when vehicles began using the street. “The past weekend was a beautiful one to see Washingtonians enjoying more space to dine, shop and socialize with neighbors and friends,” DDOT said in a statement. Officials said they will work with merchants in Adams Morgan to make any needed adjustments. John Falcicchio, interim Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development, said two things were on his radar: “Everyone needs to wear a mask to protect others, and to go alcohol should not be for public consumption.” But others on social media weren’t sold on the idea. “Even with masks, large gatherings are not a good idea,” one said. Another said the street was a “petri dish” with few masks, lax social distancing and crowds. One commenter said, “Seems like everyone is trying to get back to ‘normal’ without realizing that there’s a new normal.”
Events D.C., the city’s convention and sports authority, and Broccoli City are partnering to bring a pop-up drive-in movie theater to the RFK Campus this summer. Broccoli City, a Black-owned non-profit, approached Events D.C., which manages the RFK site, after the Broccoli City Festival was cancelled this year due to the coronavirus pandemic. Details are still being worked out among Broccoli City, Events DC and the city, but information on when it will start, prices and movies should be released later this week. On Saturday, The D.C. Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency approved Events D.C.’s request for a waiver to operate the pop-up as a non-essential business during the coronavirus pandemic. According to HSEMA’s letter of approval, which was addressed to Michael Cerha, vice president of the RFK Stadium-Armory Campus, the drive-in can hold up to 350 socially distanced vehicles. The waiver also stipulates that guests will need to remain inside their cars, and Events D.C. will be responsible for recording the names and contact information of guests and staff at each event for contact tracing purposes. According to HSEMA Director Christopher Rodriguez, the RFK pop-up is planned to take place in a parking lot on the stadium’s campus. Guests will pre-order tickets online to decrease person-to-person contact, and food and drink may be ordered and served car-side by staff members wearing masks and other protective gear. Bathrooms will also be monitored for social distancing. “We want to make sure that District residents are able to get out a little bit as we move into Phase Two, but obviously do in a way that conforms to very strict public health guidelines,” said Rodriguez. “This is a dial. As we slowly reopen, we are doing so in a very careful and deliberate way. If there is ever a time that we see the public health trends not going in the right direction, we would dial back, so we have to monitor continuously.” Last week, a pop-up drive-in opened in Tysons Corner, and another is slated to start four weeks of screenings in July at the Capitol One Center in McLean. Columbia Pike is also hosting a retro-themed drive-in movie series at the Arlington Career Center, as is Ballston’s Business Improvement District. HSEMA also approved plans for the drive-in movie screenings to return to Union Market for the summer. The Washington Nationals are still awaiting HSEMA’s approval to return to Nats Park for summer camp later this week.
Broadway’s 41 theaters will remain dark until at least Jan. 3. The Broadway League, which represents theater owners and producers, made the announcement on Monday. Broadway’s marquees have been dark since March 12, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit New York City hard. Although some productions including revivals of Neil Simon’s Plaza Suite with Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick, and The Music Man with Hugh Jackman and Sutton Foster have been announced for April and May 2021 openings, few details have been made available about safety precautions. In May, Actors’ Equity, the union for 51,000 professional actors and stage managers, said it is advising its members not to return to the stage until its own health and safety guidelines are met. “The Broadway experience can be deeply personal but it is also, crucially, communal,” Thomas Schumacher, president and producer of Disney Theatrical Productions and chairman of the Broadway League, said in a statement. “The alchemy of 1,000 strangers bonding into a single audience, fueling each performer on stage and behind the scenes, will be possible again when Broadway theaters can safely host full houses.” The reference to safely hosting “full houses” indicates the current thinking on Broadway, that social distancing measures reducing the number of patrons is probably not conducive to economic success. Commercial productions in 1,000- to 2,000-seat theaters usually need to sell 90% of their tickets to be profitable. The league has assembled several task forces to work out pandemic-related issues, including how to coordinate with city, state and federal officials over the health protocols for reopening. A Washington lobbyist has been retained by the league to act on Broadway’s behalf with the federal government.
Hours at D.C. Public Library branches will likely be come fall due to budget cuts prompted by the coronavirus’s economic fallout and new cleaning protocols. Library officials say they aren’t certain what the new hours may be, but said hours will need to be cut beginning Oct. 1 when fiscal year 2021 starts. That could include cutting operating hours from 12 per day to eight and possibly closing on Sundays. Also, some small libraries, where social distancing would be hard to maintain, would close altogether. “While we expect to operate differently in [fiscal year 2021] due to the pandemic, we will continue to ensure D.C. residents across all eight wards have access to library programs and services,” said executive director Richard Reyes-Gavilan in an email. While Mayor Muriel Bowser axed than $700 million from her proposed 2021 budget because of the economic slowdown, she included a slight increase for the library system. But it is not enough to maintain hours at neighborhood libraries and reopen the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library, which is nearing completion of a $211 million remodel and expected to be completed this fall. But cuts are even more likely because of how library operations are expected to change do to the pandemic. A phased reopening of neighborhood libraries began Monday with no more than 50 people per 1,000 square feet of space and no more than 50% capacity. Once the city reaches Phase Three of reopening, the number of people allowed inside will increase. But as reopening proceeds, Reyes-Gavilan told the D.C. Council earlier this month that staff responsibilities are expected to change in order to address the need for more consistent cleaning and sanitizing of public spaces. “The pandemic creates challenges that we are still just beginning to understand. We know there will be new staffing and operational needs related to safety and sanitation. Staff will need to take on new responsibilities, serving as greeters, ensuring all visitors wear masks, monitoring social distancing within public areas and performing regular cleaning and sanitation of high-touch areas throughout the work day. Furthermore, traditional work such as collection maintenance will take longer as staff have been instructed to quarantine books for 72 hours prior to processing them,” he said. The last time D.C. had to cut operating hours at neighborhood libraries was during the Great Recession, although the MLK Library kept some Sunday hours. Sunday hours and longer weekday hours didn’t returned to all libraries until 2013.
After months without professional sports due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Washington Spirit women’s soccer team returned to action Saturday night with a 2-1 win in the National Women’s Soccer League. The Spirit defeated the Chicago Red Stars in a preliminary match of the NWSL Challenge Cup. The 23-game tournament is being played at Zions Bank Stadium in Herriman, Utah, without fans, but the TV broadcasts have pre-recorded crowd noise. The Spirit take on the two-time defending champion North Carolina Courage on Wednesday. The tournament is expected to be the only play the NWSL will see this year. Eight of the league’s nine teams are participating. The Orlando Pride withdrew last week after six players and four staff tested positive for COVID-19. Prior to the match, Spirit head coach Richie Burke pledged that he would kneel during the national anthem to “recognize the struggle of players, friends, teammates and former opponents have had with racism.” During warmups, all the players on both teams wore “Black Lives Matter” shirts and most joined Burke in kneeling. The NWSL is the first U.S. professional sports league to restart play. The defending champion Washington Mystics will begin their season at the end of July in Bradenton, Fla. The Washington Wizards will begin next month in Orlando. The Washington Capitals are also expected to play in a round-robin style tournament to determine the Stanley Cup champion in July. The Washington Nationals will play their opening game against the New York Yankees at Nationals Park on July 23 or 24 if the city approves a waiver for the team so it can exceed the mass gathering limit imposed in Phase 2. The 2020 MLB season will have 60 games with playoffs in October, barring a spike in coronavirus cases.
Metro will ramp up service on the Fourth of July to accommodate the fireworks display on the National Mall. Although Metro said it expects crowds to be lighter this year than in past years, it will increase train frequency starting around 4 p.m. on July 4. Trains will run after 9 p.m. at stations near the National Mall. The Arlington Cemetery station remains closed. At the end of the ceremony, stations close to the National Mall, including L’Enfant Plaza, Smithsonian, Federal Triangle, Metro Center, McPherson Square, Farragut West, Foggy Bottom, Rosslyn, Farragut North and Gallery Place, will be open for “entry only” for 30 minutes. In April, President Donald Trump said that he still wanted to go ahead with an Independence Day celebration on the National Mall despite the risks associated with the coronavirus. A White House spokesperson said the “Salute to Freedom” will be pared down compared to last year’s event. The music portion of the Fourth of July celebration will be recorded, but the fireworks will be live, according to PBS, which produces the A Capitol Fourth special. After 9 p.m. on Independence Day, other stations will stay open in “exit-only” mode until all passengers are out of the system, Metro said in the news release. Nine westbound Silver and Orange line stations beginning with East Falls Church are closed and will be served by shuttle buses from Ballston station.
The Maryland Department of Health ordered a Greenbelt laboratory that had been processing coronavirus specimens collected at pop-up clinics to cease collecting and processing COVID-19 specimens operations, saying the facility is not certified. Maryland Health Secretary Robert R. Neall issued an order Saturday requiring Advanced Pain Medicine Institute to immediately stop all collection and processing of coronavirus tests. The department issued the order after it received a complaint about test sites operated in conjunction with the lab, the state said in a news release. An investigation determined the lab did not have the proper certification to perform coronavirus tests. It also found some patients had problems obtaining their test results. According to the state, the lab conducted coronavirus testing at several sites, including Church of Philippi in Hanover on June 6; Southern Baptist Church in Baltimore on June 13; and Bilingual Christian Church in Baltimore, on June 16. The state advised anyone who was tested at any of the events that the results may be erroneous and encouraged them to get retested. Anyone with symptoms should seek medical treatment, the state said. The state also suspended Advanced Pain Medicine Institute’s license to operate a medical lab and perform any lab testing. “The Maryland Department of Health’s primary concern is the health and safety of Marylanders,” Neall said in the statement. “Until Advanced Pain Medicine Institute demonstrates that it is in full compliance with the Code of Maryland Regulations, it must cease all COVID-19 specimen collection and processing.” The state’s order requires the lab to inform everyone it tested about the possibility their test results might be wrong and to provide information about everyone it tested to the state. Dr. Reza Ghorbani, president and medical director of Advanced Pain Medicine Institute, told the Washington Post on Sunday he has tested about 1,000 people in a partnership with the state’s Korean community and churches serving immigrants and minorities in Baltimore City and Howard and Anne Arundel counties. Minority communities like those targeted by Ghorbani’s testing have been especially hard hit. Ghorbani has practiced in the DMV since 2007, according to the clinic’s website. Even though Ghorbani’s background is in pain treatment, he said that when he saw how people were struggling to get access to tests as the coronavirus spread, he thought he could use his lab to help. A Korean community group that was concerned that Asian Americans were not getting tested contacted Ghorbani, and they began working together to hold the pop-up clinics at churches earlier this month. The community group managed the logistics on the ground, while Ghorbani said he provided the tests and processing. The state’s order was issued as the group was about to start a testing clinic outside Bethel Korean Presbyterian Church in Ellicott City on Saturday. The Howard County Health Department allowed the clinic to use 250 of its tests, which will be processed by LabCorp, a county spokeswoman said Sunday. But a spokesman for the Korean group, said that Ghorbani provided more tests and that some people had to be turned away. Ghorbani acknowledged that some people might have had trouble getting their results, as the state said, but attributed that to handwritten records that were hard to read or patients who were unwilling to share identifying information. “Human error. It happens once in a while. Nothing’s 100%,” Ghorbani said. He also said he had been submitting his test results to the state and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “They have all that information.” Ghorbani said the lab is certified under the federal laboratory law, which a CDC database reflects. But in the Maryland order, Neall wrote that it was stopping the lab’s activities because of concerns about potentially unvalidated tests and “the lack of a laboratory medical director.”
The positivity rate of COVID-19 in people younger than 35 years old in Maryland is 34% higher than the rate in people 35 and older. On Friday, Gov. Larry Hogan said in a press release that key metrics continue to drop in the state, but he noted the positivity rate in younger residents to emphasize that people must stay alert. “While we are unfortunately seeing rising case numbers in states across the country, here in Maryland, all of the key health metrics continue to trend in a very positive direction,” Hogan said. “But the fight against this virus is far from over. The positivity rate among Marylanders under the age of 35 (6.15%) is now 34% higher than the rate among those 35 and older (4.58%). We simply cannot afford to stop being vigilant and cautious. Our long-term recovery can only be effective if all Marylanders continue exercising personal responsibility.” Statewide, the seven-day average positivity rate has dropped to a new low of 4.92%. Montgomery County’s positivity rate is ow 6.75% and Prince George’s County’s rate is 7.88%. Maryland has conducted more than 600,000 COVID-19 tests, including more than 9,000 tests on Thursday, the governor’s office said. Hospitalizations are below 500 for the first time in 12 weeks, with 297 acute care beds and 190 ICU beds in use.