MCPS Will Bring Students Back in Phases
COVID-19 Cases Reach 153,050 in D.C., Md. and Va.
As of yesterday morning, 10,801 people have tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, in D.C. with 568 deaths; there have been 72,467 cases in Maryland with 3,179 deaths; and in Virginia there have been 69,782 cases with 1,962 deaths. Social distancing is recommended to help control its spread. You can read last week’s updates here.
Montgomery County Public School schools will start the 2020-21 school year entirely online, bringing students and staff back to the classroom in phases by grade level, last name and school cluster. Superintendent Jack Smith announced the plan in a letter to the community on Saturday. Class sizes would be sharply reduced, with an aim to have all grade levels experiencing some in-person learning by the end of November. Students in special education programs, pre-K, kindergarten, sixth and ninth grades would be the first to return. Phases will last two to four weeks depending on the grade level during the first four months of the school year. The plan also calls for a blend of remote learning and two days a week of classroom time, with all schools closed on Wednesdays for deep cleaning. “Our goal is to provide high-quality instruction and learning experiences for all MCPS students, whether in-person or virtually,” Smith said. School bus capacity would shrink from 77 passengers to 12 passengers, which complies with CDC social distancing guidelines, and will be prioritized for elementary and middle school students. Smith said the district, one of the DMV’s largest, would continue to “work diligently on plans for the fall that are focused on enhancing virtual learning and bringing back as many students as possible for in-person instruction on a consistent basis.” Gov. Larry Hogan and State Superintendent of Schools Karen Salmon would “ultimately” make the decision to reopen school buildings for some or all students, according to Smith. “We are also working closely with our local officials, who are providing additional support and guidance on what the reopening of MCPS schools could possibly look like given current health conditions in our county and state,” Smith said. His letter stated the plan is only a draft and will continue to be amended and adjusted following feedback from parents, staff and students. “We know all of the options we consider must be examined through the lens of equity and excellence, and ensure the health and safety of our 166,000 students and 24,000 staff members,” he said. The school board meets at 12:30 p.m. this Tuesday, when it will discuss the “preliminary recovery plans.”
Nine of 185 University of Maryland student-athletes tested positive for COVID-19, forcing the football team to suspend summer workouts. The positive tests were confirmed after athletes and staff were tested July 7 and 8, according to a news release. The university does not release the names of athletes who test positive, so it is not clear if the cases involved football payers or were from other sports. Some athletes from men’s and women’s basketball, volleyball, men’s and women’s soccer and field hockey are scheduled to beging voluntary individual workouts Monday and were included in the testing. Those who tested positive were notified and placed in self-isolation, monitored by university health officials. Under guidance from the Prince George’s County Health Department, UMD suspended its individual workouts for the football program. A return date for workouts was not announced in the statement. Maryland’s athletic department began allowing football players to return to campus for medical screenings on June 8 and started individual workouts on June 15 as part of a Phase 1 opening. The workouts were voluntary, and players did not have to be on campus. Players can opt-out of any future workouts, practices or games during the upcoming season, and their scholarship status would not be affected. In a June 26 news release, the university’s athletic department said 105 individuals were tested, and none tested positive. UMD’s positive results come after the Big Ten Conference said all fall sports for the upcoming season would compete in a conference-only schedule. Sports affected include men’s and women’s cross country, field hockey, football, men’s and women’s soccer, and women’s volleyball.
Two popular Ocean City bar and restaurants have closed until further notice after employees tested positive for COVID-19. In a Facebook post early Saturday morning, Fish Tales Bar & Grill said three employees tested positive and management closed the restaurant. It previously made national headlines for tables made out of inflatable inner tubes that customers could stand in and ensure they were 6 feet from from others. “We believe that we have set a positive example in our community following this pandemic thus far,” the restaurant said in the Facebook post. “We are eager to continue down this path by doing the right thing for our staff and customers. We will be meeting with health officials to go over the safest procedures to make sure all of our staff has been tested and cleared to work.” The business also thanked their staff and customers for being supportive of the restaurant during the pandemic. “Thank you for understanding that the health of our staff is most important during this time. We love you all and hope to be back open soon!” The Purple Moose Saloon also closed after two of its employees contracted COVID-19 on Wednesday. The restaurant said in a Facebook post that is immediately closed and is having all employees tested. It has also hired a cleaning company to disinfect all surfaces.
The Washington Capitals will begin training camp tomorrow and resume play Aug. 3 against the Tampa Bay Lightning, as part of the Stanley Cup qualifiers. The 2018 Stanley Cup-champions will begin Phase Three of the NHL’s “Return to Play Plan” with practices from July 13-25 then head to Toronto on July 26. The 24 returning teams returning to play starting Aug. 1 —part of the 2020 postseason — head to “hub cities” Toronto and Edmonton, where they will live in closed environments and play with no fans, the NHL said. The Caps’ roster will be broken up into two squads and their schedules will vary, the team said in a press release. After four months with no hockey due to the coronavirus pandemic, the NHL and NHL Players’ Association came to an agreement for the returning protocols, as well as a four-year extension to the collective bargaining agreement. Players can opt-out of returning to play without discipline or penalty, the league said, but they must alert their teams within 72 hours. The league plans to kick off the playoffs on Aug. 11. The conference finals are scheduled to begin Sept. 8, followed by the finals on Sept. 22, with the goal of having a Stanley Cup champion by Oct. 4. In addition to Tampa Bay, the Washington Capital’s postseason schedule includes the Philadelphia Flyers on Aug. 6 and the Boston Bruins on Aug. 7.
Following what appeared to be a popular pilot “streatery” program late lawt month, 18th Street NW in Adams Morgan will not be closed to traffic again during the COVID-19 pandemic. Mayor Muriel Bowser’s Office of Community Affairs sent an email to Adams Morgan neighborhood groups Friday afternoon, confirming that the pedestrian zone on 18th Street will not return. The email from MOCA Director Lamont Akins said the street won’t be fully closed to traffic “due to health and safety issues,” but restaurants along the strip are still permitted by the D.C. Department of Transportation to use parking spaces for outdoor seating. MOCA did not respond to a request for comment, and DDOT directed inquiries to the mayor’s office, which also did not respond. When the streatery debuted the weekend of June 27, many viewed the pedestrian zone as a success, with a few caveats to be worked out. “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 at the time. Some raised concerns about a reported lack of masks and lax social distancing. And around 11 p.m. on June 28, the road was reopened while many pedestrians still milled about, prompting further cause for concern. To address the issues, ANC 1C Commissioner Amir Irani said MOCA requested an updated health and safety plan from local neighborhood groups before 18th Street would close fully to traffic again. According to Irani, MOCA sent their request at 9 p.m. on July 30 with a return deadline of noon the following day in order for the pedestrian zone to return for the July 4 holiday weekend. Neighborhood groups responded less than 12 hours later with a three-page outline of safety measures, including plans for increased masks and social distancing signage, more volunteers to enforce safety precautions and a system for businesses to register to participate. The streatery did not return out of an abundance of caution for the holiday weekend, but Irani expected that the detailed safety plan would ensure a return of the pedestrian zone throughout the summer. “We went to great lengths to put something together that addressed the observations and feedback that we received to improve upon the pilot,” says Irani. “We got volunteers, we put 40-plus signs up about masks, physical distancing, and restaurants were getting additional staffing in. We bought hand sanitizer and hand sanitizer dispensers to have them installed in the public space. And after all this effort, we get an email today saying it’s not happening.” While the road will remain open to cars, the city is permitting restaurants to take up portions of the street for outdoor dining, which Irani finds dangerous. “Adams Morgan in general has crowded sidewalks, pre-pandemic. And they cite health and safety reasons for not closing down the street, but then they want to bring more people to the street to eat and drink without masks, and ask that residents walk through the same narrow sidewalks. It just blows my mind.” The Adams Morgan Commercial Development Coalition and other urban advocates have expressed frustration with the decision and a commitment to bringing back the streatery despite the recent ruling from the city. Irani says he has reached out to Ward 1 D.C. Councilmember Brianne Nadeau, who has been a large supporter of the pedestrian zone.
Virginia began paying long-delayed emergency unemployment benefits this week. Some 41,000 Virginia residents are potentially eligible for Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation. The federally funded program extends unemployment insurance by 13 weeks for people who exhausted their benefits. People receiving PEUC are also eligible for an additional $600 a week. The Virginia Employment Commission said Thursday that it had paid roughly 12,000 PEUC claims worth $10 million in benefits. These were the first payments made after the commission opened a portal on July 2. Both D.C. and Maryland began paying PEUC before Virginia. Several other states have still not reported paying PEUC, including Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, New Hampshire, Oregon and Wyoming. One reason for Virginia’s lag is that the commission’s system dates back to 1985 and needed to be updated, said Joyce Fogg, communications manager for the Virginia Employment Commission. The delay exasperated Virginia’s unemployed and its leaders. Sen. Tim Kaine said in June that it was not acceptable. “We provided resources to enable them to do it, and I’m having trouble figuring out why the 13-week extension is the one that has been the hardest to administer,” Kaine said. PEUC payments are only one piece of federal support for the unemployed. Those receiving unemployment insurance of any kind will continue to collect $600 a week until late July. The federal CARES Act also created Pandemic Unemployment Assistance that provides benefits to gig workers, self-employed workers and others who don’t qualify for traditional benefits. Between the three, about 700,000 Virginians are eligible for some kind of unemployment assistance, Evermore said. PEUC is available to people whose benefit year ended on or after July 6, 2019, and payments are available through the end of 2020.
The Grille at Flower Hill in Gaithersburg, which sparked a social media uproar for its owner’s objection to Maryland’s mask requirement, is closing indefinitely. The owner of the Grille told Bethesda Magazine he is closing and stepping away from the restaurant, following a flood of online attacks linked to a now-deleted Facebook post that stated the restaurant would not allow its employees to wear face masks. ‘Let me be very clear .. my staff will not wear face masks while working here at the Grill,” the owner wrote in the post. “If that bothers you then please dine elsewhere and please try to find something more important to occupy your time… Whoever you are that filed the complaint, you need to take a good look in the mirror and try to find some real meaning in your life.” Failing to wear a mask in a public space is a violation of both Montgomery County’s mandate and Maryland Governor Larry Hogan’s executive order. The restaurant initially closed on July 6 following complaints that began in late June from customers that employees were not wearing masks. The county inspectors visited the Grille on July 2 and issued a warning. The July 6 closure of the restaurant was not mandated by Montgomery County. The post was met received more than 800 comments, many of them critical of the restaurant’s objection to the mask requirement. “If you think I would eat at an establishment that puts its employees and MY health at risk you’ve got another thing coming,” wrote one commenter. “Are you crazy?!!!” The owner, who wouldn’t reveal his name out of fear for his safety, said he received more than 30 death threats following that Facebook post. “My bartender has shown interest in taking the restaurant over. But as far as I’m concerned, I’m done,” he told the magazine. “I’m tired of fighting it. I’m tired of arguing with people who don’t know what they’re talking about. I don’t know what’s gonna happen with the restaurant. But for now, the restaurant’s closed. If my employees can’t work without masks, which is what they want, we’re not gonna open.” He said that the mask mandates from the state and county are not constitutional and that wearing a mask could lead to oxygen deprivation, a claim that has been debunked by medical experts. He said he takes cues from President Donald Trump who falsely claimed this week that 99% of COVID-19 cases are totally harmless. “That’s from the president of the United States, based on science. Who am I to not agree with the president of the United States? He has access to the greatest scientists in the world,” he said in the interview. “They repeatedly allowed customers and their employees to break rules and put those people — and all of the people and the family members they encounter — in danger,” County Executive Marc Elrich said of the restaurant. “Although I hope we do not have further situations of noncompliance, we will continue to close down any business that does not feel it shares responsibility to keep our entire county safe from COVID-19.”
Audi Field, the home to D.C. United soccer in Southwest, has reopened with a series of events designed to bring the community together in a safe, fun way. For now, that means fitness classes, but as restrictions relax, offerings will expand. Because of the pandemic, D.C. United isn’t currently playing in at the stadium – the team is playing at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex in Florida. Since opening in July 2018, the vision has been to host events as well as soccer games. This week, 202strong hosted a 45-minute strength and circuit training class, and Barre 3 held an hour-long class that blended strength training, cardio and mindfulness. Today at 9:30 a.m., District Flow Yoga will hold a sold-out Vinyasa class, emphasizing breath and movement. Other upcoming events include a high intensity interval training with F45. Advance registration is required for all classes, and prices vary. The stadium has plenty of space and is open-air, which makes working out there an appealing alternative to heading back inside the gym. All of participants’ fees go directly to the studios. Fitness classes will be capped at about 20 participants to ensure social distancing. Before working out, guests must sign a waiver assuming all risks related to COVID-19. Employees are required to wear masks, and guests will need to follow D.C. guidelines, which currently means wearing a mask. Stadium employees receive health screenings and training, and sanitation measures have been increased. Once the city enters Phase Three of reopening, restrictions on gatherings will loosen. Potential events include watch parties for D.C. United games, picnics on the field, movie nights and Sunday afternoon concerts.
As School leaders across the DMV scramble to prepare for students in the fall, the D.C. International School, a charter school on the old Walter Reed campus, will remain closed and continue with distance learning for most students through at least the first quarter. The school will provide optional, in-person instruction for about 200 students who struggled with distance learning in the spring. Mary Shaffner, the school’s executive director, told parents in an email that the school would not be able to accommodate students’ schedules or follow social distancing guidelines in classrooms because of space constraints. “Everybody wants kids to be back in school,” Shaffner said. “But we also have to balance the health and safety of students.” D.C. International has 1,420 students in grades 6 to 12, all of whom participate in the International Baccalaureate program. D.C. is in Phase Two of reopening, which allows schools to partially open. Under Phase 2, students must remain in the same group of 12, including at lunch and in the restroom, according to guidelines from the Office of the State Superintendent for Education. The guidelines also require six feet of distance between each person in a school. No more than 12 people are allowed in a room at once. Shaffner said her staff could not create class schedules that matched students’ needs and kept them in the same group of students. D.C. Public Schools have not released detailed school reopening plans yet.. School officials plan to offer 11,500 students an optional, in-person summer program for two weeks in August to help students transition into the third, sixth and ninth grades. Charter schools, which educate nearly half of the city’s children, can make individual decisions about reopening, as long as they comply with public health guidelines.
Last week, every detainee at the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Farmville Detention Center in Virginia was tested for COVID-19 and 93% of them tested positive. At least six detainees have been hospitalized with severe symptoms, according to court documents. Although an ICE spokesperson said that “the majority of detainees who tested positive are asymptomatic,” detainees and their lawyers describe an environment where many people are actively exhibiting symptoms and where people fear they will die of complications. Farmville staff initially confirmed the presence of the coronavirus in the detention center at the end of April, when two detainees who were transferred from another facility in Virginia tested positive. They were asymptomatic, and were isolated until they tested negative, according to a sworn declaration submitted by Farmville director Jeffrey Crawford as part of an ongoing lawsuit against ICE over its coronavirus response at Farmville. At the beginning of June, ICE transferred 74 people to Farmville from detention centers in Florida and Arizona, two states that had become coronavirus hotspots. An ICE spokesperson said the transfers were part of the agency’s strategy to “promote social distancing wherever possible” and free up space in the other facilities. Ultimately, 51 of those detainees ended up testing positive. And though ICE says it isolated new arrivals to the facility from the rest of the people being detained, the virus seemed to spread throughout the facility following their arrival. The situation grew increasingly urgent towards the end of June, when clients of several immigration lawyers began reporting symptoms. This week, results of universal testing in the facility confirmed the extent of the virus’s spread: Crawford’s sworn declaration said that of the 366 detainees recently tested for the virus, 267 tested positive, 19 tested negative, and 80 results were still pending. ICE has not updated its website with the latest numbers confirmed in the court documents. As of Saturday morning, its website was reporting only 102 active confirmed COVID-19 cases and 106 cases total in the facility. Some people detained at the facility have organized protests against their conditions and been met with force for doing so, according to court documents. Crawford’s sworn declaration details two instances where guards used pepper spray on detainees. In the first case, Crawford claimed that three detainees who were asked to move dorms after testing positive “became violent” and a guard pepper sprayed two of them. In the second instance, which Crawford said happened on July 1, guards used pepper spray on a group of detainees who “refused to comply with the 10:30 a.m. count.” Immigration attorneys denied ICE’s claim that the protests were violent. In his sworn declaration, Crawford said “each detainee is evaluated by a medical professional twice a day and given over-the-counter medications upon request.” But immigration attorneys say the medical treatment at the facility is inadequate. They are pushing for ICE to release people from Farmville, particularly those who are the most medically vulnerable to the virus because of their underlying conditions.
As President Trump mounts pressure on federal agencies to bring employees back to work, U.S. senators from Maryland and Virginia urged agency heads to continue encouraging teleworking. Returning to work while COVID-19 cases continue to mount in many parts of the country threatens to “erase the progress made against the virus and endanger the health and safety of federal employees and everyone else in an agency’s region through increased community spread,” Sen. Chris Van Hollen, Ben Cardin, Mark Warner and Tim Kaine said in a letter to acting directors at the Office of Personnel Management and the Office of Management and Budget. The letter refers to April guidance from the agencies that encourages federal employers to follow their state or locality’s reopening schedule. “Agency heads should begin transitioning federal operations to align with a geographic area’s respective phase, while also accounting for agency operational needs, as appropriate and applicable,” the guidance said. About 85% percent of the federal workforce is outside the DMV. The four Democratic senators said that guidance resulted in some federal employees in the DMV being called back to the office while the coronavirus remains a threat. Their letter suggests following local governments that have kept most of their employees at home. “Unlike these federal agencies, governments in Maryland, Virginia, and the District continue to utilize liberal telework policies and limited office capacity for public sector workers,” the senators said. D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam sent a similar letter to OPM Acting Director Michael Rigas in April calling for a continued federal telework policy. Virginia is considering statewide health regulations for workplaces during COVID-19, but those are still being worked on by the state Department of Labor and Industry and must be approved by a board that includes employer representatives. The Internal Revenue Service began recalling its employees nationwide in June. In the DMV, some Defense Department workers have been called back. The American Federation of Government Employees, the nation’s largest union of federal employees, sent a letter to OMB in April outlining six conditions employers must meet before workers can be required to return to the office. They include universal testing for COVID-19 and requirements that symptomatic employees be sent home on leave.
People in Anne Arundel County will be required to wear face coverings outside beginning at 5 p.m. today as part of the county’s efforts to battle the spread of COVID-19. County Health Officer Dr. Nilesh Kalyanaraman signed a public health order on Thursday requiring people to wear masks in outdoor public spaces where social distancing isn’t possible. The order is in addition to previous policy that requires masks be worn inside businesses and public buildings. “This will protect people when they are in shopping centers, downtown, outdoor parties and other locations, where people are coming into frequent contact with others,” Kalyanaraman said at a news conference Thursday. He said the county will work with the police department to enforce the order. Residents initially will be issued a warning and given a mask, as wll as information about preventing virus transmission. The requirement is part of the Keep Anne Arundel Open campaign, launched by County Executive Steuart Pittman and county leaders to keep the spread of the coronavirus under control, with a goal of reopening schools in the fall. “It’s a campaign we must win to get our kids back to school and our people back to work,” Pittman said. The county is also increasing testing, with a goal to test 2% of the population each week, which equates to 11,600 tests, Pittman said. Currently, the county is testing just over 1% per week, with a 3% positivity rate. The county has also released the test data by race and ethnicity, as it continues to see a disproportionate number of Hispanic patients testing positive. The county’s seven-day rolling positivity average on Thursday was 3.47%, more than a point below the statewide average of 4.53% and the lowest of the six largest Maryland counties with populations over 300,000, the county said. Kalyanaraman said students will be if they experience symptoms in schools. Along with the increased testing and expanded mask requirements, the county will ramp up complaint-driven enforcement to later hours, so it can respond to bars and restaurants not complying with safety protocols. “We cannot allow the actions of a small number of irresponsible business owners to cause an industrywide shut down as we’ve seen in other states,” Pittman said. “We will act now to finish the job we started. We will act now to keep Anne Arundel open.”
Six Washington Nationals players are isolating after they took one of two Major League Baseball-chartered flights from the Dominican Republic to Miami on July 1. Juan Soto, Victor Robles, Wander Sureo, Fernando Abad, Luis Garcia and Joan Adon were on flights with other players who have tested positive for COVID-19. One of the players, who has not been identified, tested positive during intake screening July 2. Players and staff members weren’t tested before boarding the planes, the Washington Post reported. MLB said the players had their temperatures taken and did a symptom check. Players also did a temperature check by phone a day before their flights. An MLB spokesman said Thursday the screening process prevented one player from boarding the plane. The spokesman said players wore masks and were socially distanced on both flights. When asked whether players were tested before the charter flights from Santo Domingo, an MLB spokesman noted that those who traveled to summer training domestically were not tested before flying. He added that tests are harder to come by in the Dominican Republic than in the United States and said “shipping saliva samples from the Dominican Republic to the U.S. was not possible due to governmental restrictions.” MLB confirmed that there were asymptomatic players on both flights who later tested positive for the coronavirus during intake screening. “Testing 160 asymptomatic players in the Dominican Republic would have diverted substantial resources away from the Dominican health care system, where the availability of laboratory equipment is scarce, and would have required an exception to the country’s criteria for testing, which was not something we were prepared to do,” the spokesman said. Nationals Manager Davey Martinez said Monday that Adon and Suero tested negative during intake screening but are continuing to quarantine. The same goes for Soto, according sources.
Parents in the Montgomery County Public School system could get back-to-school information as early as this weekend Essie McGuire, executive director in the Office of the Chief Operating Officer, explained during a walk-through of College Gardens Elementary School in Rockville that the school had been set up to illustrate how setups in classrooms and on buses will be different than the past. “The first thing that many students will see is the school bus,” McGuire said, pointing to a bus parked outside the school. She explained that recommended seating patterns would mean that every other row of seats on each bus will remain empty. “That takes our capacity to about 25%,” she said. Asked about the school district’s ability to operate bus service with so few students on board, McGuire said, “We will need to really confirm which students need that transportation and then design the bus routes to be very targeted to be sure that we can provide the transportation for the students who need it.” Pointing to the walkway leading to the front doors of the school, McGuire said, “As you’ll see here, we have green tape marking spaces that are six feet apart.” Students will be taken inside in small groups, with hash-marks in hallways providing visual cues. In classrooms, desks are staggered so they maintain 6 feet of distance. Under the desks, red squares with a large number “6” in white offer another cue to students to keep their distance. On at least one desk in every room, there were bottles of hand sanitizer. Some classrooms had 6-foot-long tables with seats at each end, allowing students to socially distance while getting instruction. Plans for opening schools Aug. 31 are still being worked on, said communications specialist Gboyinde Onijala. Parents will be hearing from school officials as decisions are made. “Starting this weekend, the goal is to share some of our initial considerations” for opening schools, Onijala said. MCPS surveyed parents and community members on what they would like to see for the coming school year. The deadline to respond was this week, and school officials said work on analyzing the data is just getting underway. Thursday’s walk-through was designed to give an idea of how things might be organized for in-school instruction, and it could look different depending on the individual school building. “It doesn’t mean that plan is final and that’s what’s going to happen come Aug. 31,” Onijala said. The school board meets July 14 to discuss if the schools will have “blended learning” where students come in two days a week and have at-home instruction the rest of the time, or whether schools will return to 100% virtual learning.
Some Montgomery County Council members have asked the county executive to spell out a definitive COVID-19 testing strategy. In a letter to Executive Marc Elrich, council members Hans Riemer and Gabe Albornoz requested a draft strategy that can be introduced to the full council on Tuesday. They would like to see the plan adopted a week later on July 21. “Some signs are worrisome, as the transmission of the virus is nearly uncontrolled in many locations outside of Maryland,” Riemer and Albornoz wrote in the letter. “We face the possibility of cases rising back to levels that caused us to shut down in March. We cannot let that happen.” If a plan isn’t received by Sunday, the letter said, “we will pass our own as a board health requirement to take effect on July 19.” Elrich told Bethesda Beat he has a plan and that the council will get it. Believing the county is not testing high enough, Riemer and Albornoz cited a June 18 news release from Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan that they say shows the county “does not rank highly in Maryland for tests conducted.” They also cited other statistics that they feel proves Montgomery County needs to step up testing. Saying the county “must drive more testing and at scale,” Reimer and Albornoz noted that the Global Health Institute said that a community that has a 3% test positivity rate or lower is suppressing the virus. They pointed out that Montgomery County’s rate is 5%.
For the second day in a row, D.C. reported a jump in COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, marking the city’s highest number of new cases in almost a month. The city reported 73 new cases, bringing the total to 10,642 since the pandemic began in mid-March. Wednesday’s numbers are the highest single-day count since June 9, when the city reported 85 new cases. The city also reported three new deaths yesterday. Maryland and Virginia also saw jumps in cases Wednesday, but both were slightly lower than their new cases on Tuesday. Maryland reported 465 new cases bringing the total to 70,861 cases Virginia saw 635 new infections, bringing its total to 67,375. Maryland reported nine new deaths, while Virginia added 24. “We can’t control everybody in the region, and we certainly can’t control everybody nationally,” Mayor Muriel Bowser said. “But we are a country with porous borders, so anybody from Texas or Florida can be in D.C. in the next hour, and we won’t be able to control that.” She noted other potential factors as well, like an increase in testing leading to identification of more cases, the fact that the city cannot control when employees in the private sector and federal government return to work and mass demonstrations. “So, all of those things have a big impact,” Bowser said. Wednesday’s spike came after the DMV as a whole recorded its second-highest combined number of new COVID-19 cases in nearly a month on Tuesday. On Monday, D.C. Health Director Dr. LaQuandra Nesbitt said no observable coronavirus spike could be attributed to the protests up to that point. Virginia has eased restrictions last week and moved to Phase Three of its reopening plan, but D.C. and Maryland remain in Phase Two.
Montgomery County will “be staying in Phase Two for the time being.” “We’re watching cases skyrocket in a number of states,” County Executive Marc Elrich said Wednesday during a press conference, adding that he was “concerned about rises in cases around us.” He said closing businesses again, as has happened in Florida, California and Texas, would be even more difficult than the earlier shutdowns. “It’s hard to do this now,” he said; “it would be hard to do it twice.” Elrich and county Health Officer Dr. Travis Gayles had reasonably good news about the county. “We’ve reached a plateau” in cases, Elrich said, describing the 68 cases recorded on Tuesday as a “blip” that can sometimes happen when tests from multiple days are counted at the same time. Gayles said the county had reached a milestone, with 10% of residents having been tested, one of the benchmarks set out on Gov. Larry Hogan’s COVID-19 plan. He added that Wednesday’s daily number of 34 cases was the lowest since April. Gayles also reiterated his emphasis on “systemic” and “structural” factors that contribute to certain population groups becoming harder-hit than others, such as access to health insurers, overcrowding and the demographics of who is considered an essential worker. Asked about pressure to reopen businesses in the face of economic hardship, Elrich said, “I’m under more pressure from people not to open than to open.” Gayles characterized those who want to lift restrictions as a vocal minority. “It’s not that big a death rate until you’re the one who dies, or someone you love dies,” Elrich said. Elrich also said that cuts to various county departments are in the works, though specifics are still being worked out. He asked departments to submit plans to cut spending by up to 6%, though he said he won’t make all of them, citing the Department of Health as an example of what not to cut in the middle of a pandemic. As for the county’s overall fiscal picture, he said, “I will not dismantle county government … in order to keep reserve numbers untouched. This is what a reserve is for.”
D.C. health officials tried to reassure residents that it is safe to visit their doctors, even during the pandemic. Dr. Reginald Robinson, president elect of the Eastern States Board of the American Heart Association said Wednesday there has been a 20%-30% decrease in patients going to D.C. hospitals. Between January and May, D.C. Health Director Dr. LaQuandra Nesbitt Nesbitt added, there has been a 40% increase in “excess deaths,” or deaths that health officials would normally not expect on a yearly basis. So far this year, 54% of excess deaths are linked to COVID-19, but 46% are not. Nesbitt said they are from other causes such as heart disease, influenza, diabetes, pneumonia, cancers and drug overdoses. When people skip appointments, Nesbitt said it is difficult to manage chronic conditions and diagnose new ones. And that has had an impact on HIV/AIDS cases, which D.C. has seen improvement in over the years. “We are seeing more individuals diagnosed with HIV at a later stage than we have previously seen in the District, which concerns us because we have made tremendous progress in HIV in the District,” she said. It should be noted that Whitman-Walker Health, which is one of the largest providers of HIV/AIDS testing and treatment in the city has been closed to in-person appointments except for COVID-19 patiens, since the pandemic began in mid-March. It still has not reopened its office, free HIV-STI clinic or mobile testing vans despite the city moving into Phase Two, while many other practices has resumed seeing patients. Whitman-Walker officials did not respond to a request for comment. Jacqueline Bowens, CEO of the D.C. Hospital Association, said delaying medical treatment could make a medical condition worse and impact recovery. She urged seniors and their family members to be vigilant about symptoms such as difficulty breathing, chest pains and difficulty lifting their arms. “We cannot press pause on our healthcare,” she said. “It is extremely important that we don’t delay care. Don’t delay care, it could save your life.” Health officials say that doctors’ officers and hospitals are safe, and that doctors and nurses are using masks, keeping their distance, and have increased cleaning, use of sanitizers and COVID-19 screenings. “Heart attacks, strokes and cardiac arrests don’t stop for COVID-19,” Robinson added. “Time is of the essence when you’re thinking about the brain and a stroke.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan directed Maryland’s Board of Elections Wednesday to hold an in-person election in November and to provide applications for absentee ballots for every eligible voter. With 118 days until the November general election, Hogan ordered the board to promote early and absentee voting to make the elections as safe and efficient as possible amid the COVID-19 pandemic. He also told the board that every polling place should be open on election day. His demands are based on the recommendations from the three Republican members on the state board, but runs contrary to the view of Democratic board members and the state’s association of election officials. The association wrote in a statement that applications for absentee ballots would create “voter confusion.” Democrats want to provide mail-in ballots to all eligible voters without making them request one. In a letter to board members on Wednesday, Hogan wrote that he remained concerned about the “serious failures” of the state’s June 2 primary and the resulting “disenfranchisement and suppression of primary voters.” In the letter, Hogan addressed the debate between Democratic and Republican lawmakers, interest groups and others about how to hold the November election. “This discussion should not be subject to undue partisanship or political influence,” he wrote. “Providing citizens with accessible, accountable, and transparent ways to cast their ballot is an essential component of our democratic republic and your primary responsibility.” Local election officials, however, are concerned about having enough staff, personal protective gear and other resources to hold in-person voting. David Garreis, president of the election officials association, wrote to state board members and officials last week expressing concern about the lack of election judges willing to work during the pandemic. “The local boards of election are concerned it is not possible to recruit, train and retain 25,000 election judges for the November general election,” Garreis wrote. Hogan replied to that concern in his letter, saying, “the state will encourage state employees to supplement election staffing needs and provide necessary personal protective equipment.” Maryland’s use of applications for mail-in ballots for the November election is the strategy D.C. used for its June 2 primary election. D.C.’s primary was marred by problems, including voters not receiving their ballots in the mail after applying for one. Last month, the D.C. Board of Elections said it would send mail-in ballots to all eligible voters without making them apply and to expand in-person voting locations for the November election.
Students will be back in the classroom this fall at the University of Maryland. But massive lecture halls that can hold 400 students or more will not fill up when classes resume Aug. 31. Any class with more than 50 students will be taught online during the fall semester, according to an email sent to students from Mary Ann Rankin, senior vice president and provost. However, smaller classes and those that require more interactive situations, such as labs, internships, performance courses and clinical instruction, will be taught in person, she said. About 20% of undergraduate courses will be taught at least partially in person this fall. But that could change if coronavirus cases begin to surge. The school is telling faculty to be ready to shift classes entirely online. An updated class schedule will be ready July 15, the email said. For now, plans are to begin classes on Aug. 31 and finish Dec. 14, as originally scheduled.
Thousands of poultry workers on the Delmarva peninsula have tested positive for COVID-19 in recent months revealing problematic working conditions that some hope will be resolved through mandatory workplace protocols put in place by state governments. Virginia is set to create the first pandemic workplace safety mandates in the country, but workers say they need protocols in place to protect them now. Gov. Ralph Northam’s office said the regulations, which would mandate sanitation, disinfection, hand-washing and physical distancing and prevent sick workers from returning too soon, were motivated by the lack of enforcement from the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration. More than 20,000 people work in the poultry industry on the peninsula, which includes much of Delaware and the Eastern Shores of Maryland and Virginia. At least 2,215 of the poultry workers have contracted the coronavirus and 17 have died, according to data compiled by the Washington Post. “There are numbers on the shore that are in the top numbers nationally, and that can be tracked back to poultry plants,” said Jason Yarashes, attorney and program coordinator at the Legal Aid Justice Center. In the 23 states with COVID-19 outbreaks in meat and poultry processing facilities, the CDC recently reported 16,233 cases in 239 facilities during April and May in Maryland and Virginia, but not Delaware, with 86 deaths. Delmarva has one of the highest concentrations of poultry production in the country, with more than 5,000 chicken houses. While plants have been given guidance by the CDC, Yarashes said, the extent to which safety measures are enforced varies. “We need enforceable regulations to be able to put folks in a good position,” Yarashes said in a radio interview on Wednesday. “Still today, there’s only guidelines and recommendations. “What we’re talking about is states like Virginia stepping in to fill the void.”
The DMV reported the second-highest combined number of COVID-19 cases in almost a month on Tuesday. While Tuesday’s numbers mark a jump, they are in line with a plateau in new cases in the region that has held since mid-June. The region reported 1,184 new cases, bringing the new combined total to 147,705. The numbers mark the second-highest jump in combined cases since June 13, where 1,405 new cases were reported. The numbers come after the region reported its smallest daily increase in cases since April 3 on Monday at just 659. The D.C., Maryland, and Virginia departments of health did not respond to requests to explain the hike. The increase came as Virginia moved into Phase Three of its reopening plan last Wednesday, while Maryland and D.C. remain in Phase Two. Local officials and public health experts in D.C. and Montgomery County have voiced their concern about the region’s piecemeal reopening. D.C. officials have not set a timeline for moving into Phase Three, but the criteria includes being able to trace new cases, hospital bed capacity and other factors. In Montgomery County, County Executive Marc Elrich said he would wait for at least a week after the Fourth of July holiday to consider a move.
Gaithersburg-based Novavax Inc., which began experimental COVID-19 vaccine trials in May, received $1.6 billion from the federal government to test, manufacture and commercialize the vaccine. It is the largest award so far from Operation Warp Speed, the government program to accelerate vaccine development. The money would pay for production of up to 100 million doses of the vaccine, delivered starting later this year. Novavax expects to begin large scale Phase 3 clinical trials with its experimental vaccine as soon as October. “Adding Novavax’s candidate to Operation Warp Speed’s diverse portfolio of vaccines increases the odds that we will have a safe, effective vaccine as soon as the end of this year,” said U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar. Novavax’ Phase 1 and 2 clinical trials were funded with a $388 million grant from the nonprofit Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations. Novavax acquired a biologics manufacturing facility in the Czech Republic in May to allow it to ramp up potential production of the vaccine. It has also partnered with Gaithersburg-based Emergent BioSolutions to manufacture the vaccine.
United Medical Center’s 120-bed skilled nursing facility will close permanently, after it temporarily shuttered in May because of the coronavirus pandemic. At the time, 75 skilled nursing residents were quickly transferred to other facilities in D.C. and Maryland. Those transfers, which advocates say may not have followed legal guidelines governing permanent facility closures, will be permanent. The move comes after a June 24 vote by the Not-For-Profit Hospital Corp.’s board of directors, which oversees UMC, D.C.’s only public hospital. “The board vote was made after careful consideration of the ongoing COVID-19 public health emergency, the current status of the former residents of the nursing home and the future of public health east of the Anacostia River,” according to a press release. Spokesperson Toya Carmichael said former residents and their families have not yet been officially notified that they won’t return. “As the hospital still needs to go through the official regulatory process of obtaining approval to close, the residents have not yet been notified,” she said. The decision comes after D.C. unveiled plans earlier this year for the new 136-bed, $375 million GW Health Hospital and Ambulatory Pavilion at the St. Elizabeths campus and two new urgent care centers in Wards 7 and 8. UMC is scheduled to close in 2023. The new hospital will not include a skilled nursing facility. “The reality that the District’s plan for the new hospital project does not include the operation of a skilled nursing facility led the board to determine that a vote for permanent closure was best for patient safety, employee stability and the long term continuum of care plans for the community,” the statement said. Under District law, the process for closing a long-term care facility includes safeguards to give residents and their families a chance to weigh in on where they want to be moved and a chance to appeal. UMC residents were transferred to a number of facilities in D.C. and Maryland, miles from UMC in Ward 8 and some not near public transportation. Although there are two skilled nursing facilities in Ward 8 and one in Ward 7, the city already had a shortage of beds before the UM closure, with hundreds of Washingtonians in facilities in Maryland. Ward 7 Councilmember Vince Gray told the Washington Post he will hold a hearing to examine whether UMC followed D.C. law in moving residents out and then announcing the permanent closure of the skilled nursing unit.
The Nationals announced their 60-game schedule for the 2020 season, which begins with a home game against the Yankees on July 23. The game will be broadcast on ESPN at 7 p.m with the first pitch at 7:08 p.m. The announcement comes after several bumps as teams prepare for the shortened season. On Monday, the Nationals canceled team workouts when players hadn’t received results from their coronavirus tests on Friday. It came a day after relief pitcher Sean Doolittle expressed frustration and concern about not getting his test results, and what he sees as rushed and disorganized safety precautions taken by the league ahead of season openers. Nationals manager Davey Martinez said Monday that over the weekend two players tested positive for coronavirus during intake testing, but did not reveal their names. On Tuesday, the Washington Post reported that Juan Soto is isolating after coming into contact with a player who tested positive for coronavirus. Summer camp resumed Tuesday after the team received last week’s test results – all came back negative. Some players like first baseman Ryan Zimmerman have opted to sit out the 2020 season due to safety concerns. In the shortened season, the Nationals will face off against the four other National League East teams with 10 games each. The remaining 20 games will be against American League East teams nearby to reduce travel. The team will only go on four road trips throughout the season, stopping in cities including New York, Tampa Bay, Boston, Atlanta and Philadelphia. All games will be played without fans in the stadiums.
|Exhibition games||Aug. 23: vs. Marlins, 12:35 p.m.|
|July 18: vs. Phiillies, 6:05 p.m.||Aug. 24: vs. Marlins, 6:05 p.m.|
|July 20: @ Orioles, 6:05 p.m.||Aug. 25: vs. Phillies, 6:05 p.m.|
|July 21: vs. Orioles, 6:05 p.m.||Aug. 26: vs. Phillies, 6:05 p.m.|
|Regular season games||Aug. 27: vs. Phillies, 7:15 p.m.|
|July 23: vs. Yankees, 7:08 p.m.||Aug. 28: @ Red Sox, 7:30 p.m.|
|July 25: vs. Yankees, 7:15 p.m.||Aug. 29: @ Red Sox, 7:30 p.m.|
|July 26: vs. Yankees, 1:05 p.m.||Aug. 30: @ Red Sox, 1:35 p.m.|
|July 27: vs. Blue Jays, 6:05 p.m.||Aug. 31: @ Phillies, 7:05 p.m.|
|July 28: vs. Blue Jays, 4:05 p.m.||Sept. 1: @ Phillies, 7:05 p.m.|
|July 29: @ Blue Jays, 6:37 p.m.||Sept. 2: @ Phillies, 7:05 p.m.|
|July 30: @ Blue Jays, 6:37 p.m.||Sept. 3: @ Phillies, 4:05 p.m.|
|July 31: @ Marlins, 7:10 p.m.||Sept. 4: @ Braves, 7:10 p.m.|
|Aug. 1: @ Marlins, 6:10 p.m.||Sept. 5: @ Braves, 7:10 p.m.|
|Aug. 2: @ Marlins, 1:10 p.m.||Sept. 6: @ Braves, 1:10 p.m.|
|Aug. 4: vs. Mets, 7:05 p.m.||Sept. 7: vs. Rays, 6:05 p.m.|
|Aug. 5: vs. Mets, 6:05 p.m.||Sept. 8: vs. Rays, 6:05 p.m.|
|Aug. 7: vs. Orioles, 6:05 p.m.||Sept. 10: vs. Braves, 6:05 p.m.|
|Aug. 8: vs. Orioles, 6:05 p.m.||Sept. 11: vs. Braves, 6:05 p.m.|
|Aug. 9: vs. Orioles, 12:35 p.m.||Sept. 12: vs. Braves, 6:05 p.m.|
|Aug. 10: @ Mets, 7:10 p.m.||Sept. 13: vs. Braves, 1:10 p.m.|
|Aug. 11: @ Mets, 7:10 p.m.||Sept. 15: @ Rays, 6:40 p.m.|
|Aug. 12: @ Mets, 7:10 p.m.||Sept. 16: @ Rays, 3:10 p.m.|
|Aug. 13: @ Mets, 1:10 p.m.||Sept. 18: @ Marlins, 7:10 p.m.|
|Aug. 14: @ Orioles, 7:05 p.m.||Sept. 19: @ Marlins, 6:10 p.m.|
|Aug. 15: @ Orioles, 7:05 p.m.||Sept. 20: @ Marlins, 1:10 p.m.|
|Aug. 16: @ Orioles, 1:05 p.m.||Sept. 21: vs. Phillies, 6:05 p.m.|
|Aug. 17: @ Braves, 7:10 p.m.||Sept. 22: vs. Phillies, 6:05 p.m.|
|Aug. 18: @ Braves, 7:10 p.m.||Sept. 23: vs. Phillies, 6:05 p.m.|
|Aug. 19: @ Braves, 7:10 p.m.||Sept. 24: vs. Mets, 6:05 p.m.|
|Aug. 21: vs. Marlins, 6:05 p.m.||Sept. 25: vs. Mets, 6:05 p.m.|
|Aug. 22: vs. Marlins, 6:05 p.m.||Sept. 26: vs. Mets, 7:15 p.m.|
|Sept. 27: vs. Mets, 3:05 p.m.|
The Fairfax County Public Schools extended the deadline from July 10 to July 15 for parents and staff to choose between 100% virtual learning or a hybrid model with students in classrooms two days a week and doing online work the other three days. “We’ve heard overwhelmingly from our parents and community that you want more time to make these decisions,” Superintendent Scott Brabrand said during a virtual town hall Monday night. He said that because of the extension, he will propose moving the school year’s start date to Sept. 8 to ensure staff have enough time to prepare schedules. During the town hall, administrators fielded questions about issues like social distancing in classrooms, childcare and support for students with special needs. Brabrand promised to release more information this week about safety protocols like possible temperature checks and how lunch will work. With the deadline quickly approaching, families in Virginia’s largest school system are grappling with a major decision. For those who select the online option, students will have scheduled virtual learning four days a week and one day of independent work. FCPS said it will try to arrange for elementary and middle school students to have dedicated online-only staff. Students who return to the classroom under the hybrid model will follow state and federal safety protocols with enhanced cleaning and social distancing in classrooms and on buses. Since FCPS released its reopening plans in late June, some parents and three teachers unions have expressed concern about a lack of sufficient information to make the important decision. In a joint letter, the unions said that “given overwhelming educator concern with the ability of FCPS to keep employees and students safe,” they advise members to state a preference for continued distance learning until the district provides enough information for everyone to make informed choices. During the town hall, several parents asked about the district’s requirement that families commit to virtual or hybrid learning for the full academic year. Brabrand said that if students changed midway through the year, it would throw off staffing levels. He said if the pandemic worsens, schools are prepared to return to online learning for everyone or bring all students back if there is a vaccine. The superintendent advised families concerned about their children wearing a mask for several hours a day “to wear the mask during the day for about six hours. Let them go online, watch TV, talk on the phone to friends. That can help you figure out whether they’ll be comfortable because they will be asked to wear a mask during the day when they return.” Brabrand also acknowledged concerns about only two days of in-person learning per week. He said it is a capacity issue. In new guidelines released Monday, Virginia officials said that when six feet of distancing is not feasible in schools, students can wear masks at a three-foot distance. This provides some extra flexibility, but for now FCPS has to plan for two days of instruction, Brabrand said. As for health screenings, Brabrand said students who arrive at school without a mask will have their temperature taken. Teachers unions are looking for answers to questions like who will be responsible for students who are put into isolation because they have symptoms during the day, what classrooms will look like, if there will be classroom libraries where teachers circulate books to students and if there will be any shared materials. Teachers also worry that if more families than employees express a preference for the hybrid option, some teachers who don’t feel safe in the classroom will be forced to return. As of 2 p.m. Tuesday, around 67% of students who had submitted their preferences chose the in-person option, according to data posted by school board member Melanie Meren on Facebook. Meanwhile, 54% of staff have selected the in-person model so far. Teachers also want more clarity on the protocol when someone gets sick, including who gets notified and what it takes to shut down a classroom. Brabrand said it would depend on the results of the contact tracing investigation and how much time a student spent on campus interacting with others.
The closure of Maryland’s six casinos due to the coronavirus pandemic cost casino owners and the state of Maryland millions of dollars. Total casino gaming revenue was $1.28 billion for the just-ended 2020 fiscal year, a 27.3% drop from fiscal 2019. As a result, casino contributions to Maryland totaled $529.12 million, down 26.9% from fiscal 2019. The largest share of state casino revenue go to its Education Trust Fund, which received $396.82 million for fiscal 2020, down 26.9%. Maryland casinos closed in mid-March until the mid- to late-June, with no gaming revenue in April or May. MGM National Harbor reopened to invited guests on June 26 and to the public on June 29. During the five days it was open in June, the casino generated $8.02 million from slots and tables. Live! Casino & Hotel reopened to invited guests from June 19-28 and to the public on June 29. It generated $15.85 million in June gaming revenue. Horseshoe Casino in downtown Baltimore reopened to invited guests on June 26 and the public on June 28, generating $2.60 million in June. Maryland’s three other casinos, Hollywood Casino, Ocean Downs Casino and Rocky Gap Casino, opened to the general public on June 19. Combined, the three smaller casinos generated $8.47 million in June gaming revenue. Of the $34.9 million in June revenue from all six casinos, $14.6 million went to Maryland. Even with an expected full operating schedule for the remainder of 2020, gaming revenue will likely be reduced due to 50% capacity restrictions on casino floors because of social distancing requirements.
So far, no spike in coronavirus cases in D.C. can be attributed to the protests that have been happening across the region and country since George Floyd was killed by a Minneapolis policeman in late May. “We have not seen or heard our new cases report their exposure being associated with mass gatherings,” D.C. Health Director Dr. LaQuandra Nesbitt said at a press conference Monday morning. “That being said … we continue to have mass gatherings so that does not allow us to exclude mass gatherings as a potential source for exposure.” Nesbitt said it can take up to 20 days for changes in community conditions to be accurately reflected in the data. It’s now been about 30 days since the largest of the mass gatherings in the city, and the data does not show a jump in relation to them, Nesbitt said. There was concern from local officials and public health experts that the thousands of protesters coming together in mass gatherings to protest Floyd’s murder would lead to a surge in coronavirus cases. Protesters knew the risks, but took to the streets anyway with the country in the “midst of two public health crises.” Mayor Muriel Bowser urged all those who did protest to get tested. While testing numbers have increased in D.C. since the beginning of June, challenges existed in meeting testing needs and getting results back in a timely fashion in both D.C. and elsewhere in the region. As for what is contributing to potential exposure and positive coronavirus tests, Nesbitt says it is continuing to be “household contacts,” and “essential activities,” as well as “other activities that are coming online.” D.C. is currently in Phase Two of its reopening plan, meaning residents can gather in groups up to 50 and restaurants and nonessential businesses may allow customers inside up to 50% capacity. There is no timeline for when the city will enter in Phase Three, despite surrounding jurisdictions moving forward in the last several weeks.
Three Montgomery County businesses were cited or closed for not following coronavirus reopening guidelines and another is being investigated. “I will reiterate what I’ve said before and about which I have been very clear: Businesses will stay open provided they follow the public health guidelines. If they choose to ignore public health guidance, we will shut them down,” Executive Marc Elrich said in a statement. The Vibes Hookah Bar in Rockville and the Cabana Hookah Lounge in Silver Spring were shut down because hookah bars are not included under the county’s Phase Two reopening guidance. The Palisades Lounge in Silver Spring was cited and closed for not maintaining customer social distancing, as well as for a liquor violation. Elsewhere, the Grille at Flower Hill in Gaithersburg was reported for not following guidelines. A health inspector visited the restaurant last Thursday following a report that employees were not wearing masks. The business received a verbal reminder about mask requirements, the county said, but over the weekend, there were again complaints about compliance. The restaurant’s is open Thursday through Sunday, so a visit by an inspector will not take place until Thursday. The owner of the restaurant wrote in a since-deleted Facebook post, “Let me be very clear … my staff will not wear face masks while working here at the Grille. If that bothers you then please dine elsewhere and please try to find something more important to occupy your time such as volunteer at a nursing home or soup kitchen.” He said masks are uncomfortable to wear. “As we receive complaints about businesses such as the Grille at Flower Hill in Gaithersburg for not following requirements for the wearing of face masks and keeping customers physically distanced, we will fully investigate each complaint,” County Health Officer Dr. Travis Gayles said. Business ambassadors have visited more than 1,900 businesses to provide education about reopening compliance. “If we find that a business has been educated and continues to willfully ignore the requirements to safely reopen, we will use our legal authority to prohibit their operations until they comply,” Gayles said.
Some Georgetown restaurants have extra outdoor dining space joining the growing list of neighborhoods with “streateries” using street parking spaces for additional seating. The Georgetown Business Improvement District helped restaurants apply for permits for the expanded outdoor space from the D.C. Department of Transportation. The BID also lent them materials to set up the extra dining space, and is working with additional businesses that are awaiting permit approval. BID-supplied barriers block off the equivalent of about two street parking spaces that don’t impede traffic flow for a few extra socially-distanced tables. The restaurants with street table permits include: Martin’s Tavern, 1265 Wisconsin Ave. NW; Susheria, 3101 K St. NW; Mr. Smith’s, 3205 K St. NW; The Berliner, 3401 Water St. NW; Il Canale, 1065 31st St. NW; L’Amexe, 2917 M St. NW; and Piccolo and Flavio on 31st Street South of Blues Alley. The BID and DDOT are working on longer-term plans to widen Wisconsin Avenue and M Street sidewalks for social distancing by appropriating parking spaces through at least Phase 4 of the city’s coronavirus reopening plans, which could be anywhere from this fall to sometime in 2021.
Prince George’s County Public Schools teachers still have a lot of questions on how instruction should resume this fall. Theresa Mitchell Dudley, president of the Prince George’s County Educators Association, said the basics of social distancing are incredibly challenging in the younger grades: “How do you tell a kindergartner who comes up and wants to give you a hug because they’re happy to see you that they can’t hug you?” Even without concerns over COVID-19, she said, elementary-aged students are often just learning behaviors such as maintaining personal space. “Little kids are all over each other,” she said. Dudley said the crowding in school buildings at the middle school and high school level also raise concerns. “Most of our schools are running at capacity,” she said, noting that students change classrooms often. “How will you social distance there?” Dudley also wondered about the logistics of cleaning and disinfecting classrooms, gyms and cafeterias throughout the day. She said that reopening could be a chance for major change. “This is a new day,” Dudley said, with opportunities to “create the schools we want to see.” She sees a chance to make changes so that when schools do reopen, they could include, for example, “restorative practices,” redirection of students to get them back on the right track, instead of student suspensions. “Are we going to come back with trauma-informed education? Are we going to come back with student-to-guidance counselor ratios that make sense?” Dudley said. She noted that a bill for school reform on a massive scale was passed in Annapolis, then vetoed by Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan. PGCPS CEO Monica Goldson has released the first results of polling of parents, teachers and staff on what the return to school should look like in the fall. According to the survey, most want to continue with in-home instruction, or have a hybrid of some days in school buildings, and the rest at home with distance learning. The district plans to hold a staff-wide virtual meeting to get a sense of where teachers and staff are on the issue. Dudley said Goldson is really hearing teachers’ concerns about how to reopen safely during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Maryland State Department of Education requires all school districts across the state to make their plans publicly available online by Aug. 14.
The Washington Nationals canceled team workouts on Monday because they still hadn’t gotten results back from Major League Baseball that were administered Friday. General Manager Mike Rizzo said in a statement that all of the Nationals’ players and staff were tested for COVID-19 on Friday, per MLB protocol. “We cannot have our players and staff work at risk. Therefore, we have cancelled our team workout scheduled for this morning,” Rizzo said. “We will not sacrifice the health and safety of our players, staff and their families.” Rizzo said it was not safe for the team to continue with Summer Camp “without accurate and timely testing,” and urged MLB to “work quickly to resolve issues with their process and their lab. Otherwise, Summer Camp and the 2020 Season are at risk.” It comes on the heels of relief pitcher Sean Doolittle’s comments Sunday about how disorganized, rushed and unprepared the league seemed to be in ensuring the safety of players and staff. At the beginning of his Zoom press conference on Sunday, Doolittle looked at his phone to confirm that he had not gotten his results yet. Initially, the league had told teams that players and staff would get their results within 24 hours. Three days later, they still haven’t. MLB’s protocols require testing every other day. Doolittle pointed out that tests were taken Sunday without results from Friday. MLB partnered with the Sports Medicine Research & Testing Laboratory in Salt Lake City, Utah, for testing, a lab that until recently, mostly performed drug testing for the league. The Houston Astros also canceled their workouts because they have not yet received their test results. The Oakland Athletics also canceled workouts, as their tests have not reached Salt Lake City for processing, according to the Oakland Reporter.The Nationals have held three days of workouts at Nats Park with players spread out and often not working together. As part of intake testing done when players first arrived earlier last week, two Nationals players tested positive for coronavirus. The team cannot identify the players without their permission.
The National Hockey League is getting ready to resume play in less than a month, with 24 teams all playing in Canada. The NHL and the NHL Players’ Association on Monday announced a tentative deal on a return-to-play format and a memorandum of understanding on a four-year extension of the collective bargaining agreement. Should both agreements be ratified, the NHL would begin play on Aug. 1 under its expanded 24-team playoff format. Training camps would open July 13, with teams traveling to their respective hub cities for exhibition games on July 26. According to reports, the hub cities are Toronto and Edmonton, Alberta, for the qualifying round and at least the first two playoff rounds. For the conference finals and the Stanley Cup final, the league is being cautious and allowing itself site flexibility in the event of potential spikes in COVID-19 infections. Extending the contract, which was set to expire in September 2022, was considered a necessary step in restarting the season, which was paused in March as a result of the pandemic. The extension covers numerous on- and off-ice issues, including the NHL’s potential return to the Olympics. If approved, players would compete at the Beijing Olympics in 2022 and in Italy four years later. In order for that to happen, the NHL would first have to resolve marketing rights and health insurance, among other issues with the International Olympic Committee and International Ice Hockey Federation. The NHL participated in five consecutive Olympics from 1998-2014 before skipping 2018 in South Korea. Financially, the contract extension would attempt to address the lost revenue stemming from the remainder of the regular season being wiped out and with empty arenas looming for the playoffs. Players would defer 10% of salaries next season which owners would pay back over three consecutive seasons starting in 2022-23. The salary cap will remain at $81.5 million for at least next season. Escrow payments to owners to even out hockey-related revenue at 50/50 would be capped at 20% next season, with the cap decreasing throughout the deal. If owners are still owed money from the players, the contract would be extended for an additional season. The agreements need two-thirds approval by owners and must be approved by a majority of the NHLPA’s 31-member executive committee before going to a vote by the full membership. The executive committee is expected to make its recommendation by the end of Tuesday. If approved, the players would be expected to complete their voting process by Friday. Over the weekend, the league and players agreed to extensive return-to-play protocols involving training camp and games. Players will be allowed to opt out of competing in the expanded playoffs, and will have three days to make their decision once the agreement is ratified. Should the league proceed, the matchups are already known: The top four teams in each conference:– Washington, Boston, Tampa Bay and Philadelphia in the East and St. Louis, Colorado, Las Vegas and Dallas in the West — play a handful of round-robin games to determine seeding. The top seeds then face the winners of eight opening-round, best-of-five series.
Two Washington Nationals players tested positive for the coronavirus during intake testing on Sunday. Manager Davey Martinez made the announcement over a Zoom call with media Sunday and said that neither player who tested positive has been to Nationals Park. The two players, who Martinez did not identify, were found to have COVID-19 during intake testing. Everyone must have negative results before they may enter the stadium. According to MLB, 31 players and eight staff members from 19 teams have tested positive. That is a 1.2% positivity rate. Sean Doolittle, a relief pitcher for the Nationals, revealed his concern about beginning the baseball season as the coronavirus surges in several states. In a Sunday Zoom call with media, Doolittle questioned why he was tested for the virus again earlier in the day when he still had not received the results from his test on Friday. He said getting results in a timely fashion is an ongoing issue despite initial assurances that players would get results within 48 hours. “We went to bed…on Thursday night not knowing if we were going to have practice the next day because we didn’t know if our results would be in on time. … We’ve got to clean that up,” he said. He added that players have not received the N95 masks, gloves or gowns they were promised. Doolittle also expressed concerns about the lack of PPE for players and staff. He dismissed the idea that fans could return to ballparks once games resume, which has been suggested by some owners. “We haven’t done any of the things that other countries have done to bring sports back,” Doolittle said. “Sports are like the reward of a functioning society. And we’re trying to just bring it back, even though we’ve taken none of the steps to flatten the curve.” Doolittle plans to play this season provided he feels safe physically and mentally. His wife, Eireann Dolan who suffers from asthma and is considered high-risk, will be staying nearby at a friend’s hour and not with him. The Nationals began training at the park on Friday. The team will host the New York Yankees on July 23 for Opening Day. Pitcher Max Scherzer is slated to take the mound against Gerrit Cole, who was a member of the Houston Astros team that the Nationals defeated in the 2019 World Series. The San Francisco Giants are expected to be in Los Angeles to take on the Dodgers that same day, with the rest of MLB opening the following day.
Fairfax County teachers pushed for virtual classes to continue this fall during a town hall meeting Sunday afternoon. Tiffany Dowling, who has taught for 15 years, said going back to class would be a threat to her family. “I get the flu most years from my students, which means my sons get it. I catch the common cold from my students every few months, which means my sons get it as well. This virus is no different,” Dowling said. “I don’t want to leave teaching, but I need to feel safe at work.” Fairfax Countys Public Schools sent parents an enrollment letter asking them to state their preference fall classes. The plan offers families the choice of either full-time, online instruction or two days of in-school instruction and independent study the other three days. Fairfax Education Association President Kimberly Adams said the only decision that should be made is to stay with virtual learning. “There are so many risks without answers right now,” she said. “The FEA is still of the belief that a vaccination or a widely available treatment for COVID-19 is necessary before a full return to in person instruction can be achieved safely.” Missed time in the classroom is better than the potential consequences of returning to school buildings, she added. “Many of us have lost family members and friends to this pandemic,” Adams said. “We would prefer that, in hindsight, we were overcautious rather than grief stricken due to our role in community spread, transmission, infection and death.” While parents are able to choose, Fairfax County Federation of Teachers President Tina Williams said teachers fear they won’t have an option. “We think it’s imperative that all staff be given this choice so they are able to work in the environment they feel most safe in,” Williams said. Parents must let the district know their decision by Friday.
George Washington University plans to offer in-person classes this fall, with some significant changes to the academic calendar. The university submitted its reopening plan to the city last week and is awaiting approval. As part of the plan, in-person classes for the fall semester would begin Aug. 31 and end when students leave for Thanksgiving break. Students would then transition to virtual instruction for two weeks after Thanksgiving. “That way, we don’t have students traveling home and coming back and possibly bringing a recurrence of the virus back to campus,” GWU President Thomas LeBlanc said. Classes would also be held Labor Day and fall break would be canceled, reducing travel to and from campus and maximizing in-person instruction. According to the plan, the university would require everyone on campus to wear a cloth mask in public and practice social distancing. GW would also implement widespread testing for students and require seasonal flu vaccines for students, faculty and staff. The 33-page plan submitted to D.C. includes additional safety measures and details of how classes and schedules would be rearranged to allow for social distancing. The university said alternative schedules that meet professional accreditation requirements will be in place for the School of Nursing, College of Professional Studies, School of Medicine and Health Sciences, and GW Law. The university also said it is making accommodations for at-risk students and faculty, and expanding online options.