DC Reopens Indoor Pools, Gyms on Tuesday
COVID-19 Cases Reach 302,651 in D.C., Md. and Va.
As of Saturday morning, 15,918 people have tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, in D.C. with 636 deaths; there have been 130,795 cases in Maryland with 3,850 deaths; and in Virginia there have been 157,905 cases with 3,354 deaths. Social distancing is recommended to help control its spread. You can read last week’s updates here.
Some indoor pools and fitness centers in D.C will reopen on Tuesday. Seven indoor pools including Marie Reed, Wilson, Takoma, Turkey Thicket, Rumsey, Deanwood (opening in December) and Berry Farm will be open from 6 a.m.-noon and 4-9 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday for lap swimming and structured programs. Thirteen fitness centers including Berry Farm, Bald Eagle, Benning Stoddert, Columbia Heights, Deanwood, Edgewood, Emery Heights, Fort Stanton, Kenilworth, Palisades, Raymond, Ridge Road and Turkey Thicket will also open from 6 a.m.-10 a.m. and 3-7 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday. Both are closed Sunday. You must reserve pool and gym time online in 45-minute blocks and take your photo ID with you. At the fitness center, you can only make one reservation per day with a maximum of four per week. While the pools and fitness centers are open, the locker rooms and changing areas are not. So, you have to show up in your activity clothes and wear a mask at all times, unless you are in the water. Wading or kiddie pools will remain closed and deck seating is not available. Reservations are available seven days in advance.
Capitol Hill Baptist Church, which filed suit against D.C., has won injunctive relief from a federal judge and can begin holding church services again. The evangelical church sued after twice being denied permission from the city to hold outdoor church services during the pandemic. While the lawsuit has not been decided, the judge’s decision in the case states that the church “is likely to succeed” in proving the city hindered the church in holding services in violation of the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Part of the argument made by the church was that the city treated protests and demonstrations “more favorably than religious service by not enforcing capacity restrictions on gatherings against protesters.” It argued that was evident by the attendance and support of city leaders including Mayor Muriel Bowser, at some of those demonstrations. Lawyers for the city tried to argue most of those demonstrations happened on federally controlled land and were out of the hands of city leaders. In a press release, Pastor Justin Sok said the church is, “thankful that the court has granted us” the ability to hold services in D.C. again. The church, which counts most of its members as D.C. residents, had been holding services outdoors at Del Ray Baptist Church in Alexandria. “With this ruling in hand, we are speaking with the operators of a variety of outdoor venues to move our weekly gathering from Virginia to D.C.,” Sok said. Pastor Mark Dever wrote on his Twitter page that “as Christians, knowing God, we can thank Him today for tomorrow!” The judge’s ruling only affects Capitol Hill Baptist Church and other religious organizations are still barred from holding any indoor or outdoor service with more than 100 people.
Despite the fact that more than a dozen people including President Donald Trump, First Lady Melania Trump, press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, senior counselor Hope Hicks, policy advisor Stephen Miller and others tested positive for COVID-19 following a Rose Garden event on Sept. 26, the White House is opening its grounds for an open house next weekend. According to a memo sent to members of Congress on Friday, the White House extended the invitation to tour the Rose Garden. The annual tours are also open to the public, and while a press release said that masks are required and social distancing is “encouraged,” the capacity limit is not listed. Guests will visit the South Lawn, First Ladies Garden, White House Kitchen Garden and the Rose Garden. Half of the 24 people close to Trump who tested positive for the coronavirus were present at the Rose Garden ceremony for Amy Coney Barrett, Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court. This week, White House officials said they would not contract trace the event, but instead notify people who had close contact with the president two days before he was diagnosed on Oct. 1. Several Democratic congressional members sent a letter on Tuesday condemning the “casual disregard for the health of our community” at the White House. Many D.C. residents have raised their own concerns about House and Senate members not wearing masks on Capitol Hill.
The D.C. government offered free coronavirus tests outside the White House on Friday, as the number of COVID-19 cases connected to the Trump administration grows. The city doesn’t plan on regularly providing testing at the site, which was located at Black Lives Matter Plaza on 16th Street NW, a spokesperson for the mayor said. Health officers from 10 local jurisdictions including D.C. Health urged people on Thursday to get tested if they work in the White House or attended a Rose Garden event on Sept. 26 when Amy Coney Barrett was introduced as President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee. Some D.C. residents sharply criticized the decision to offer testing outside the White House, decrying the move as a political stunt. The D.C. government provides free coronavirus testing at firehouses and other locations. The city recently reported a surge in testing after more than a dozen people who attended the Rose Garden event tested positive for the virus. Trump and several members of his inner circle, including White House staff, have tested positive for the coronavirus.
After seven months, Ford’s Theatre and Museum will begin a phased reopening Wednesday. The Ford’s Theatre Society and the National Park Service announced Friday that the theater, where President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated in 1865, and its museum will open with timed tickets from 10 a.m.-noon and 2-4 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. It will be closed for cleaning from noon-1 p.m. A maximum of 25 visitors per hour will be permitted in the building. Tickets – limited to six per person – must be reserved in advance online or by phone. No tickets will be available at the door. The Petersen House, across the street from the theater, where Lincoln died, remains closed. “For the last several months, Ford’s Theatre Society and the National Park Service have been working . . . to adjust our visitor experience to meet new health and safety guidelines,” Ford’s Theatre Director Paul R. Tetreault said in a press release. “We are excited to welcome you back.” The theater closed March 14. It is one of the nation’s best-known historic sites and before the pandemic saw about 650,000 visitors a year.
Most spring semester classes at George Washington University will remain online. In a letter to the campus community on Friday, President Thomas J. LeBlanc and other university officials cited the continued spread of the coronavirus and said all undergraduate courses and most graduate programs will remain virtual when the semester starts Jan. 11. There are exceptions for classes that require in-person instruction or research. The letter also said it is unlikely the university will hold an in-person graduation ceremony in May. “As with the fall semester, we will continue to offer a high-quality virtual GW experience,” the letter said. “Managing this pandemic has called on us all to do our part to keep the community healthy and safe, and to support one another through these difficult decisions.” The university will again discount tuition 10% for undergraduate students who do not live on campus and graduate tuition will remain frozen. A limited number of students with extenuating personal or academic circumstances are permitted to live on campus this year.
Prince George’s County will remain in Phase Two of reopening for at least two to three weeks. County Executive Angela Alsobrooks said Thursday at the press conference that the county’s metrics are not low enough to warrant a move to Phase Three. She made the decision based on analysis of the county’s COVID-19 data over the past two weeks and found that the county’s positivity rate, infection rate and average daily case rates have all increased. She said the county had made “some progress” with COVID-19 metrics in recent weeks. “Unfortunately, however, those COVID-19 metrics that we measure are still higher than we would like,” Alsobrooks said. “And in the past few days, we’ve actually reached a plateau in our data.” Recent COVID-19 data indicates that the county positivity rate had fallen to a low of 3.5% the week of Sept. 20 before increasing to 4.2% last week. The infection rate had fallen below 1.0 before it rose to 1.0 as of Sept. 28. And the average daily case rate last week was 11.5 new cases per 100,000 residents compared to 10.1 cases the week of Sept. 20. Alsobrooks said county health officials would like that number to stabilize at 10 new cases per day or lower. Most of Maryland moved to Phase Three early last month, but Prince George’s, Montgomery and Anne Arundel counties delayed the move based on local metrics. Prince George’s County also released new guidance on Halloween. It is advising against trick-or treating and will not permit indoor haunted houses. Large block parties and festivals are also “discouraged,” according to a press release. Halloween costume masks are also not advised, as they do not offer the same protection as face coverings. Instead, the county suggests residents attend drive-thru candy distributions, including those sponsored by local jurisdictions, as well as engage in at-home pumpkin carving, scavenger hunts and movie nights with household members, and virtual costume contests. As the county remains in Phase Two, it will not yet resume visitations to nursing homes, and childcare facilities will not be permitted to increase their child-to-teacher ratios, according to the press release. Theaters, bars and nightclubs in the county remain closed, and restaurants and other retail can operate at 50% capacity. Drive-in movie theaters, however, will be allowed to reopen Friday at 5 p.m., provided they meet requirements. The county will continue to analyze COVID-19 data and provide another update in two to three weeks. “Hopefully, we will be able to move into a modified Phase Three,” Alsobrooks said.
Alexandria will keep its Old Town pedestrian-only restaurant zone through March 2021. The Alexandria City Council voted to keep the “streatery” in the 100 block of King Street near the Potomac River, which offers restaurant seating on the sidewalks and in parking lanes. A corridor down the center of the road is open for pedestrians and social distancing. “Right now, we’re all focused very much on winterizing,” said Karl Moritz, Alexandria’s planning director. He said consideration is being given to the balance of wanting to provide a comfortable experience during the winter while allowing people to eat safely outdoors. “There’s the question of how enclosed structures can be, as well as technical issues that we need to be prepared for, such as, ‘What do we do when we need to plow the streets for snow?’” Moritz said. Restauranteurs hope to keep an open feeling with healthy air flow. Temporary structures would not be completely enclosed but would provide warmth and shelter from the elements. In Alexandria, face coverings are required for all in indoor and outdoor public places.
Health officials from 10 local jurisdictions in the DMV are asking individuals connected with recent events at the White House to self-identify and get tested following their possible coronavirus exposure. A letter posted online Thursday morning from health officers in D.C., Alexandria and Montgomery, Prince George’s, Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun, Prince William, Frederick and Charles counties, urges anyone who has worked at the White House in the last two weeks, attended the Supreme Court announcement in the Rose Garden on Sept. 26 or had close contact with people who did to contact their local health department, citing the Trump administration’s refusal to conduct robust contact tracing after events left more than a dozen people positive for COVID-19. Although much emphasis was placed initially on senior White House officials and their exposure, health officials in the DMV are concerned about the “scope of individuals who may have been exposed,” according to the letter, which could include permanent White House staff. D.C. Health has asked individuals connected to the White House to contact their local health departments for further guidance regarding their potential need to quarantine. The coordination by local jurisdictions highlights the need for unity, as the D.C., Maryland and Virginia are intricately connected. But the New York Times reported that some White House officials have opted not to use D.C. ‘s testing facilities, which are free and open to everyone. Instead, some have reached out directly to Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan for assistance, highlighting the administration’s disconnect to the city. The Commission on Presidential Debates announced Thursday morning that the second presidential debate will be virtual, saying the candidates “would participate from separate remote locations” in an effort to “protect the health and safety of all involved.” But Trump said he will refuse the change. “I’m not gonna do a virtual debate,” Trump said during a television interview. He was hospitalized at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center for COVID-19 last week.
More than $220 million in federal CARES Act funds will be distributed to Virginia school districts to help them prepare and respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. The grants, announced by Gov. Ralph Northam on Thursday, will help all 132 of the commonwealth’s public school districts purchase personal protective and sanitation equipment, testing supplies and technology for distance learning. “This additional $220 million in federal funding will give our schools the resources they need to continue operating and provide Virginians with a world-class education, whether safely in person or remotely from home,” Northam said in a press release. “COVID-19 has brough huge new challenges for our students and educators, and members of the Virginia Education Association have made clear throughout the pandemic that additional, necessary services require additional funding,” said James Fedderman, president of the Virginia Education Association. “This action will help keep our students safe, healthy, and learning.” Funding was allocated based on enrollment: School districts will get $175 for every student they have enrolled for the fall, with a minimum of $100,000 each. That means Fairfax County Public Schools, the state’s largest school district, will receive $31.6 million. Loudoun County will receive $14.8 million. Prince William County Public Schools will receive $15.9 million, Arlington County Public Schools will receive $4.7 million, and Alexandria Public Schools will receive $2.8 million. Manassas City Public Schools, Manassas Park City Schools and City of Fairfax Schools will receive $1.3 million, $597,000 and $518,368, respectively.
Bradley Hills Elementary School in Bethesda will be closed for two weeks after four staff members who were working on site tested positive for COVID-19. In a message to parents and guardians on Thursday, Montgomery County Public Schools wrote that “several” staff members who work on site tested positive COVID-19 tests, prompting a two-week shutdown, including the child care center that operates in the building. The employees last worked in the school on Oct. 6, according to the message. MCPS spokesperson Gboyinde Onijala said that four staff members reported positive tests and “no one will be allowed to access the building” until Oct. 23. The message urged staff members who worked with those who reported positive tests to get tested for the coronavirus and to quarantine for two weeks “out of an abundance of caution.” While MCPS buildings are closed to the public and all 161,000 students are taking virtual classes, meal and building services, and some administrative functions are still being done in schools. Some schools have also allowed educators to teach from their classrooms. MCPS advised anyone who was at the school between Oct. 2-6 to self-monitor for symptoms of COVID-19, which can include fever, cough, shortness of breath, fatigue, sore throat, loss of taste or smell, and headaches.
President Donald Trump has spent months making misleading claims about voting by mail, but they seem to have had an impact in Maryland, according to a new poll by Goucher College. The poll found that Republican voters in Maryland are much more likely to vote in person than Democrats. Results indicate the decision on how Marylanders will vote is pretty evenly split with 48% preferring by mail and 51% opting to vote in-person. Of those choosing to vote by mail, 59% are Democrats, while of those opting to cast their ballot in person, 72% are Republicans. The poll of 776 likely voters conducted between Sept. 30-Oct. 4 also found Vice President Joe Biden with a wide lead over Trump, 61%-30%.While the poll shows that the decision to vote by mail correlates with political ideology, age and level of education — progressives, younger voters, and voters with college degrees more likely to choose mail than in-person voting — it doesn’t follow race. A majority of both white and Black voters prefer voting in person to voting by mail. As of this week, almost 1.4 million Marylanders have requested mail-in ballots, six times the number requested during the 2016 presidential election. More than half-a-million of those requests are from Montgomery and Prince George’s counties, the state’s most populous areas. The poll shows that 59% of voters in the two counties say they will vote by mail. According to data released on Thursday by the Maryland State Board of Elections, almost 150,000 mail ballots have already been returned, with Montgomery and Prince George’s counties accounting for a little more than 25,000. Early voting in Maryland begins Oct. 26 at 80 centers across the state. On Election Day, 300 voting centers will be open. Voters who choose to vote by mail can return their ballot through the mail at a ballot drop box. The deadline to register to vote is Oct. 13 and to request a mail ballot is Oct. 20.
Mayor Muriel Bowser on Wednesday extended D.C.’s public health emergency due to COVID-19 until Dec. 31. The extension is needed to retain key parts of the city’s coronavirus response, the order says. The public health emergency was slated to end Oct. 9. “Without continued extraordinary measures authorized under a state of emergency, as well as community compliance with preventative measures, the progress the District has made in protecting the health, safety and welfare would be threatened and likely reversed,” the order reads. The mayor’s order also makes a few changes to the city’s Phase Two reopening status, which the city has been in since June 22. Public indoor pools may now open. Outdoor dining is still allowed, and the fees for those permits will be waived. There is no change to indoor dining limitations. And the D.C. Department of Employment Services will be responsible for issuing public health emergency grants to help train residents to support government, educational institutions, businesses and other organizations in the coronavirus response. The order also says city government agencies may ask people using D.C. facilities to provide identification and contact information, “for the sole purpose of facilitating contact tracing.” Any information collected under the rule will be destroyed after 30 days, according to the order. The public health emergency, which grants Bowser broad powers to restrict people’s movements, set curfews, and procure supplies and support, first went into effect on March 11. It has been extended several times since, as the DMV continues to grapple with the coronavirus.
Gov. Larry Hogan on Tuesday extended Maryland’s state of emergency and health emergency. The latest proclamation is the ninth time Hogan has renewed the declaration that was first ordered on March 5. “Continued response by the state is needed to maintain and further progress through the Maryland Strong: Roadmap to Recovery, including expanding COVID-19 testing capacity, maintaining adequate patient surge capacity, supplying sufficient person protective equipment and executing a robust contact tracing operation,” the order said. Maryland is currently in Phase Three of its reopening plan, although Montgomery and Prince George’s counties remain in Phase Two. The order also covered election procedures in the state, reinforcing Hogan’s desire to have many polling places open on Election Day. The order gives permission for the State Board of Elections to establish voting centers for the use of any eligible voter who wants to vote in person on Nov. 3. A voter may use any voting center in their county of residence.
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam on Wednesday directed another $12 million CARES Act funding to the commonwealth’s Rent and Mortgage Relief Program due to high demand for financial assistance. The program assists households and landlords with rent and mortgage payments to avoid eviction or foreclosure due to COVID-19. The additional funds will allow the Department of Housing and Community Development to continue the program until it is able to transition to a Community Development Block Grant funding stream, also provided through the CARES Act. “We created this program because people need help to stay in their homes, especially when they are dealing with job and income losses because of this public health crisis and through no fault of their own,” Northam said in a press release. “We have seen high demand for the financial assistance provided through this program, which proves how much it needs to continue. A global pandemic is the worst time for Virginia families to face losing their homes, and we know that safe and stable housing is critical to helping people stay healthy as we continue to combat this virus.” The RMRP launched in June with $50 million in federal CARES Act money to help renters and homeowners whose income has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic stay in their homes. Last month, the program also began allowing landlords to apply for payments on behalf of tenants. Families with children in the home represent the majority of households assisted by the program. The tenant-based application process is delivered locally by more than 30 grantees, while the landlord-initiated application process is administered statewide by Virginia Housing. The original $50 million has been fully committed to the administrators who are processing the increasing number of applications being received from both tenants and landlords. Current state and federal eviction protections through the courts do not prevent rent and mortgage payments from accumulating. The commonwealth is focused on helping eligible households and property owners access resources to maintain housing stability during the COVID-19 pandemic and in the future. Virginians are encouraged to act quickly and work with their landlord or lending institution to understand their rights and responsibilities and seek rent and mortgage relief assistance if needed. To submit a landlord-initiated application, visit Virginia Housing’s website. Tenants interested in applying should visit the DHCD website to complete a self-assessment for eligibility or call 211.
A viral video recorded inside Harry’s Pub near Metro Center and posted on Twitter has gotten the attention of D.C.’s Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA) for several violation’s to the mayor’s public health emergency regulations. Conservative author and podcaster David Harris Jr. posted the clip Tuesday night. It shows patrons at Harry’s, 436 11th St NW, chanting “back the blue” as four Metropolitan Police Department officers walk through the establishment. Harris, who isn’t wearing a mask, thanks them for their service. Many applauded the show of support and said this is how America should treat police. President Donald J. Trump retweeted the post. However, others were outraged at the scene of a maskless crowd inside the bar during a pandemic. An ABRA spokesperson said the “matter has been assigned for investigation.” ABRA regulates establishments that serve liquor. In the video, several Phase Two violations are seen, including requirements that “all guests must be seated” and “no standing at bars is allowed.” Also, patrons must wear masks or face coverings indoors at all times except when eating or drinking. While the bar looks crowded, it isn’t clear if that is a violation of the emergency’s occupancy limits. Indoor dining occupancy is limited to 50% of the seating capacity on the certificate of occupancy. Many of the offenses carry a warning or $1,000 fine for the first offense, a $2,000 fine for the second offense and a meeting with the ABRA board for the third offense. ABRA has investigated more than 130 violations during the pandemic. MPD officers are also tasked with enforcing the requirements, according to the order. It isn’t clear why the police were there or if they enforced the rules before or after the video. In July, Mayor Muriel Bowser said if businesses see mask violations, “they should call the police and the police will enforce it.” An MPD spokesperson said she believed officers were getting takeout food from Harry’s, but couldn’t confirm “the exact circumstances based on this short video.” Harry’s has not responded, but was investigated two other times for violating pandemic restrictions. Once on July 3 for insufficient spacing between tables, which resulted in a verbal warning, and again on July 4 for violating alcoholic beverage take-out rules. ABRA later ruled there was “no violation found after review of MPD footage.” The bar has been popular with police for years and in recent years has drawn conservative and white supremacist patrons like the Proud Boys thanks to its proximity to the Trump Hotel.
Montgomery County officials said they are ready for voters to cast their ballots in person and have rolled out changes and coronavirus-related safety measures designed to keep them safe. “We’ve been preparing for this for months,” said Earl Stoddard, director of the county’s Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security, during a press conference Wednesday. Among the changes is installing Plexiglas barriers at voting sites. Thirty-nine voting centers will be open on Election Day for any voter regardless of where they live in the county. Early voting begins Oct. 26 at 11 sites. “Public Health [employees] will be at walk-throughs of several of the facilities to try and point out any last-minute things that we might see,” Stoddard said. In addition, election judges are being trained on safety measures, he said. Voters are required to wear face masks should expect longer lines than usual because of physical distancing requirements. Once votes are cast, Stoddard said observers of the opening of ballots will have to be socially distanced. “We’ve tried to think of every possible opportunity for exposure, and I think we have a high degree of confidence that we’ve got a system in place that will protect people and allow them to take advantage of their right to vote,” Stoddard said. As for how confident voters should feel, County Health Officer Dr. Travis Gayles said he plans on voting in person this year. “I remember as a kid, going with my parents, and when I was small enough, I could go with them into the voting booth … So, it’s something that many people continue to carry with them. And it is a tradition of sorts,” Gayles said. “We certainly are concerned, but we also know that there’s been tremendous work and strides made to keep the experience safe and to protect folks.”
D.C. on Monday saw the highest number of coronavirus cases in more than four months. D.C. Health on Tuesday morning reported that there were 105 new positive coronavirus cases Monday. This is the highest number of reported cases since June 2, when there were 130 new cases. New case were averaging about 33 a day since Sept. 26 — 105 cases are more than triple that number. The test positivity rate as of Oct. 2 was 1.9%, the highest it has been since Sept. 18 but remains below the 2% threshold. Monday may also have seen the largest number of tests administered since D.C. first started tracking the numbers on March 13 — 8,461 tests were given on Monday, according to city data. However, only about 3,000 of those tests taken were D.C. residents, meaning more than half of those tested on Monday were not residents. City-run testing sites conducted 3,962 tests on Monday, an 81% increase from the prior Monday, according to John Falcicchio, Mayor Muriel Bowser’s chief of staff. “While we do not have data on what compelled people to get tested today, it would be hard to imagine that the recent news did not drive more people to do so,” Falcicchio said in a statement. “We will continue to monitor the demand this week and urge residents if they need a test to get a test.” The high number of people getting tested coincides with the coronavirus outbreak at the White House and President Donald Trump’s announcement on Friday that he was diagnosed with COVID-19. At a White House event on Sept. 26, Trump introduced Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett in front of more than 150 people, many of whom were not wearing masks. At least eight people may have become infected with COVID-19 at the Rose Garden event. A city official told the Washington Post that the number of potential cases from the event would “represent among the highest community spread incidents the city has experienced in recent months.” Since the Trumps are Florida residents, they are not counted in D.C.’s coronavirus numbers. On Friday, DC Health confirmed that it would not be contact tracing the event, leaving that up to the White House. As of right now, the White House is not performing contact tracing, either. This past weekend’s news has local residents very concerned about their own exposure. Many wonder what restaurants, stores and other places people at the Rose Garden event may have frequented afterwards.
The D.C. Council unanimously approved legislation Tuesday that requires landlords to provide photographic evidence that tenants have been given notice of eviction in cases against them. The measure was an amendment added to emergency renter protection legislation the council was previously scheduled to consider. The amendment came following an investigation by WAMU’s DCist website that uncovered hundreds of instances in which process servers — the people landlords hire to deliver summonses to tenants in eviction proceedings — filed affidavits that were likely false. In many cases, this meant that tenants were unaware that landlords had initiated eviction proceedings. If tenants don’t show up to their initial hearing, they lose by default. The issue of process servers claiming to serve tenants when they probably didn’t is referred to as “sewer service,” and is a problem that advocates say goes back decades. In just two months, the investigation found that two process servers — Karl Stephens and Matthew Buck of Silver Spring-based Metropolitan Process Services LLC — filed more than 600 affidavits that would have likely resulted in the eviction case being dismissed if they were brought to a judge’s attention. They had inconsistencies where the process server would have had to travel impossible distances to visit tenants’ home or claimed to be in two places at the exact same time. On one date, Stephens swore that he attempted to serve 16 D.C. tenants while he was sitting in a Maryland courtroom dealing with a DWI charge. “Currently, it is nearly impossible for a tenant to prove, with any certainty, that notice was or was not actually posted on their property,” says the rationale for the amendment, co-introduced by Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh and Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen. “To ensure that notice is actually posted on a tenant’s property, this amendment would require that anytime service is required in a landlord-tenant case, and the landlord chooses to effectuate service by posting, the landlord must provide the Superior Court with photographic evidence, including the date and time, that the notice was posted on the tenant’s property. If the landlord does not provide this photographic evidence, the Superior Court must dismiss the eviction proceeding.” The new legislation also requires landlords to provide tenants with written notice at least 30 days before starting eviction proceedings, requires the court to seal certain records related to eviction proceedings, prevents landlords from evicting their tenants if they owe $600 dollars or less in unpaid rent, and institutes other protections for renters facing eviction. Earlier this year, D.C. Superior Court announced that it would also start mailing letters to tenants to notify them about hearing dates. Advocates say that while the mailing is a positive step, it is still important to ensure the accountability of process servers, especially since mail service is inconsistent in some D.C. neighborhoods and some tenants do not have working mailboxes. Advocates and elected officials have said that addressing issues with the evictions process will be especially important when the city’s eviction moratorium expires. Evictions in D.C. will be suspended until 60 days after the city’s pandemic-induced state of emergency ends. “While evictions are prohibited during the current public health emergency, a wave of evictions is likely to come as soon as the prohibition is lifted; thousands of District residents have lost their jobs and back rent is piling up for them,” wrote the lawmakers in the rationale for the amendment. “One way to protect those tenants is to ensure that landlords and the process servers they rely on are following all of the rules the Council has put in place to ensure due process.” Cheh tweeted Tuesday morning that in addition to the amendment, “we will certainly need a comprehensive look at how to improve this process & bring in [D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine] to pursue the clear acts of fraud.” A spokesperson for the attorney general’s office said in an email the office was already looking into the issue of landlords failing to properly notify tenants of eviction proceedings “from both an enforcement and a policy perspective. Allen said Tuesday that in addition to the new measure requiring photographic evidence, he hoped to work with advocates and the Council to move forward additional legislation to address eviction processes during the upcoming legislative session. “This issue certainly will require a broader permanent measure, and we should reconsider how we regulate the process service industry.” Tuesday’s amendment was one of four possibilities for reforms. At-large Councilmember Elissa Silverman said Tuesday that the city should consider the remaining reforms, which include instituting a licensing procedure for process servers, having the Attorney General’s office enforce the law more actively and requiring eviction notices to be served in person.
Outdoor dining will be less attractive to diners as cold weather approaches, so Fairfax is offering to help restaurants make patios, sidewalks and other outdoor dining spaces cozier during the winter. Fairfax City has allocated $300,000 for micro grants of $3,000 each for up to 100 local restaurants for items such as heaters, tents, lighting, furniture and landscaping. It will begin accepting online applications Oct. 9, and grants will be awarded on a first-come-first-served basis. The city is using funds from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Securities Act. “We understand that colder weather will require our restaurant community to rethink some of their outdoor dining strategies,” said Fairfax Mayor David Meyer. “We want to ease that burden as much as possible for our restaurants by providing financial assistance to allow them to make needed accommodations to ensure outdoor dining can continue as long as possible.” D.C. is offering similar grants of up to $6,000 for locally-owned restaurants to winterize their outdoor dining spaces.
D.C. Health released official guidelines on Tuesday to “to have fun and keep our community safe from COVID-19” during Halloween and Día de los Muertos. A press release noted that many activities associated with the autumn holidays pose a high risk for spreading the coronavirus, such as trick-or-treating, visiting crowded haunted houses, bobbing for apples, singing and dancing. The statement reminded residents that the city’s mask mandate is still in effect. “A costume mask does not substitute for a surgical mask or cloth face covering,” it said. In general, the advice reflects the restrictions residents have been living with for more than six months: Outdoor activities are safer, but still a risk in big groups; the more people you interact with and the longer you interact with them, the higher the risk. The guidance recommends finding alternative ways to celebrate, and ranks them by risk level. Low risk alternatives include decorating your home and holding neighborhood drive-through events; carving pumpkins with people in your household; holding a “trick-or-treat candy hunt” with members of your household; and having a virtual costume party or pumpkin carving contest. Medium risk activities include grab-and-go trick-or-treating, where treats are lined up at the edge of a yard; holding a small group costume party, using masks and social distancing; visiting pumpkin patches, while maintaining social distancing; and creating a one-way, socially-distanced haunted forest, although “greater social distancing is necessary if screaming is anticipated. Activities to avoid include traditional trick-or-treating; taking candy from communal candy bowls’ going on hayrides with people not in your household; visiting haunted houses; and bobbing for apples. Officials also said residents avoid traveling outside the DMV to attend holiday events or fall festivals, or participating in events that include people from outside the region. The guidance also includes recommendations for safely celebrating Día De Los Muertos. Safe activities include preparing family recipes at home, playing music at home and making altars for deceased relatives at home. Medium-risk activities include visiting and decorating graves while maintaining distance from other families and holding small outdoor gatherings with social distancing. Activities to avoid include going to large indoor celebrations with singing and dancing and crowded celebrations in cemeteries.
Despite 50% limits on the number of patrons allowed on gaming floors, Maryland’s casinos reported combined gaming revenue in September that was slightly higher than a year ago for the first time since February. Maryland’s six casinos generated $143.71 million in gaming revenue in September, up 1% compared to September 2019. Maryland will collect $59.70 million of that for various state programs, up about 1%. The state’s Education Trust Fund gets $43.40 million of that. Gaming revenue at MGM National Harbor, the state’s largest casino, was $57.48 million in September, down .4% from last September. Live! Casino & Hotel had $49.15 million in gaming revenue last month, up 3% from a year ago. Baltimore’s Horseshoe Casino had $17.61 million in September gaming revenue, down 5.1%. The state’s three smaller casinos all had year-over-year gains: Ocean Downs Casino, $7.69 million, up 3%; Hollywood Casino, $6.72 million, up 12.6%; and Rocky Gap Casino, $5.04 million, up 5.2%. Not all on-property bars, restaurants and retail stores have reopened at the casinos. In August, MGM National Harbor slashed 780 jobs, or 25% of its workforce.
Three former senior attorneys on Monday filed a discrimination complaint against Maryland Legal Aid with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency that enforces federal employment discrimination law. In the complaint, Anita Bailey, Blake Fetrow and John Marshall accuse the pro-bono law firm of retaliation, age discrimination and failure to accommodate staff with disabilities. The three attorneys are among four top staff members who were fired in July, a week after they criticized Legal Aid’s plan to partially reopen its 12 offices during the pandemic. The lawyers signed a letter urging executives to let staff continue working from home. Maryland Legal Aid is the state’s largest source of free civil legal services for low-income residents. Charging documents filed with the EEOC allege that executives and human resources representatives at Maryland Legal Aid denied or ignored telework requests from older and vulnerable staff members who feared returning to work during the pandemic. In one alleged incident outlined in the filing, an employee at the Anne Arundel County office requested accommodation because she has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease that, if she contracted COVID-19, could put her at risk of death. The agency’s deputy chief counsel denied her request, the documents allege, and that employee continues to work on site “in a position that exposes her to the walk-in public.” The filings accuse a top executive of telling senior attorneys that staff members seeking telework “can get another job,” and that same executive is accused of targeting the three attorneys, who are all 50 or older, for termination because of their age. The three were among 11 Legal Aid attorneys who signed the July letter to executives questioning the reopening plan, but the other signatories were not fired, the filing claimed. “MLA retained other, younger chief attorneys” despite the fact they raised identical concerns, the complaint says, alleging that executives at the firm “strongly prefer young, unmarried, childless staff members” who earn lower salaries. Bailey, Fetrow and Marshall are represented by Linda Hitt Thatcher, a Greenbelt attorney who specializes in employment discrimination. In a statement, Thatcher says her clients were fired “because they stood up for the basic rights of their most vulnerable workers.” She added that Bailey, Fetrow and Marshall are all seeking reinstatement to their positions at Maryland Legal Aid. Workers who believe their employer has fired them for certain discriminatory reasons must file a complaint with the EEOC before they can sue. Sometimes these charges can lead to mediation, or the commission can launch an investigation into the complaints. Parties who file disability-related charges must be granted permission from the EEOC before they can bring a lawsuit in federal court, although charges of age discrimination don’t require such a notice. Several remaining employees said losing experienced senior lawyers weakens the nonprofit’s ability to help low-income Marylanders during the health crisis. A top provider of civil legal services to low-income individuals, Legal Aid served more than 121,000 people in 2016 across the state, according to a 2017 fact sheet. One of its specialties is assisting affordable-housing tenants in eviction cases. Thousands of renters in the state are at risk of losing their homes once eviction protections on the state and federal level expire, according to an analysis by the Aspen Institute. Lisa Sarro, the fourth attorney who was fired, did not sign the July letter and has not filed a complaint with the EEOC along with her former colleagues.
D.C. Public Schools plans to welcome up to 21,000 elementary school students back for in-person learning come November. Middle and high school students will not return until the third term begins in February. Chancellor Lewis D. Ferebee said during a press conference Monday the school system will provide two in-person learning options for students in Pre-K through fifth grade during the second term, which begins in November. Under the first option, about 7,000 students will attend in-person classes led by a teacher. Each school will offer one class for each grade beginning Nov. 9. Under the second option, about 14,000 students will still take virtual classes, but on campus. Staff members, such as instructional aides, will provide help to students. Students will participate in recess and lunch. The “CARE classrooms” will open the week of Nov. 16 for students in Pre-K through first grade and the week of Nov. 30 for students through fifth grade. Both programs will run five days a week, with a half day on Wednesday. Ferebee said he expects the school system will be able to educate about 75% of the city’s elementary school students in person. Schools will identify students for in-person learning, prioritizing English learners and students who are homeless, receive special education services or who belong to low-income families. Families can opt to continue with distance learning. Classrooms are expected to serve between five and 11 students. Small groups of students have already returned to select campuses for additional support, including tutoring, physical education and art. Some schools are also providing career and technical education in person. Unions representing teachers, principals and school nurses have fought plans for any broad return to school buildings, arguing the city has not provided enough information on how it would keep students and educators safe. Ferebee said DCPS will need about 3,400 teachers and staff members to support in-person learning for elementary school students. School officials said they will provide personal protective equipment, including face masks, for students and teachers. The city is also inspecting and upgrading HVAC systems in all of its elementary schools, officials said. During a tour of the Wheatley Education Campus on Monday, Ferebee highlighted safety measures schools will take, including daily temperature checks, spacing students’ desks apart and posting signs reminding people to keep a distance of six feet from others.
Prince William County Schools, Virginia’s second-largest school district, will offer 50% in-person classes for all grade levels beginning Nov. 10. Families have the option to keep their students at home and learning virtually, if they prefer. Students will be assigned to a “house” to determine which days they will attend school in-person: Tuesday/Thursday House, Wednesday/Friday House and Virtual-Only House. Mondays will be virtual for all students, no matter their house. The district is counting on students to check themselves daily for COVID-19 symptoms and to stay at home if they feel unwell in any way. “We recognize the complexity of this school year,” said Supt. Steve Walts in a message to parents, “and we value your collaboration as we work together to ensure that a high-quality education continues safely amidst this ongoing pandemic.” PWCS has shared mock-ups of its classrooms with social distancing measures – desks will be 3 feet apart — and capacity limits in place. Based on the diagrams, some classrooms could have as many as 20 students at a time. The return to in-person learning has created a rift between some parents and teachers. On Sunday night, the Prince William Education Association issued a statement supporting a return to all-virtual instruction. “There is no significant data indicating that returning to school in November will be equitable, let alone safe,” the statement said. Parents, organizing on Facebook using #teachmeinperson, planned to rally outside three schools on Monday in support of the back-to-school plan. The parent group also plans to gather on Wednesday evening outside the Kelly Leadership Center, where the school board will meet to discuss the plan. PWCS’ 50% in-person model is one of the more ambitious back-to-school plans in Northern Virginia. Loudoun County Public Schools plans to bring back student in kindergarten through second grade for 50% in-person learning beginning Oct. 27. Fairfax County Public Schools’ superintendent has presented a plan to the school board that would bring back small groups of students for in-person instruction, with a focus on students in special education programs and English learners. Arlington Public Schools plans to bring back some students with disabilities this month, followed by English learners, PreK to third grade students and other specialty groups in November.
President Donald J. Trump and several other White House officials contracted COVID-19 recently, but Mayor Muriel Bowser and D.C. Health Director Dr. LaQuandra Nesbitt didn’t have any details to share at a news conference Monday. “D.C. Health won’t be talking about specific White House cases, so let me kind of just start there. And so anyone who is tested, either at one of our test sites or from their own doctor, and they live in the District, what our law requires is that those health care providers to send that information to D.C. Health. And D.C. Health will follow its protocol for contact tracing,” Bowser said. The mayor said her administration reached out to the White House to offer assistance but hasn’t received a substantial response. She said communication between the city and the White House will continue. “Obviously, we’re concerned about the spread of COVID-19 — period. We’re especially concerned with people following scientifically justified protocols to contain the spread of the virus,” Bowser said. The Associated Press reported that a D.C. official, speaking on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to comment on the record, said White House doctors have not informed D.C. Health of any of the positive test results — a necessary step before contact tracing and quarantining can begin. There have been multiple attempts to contact them, the person told AP. A Sept. 26 White House event announcing Judge Amy Coney Barrett as Trump’s Supreme Court nominee is under scrutiny after a number of attendees have since revealed positive coronavirus test results. At the event, high-ranking government officials were seen mingling without masks and seating didn’t follow proper social distancing protocols. Nearly a week after the event, Trump said last Friday that he and first lady Melania Trump tested positive for the coronavirus. Others who were at the event and later disclosed positive test results include GOP Sens. Mike Lee and Thom Tillis, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former White House counselor Kellyanne Conway and White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany. D.C. has rules for public face mask use and has limited large gatherings to 50 people or fewer. Social distancing guidelines are also in place throughout the city. Bowser said she assumes the White House, on federal property, is following federal protocols. Asked about whether, in one instance, D.C. would enforce a quarantine on U.S. Attorney General William Barr, who previously did not intend to self-quarantine after attending the Rose Garden event and head back to work at the Department of Justice, Nesbitt stressed the importance of confirmed contact vs. perceived contact. “We are not allowed to take legal action by someone’s perception of an individual being a close contact. So, I cannot take someone to court and enforce a quarantine for someone because of public speculation. So I think that’s important for people to remember in this situation,” Nesbitt said. D.C.’s contact tracing metric aims to get interviews completed within three days. Last month, health officials urged residents to better help contact tracers to complete those necessary interviews. “We would further remind people that our D.C. sites are available to them if you live or work in D.C., or you’ve visited D.C.,” Bowser added.
Dozens of ballot drop boxes are now open across D.C. for voters who have completed their mail-in ballots but don’t trust the U.S. Postal Service to return them. Fifty of the 55 planned drop boxes opened Monday. The remaining five drop boxes located at the Penn Branch Shopping Center, Foggy Bottom/GWU Metro, Northwest One Neighborhood Library, Southeast Neighborhood Library and Fort Stanton Recreation Center will open Thursday. A full list of all drop-box locations and a map of where to find them can be found online. D.C. Board of Elections officials say ballots will be collected from each drop box twice a day. The area east of the Anacostia River has a larger number of drop boxes because of complaints of spotty mail service there over the summer. The city moved to install drop boxes after it decided to send every registered voter a ballot in the mail, in hopes of pushing more of this year’s election away from in-person voting because of the ongoing pandemic. D.C. officials insist that the 400-pound drop boxes are secure and have been placed in areas with electronic surveillance. Drop boxes are also available for Maryland voters, and this summer the Virginia legislature authorized jurisdictions across the state to set up drop-off sites of their own. D.C.’s drop boxes will be open until 8 p.m. on Election Day. Voters can also choose to drop off their ballot at one of the 32 early voting sites that open on Oct. 27 or at any of the 95 polling places that will be open on Election Day. The voter registration deadline is Oct. 13, and city officials say that if you have not received a mail ballot by Oct. 21 you should vote in person. D.C. officials say that voters should remember to sign and date their ballot before mailing it in or dropping it off.
New Mexico was added to D.C. Health’s high-risk states list where the seven-day average of new daily coronavirus cases is 10 or more per 100,000 on Monday morning. People coming to D.C. from a high-risk state must self-quarantine for 14 days. The health department removed Arizona. The full list includes Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming. The list will be updated again on Oct. 19.
Regal Cinemas is temporarily closing all 536 of its movie theaters, including 15 in the DMV, starting Thursday. Movie theaters in Maryland and Virginia, which closed in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, have reopened but moviegoers have been slow to come back. Theaters in D.C., Montgomery County and Prince George’s County remain closed. In addition, theaters in major markets like New York and Los Angeles remain closed and “studios have been reluctant to release their pipeline of new films,” Regal Cinemas owner Cineworld Group PLC said in a statement. The latest big-screen delay of the new James Bond film No Time to Die seems to have been the last straw for Cineworld. “Cineworld will continue to monitor the situation closely and will communicate any future plans to resume operations in these markets at the appropriate time, when key markets have more concrete guidance on their reopening status and, in turn, studios are able to bring their pipeline of major releases back to the big screen,” CEO Mooky Greidinger said in a statement. The closures will affect about 40,000 U.S. employees. Cineworld said in September it suffered $1.6 billion in losses over the first six months of 2020. Regal Cinemas locations in the DMV include Gallery Place in D.C., Hyattsville, Silver Spring, Rockville Center, Laurel Town Center, Germantown, Waugh Chapel in Gambrills and Columbia in Maryland; and Ballston Quarter, Kingstown in Alexandria, Springfield and Dulles town centers, Bull Run Plaza in Manassas, Regal Plaza in Sterling and Fairfax Town Center in Northern Virginia.
After a decade hosting live music in D.C., U Street Music Hall will close its doors permanently due to the coronavirus pandemic. The venue’s management posted a letter on Twitter Monday afternoon. “There is no easy way to say this, but here we go: It is with tremendous sadness that we share with you today that U Street Music Hall is losing effective immediately,” the letter said. “When we closed our doors to the public this past March, just days before we were to celebrate our club’s 10-year anniversary, none of us could have imagined at the time that we would still be closed nearly seven months later with no return date in sight because of an unrelenting disease called COVID-19.” The letter cites operational costs “that never paused even while we were closed,” as well as the lack of a clear reopening timeline for music venues as the main reasons behind the closure. U Street Music Hall is owned by Will Eastman. I.M.P., the live music company that owns the Anthem, 9:30 Club, Merriweather Post Pavilion and other local venues, often put on shows there. “This is another heartbreak,” Audrey Fix Schaefer, the communications director for I.M.P. and the 9:30 Club, said. “We booked hundreds of shows at U Street Music Hall each year, so it’s like losing a member of the family.” The 500-person venue was known for hosting packed shows in its basement space, located along a prime stretch of the city’s U Street Corridor. Eastman brought in hundreds of DJs over the years, from up-and-comers to big names like Diplo and Skrillex. The club planned to celebrate its 10th anniversary with a week of shows and dance parties in mid-March. Instead, it closed down, along with the rest of the city’s live music spots. Eastman tried to raise money to pay employees by selling merchandise and launching a livestream series called U Hall TV, but those efforts didn’t make up for the lost revenue from live shows. A GoFundMe page he started crowdfunded more than $22,500. It employed 24 people before the shutdown. U Street Music Hall is the latest in a string of local venues to shut down due to the financial strains of the pandemic, which has now entered its seventh month. 18th Street Lounge shuttered in June after 25 years in Dupont Circle and Twins Jazz closed in August after 33 years on U Street. The D.C. government recently launched a pilot program to test out indoor concerts at six venues around the city. Capacity will be limited to 50 people, including staff and artists. But many venues say it wouldn’t be profitable to host concerts for that capacity, since costs would significantly outweigh ticket revenue. Musicians and venue owners have banded together to lobby both the local government and Congress for additional relief funding. Nationally, the Save Our Stages Act would provide federal financial assistance to independent venue operators, promoters, producers and talent representatives. Locally, music advocates are pushing the D.C. Council to support the Music Venue Relief Act, which would grant independent venues monthly financial assistance.
Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich late Sunday night criticized President Donald Trump for briefly leaving Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, where he is being treated for COVID-19, to ride around and wave at supporters gathered outside. Trump, 74, announced Friday morning that he had tested positive for COVID-19 and was admitted to Walter Reed later that day. On Sunday evening, Trump briefly left the hospital in a motorcade to wave to supporters lining Rockville Pike. Critics blasted Trump, saying he frivolously exposed people around him, including his driver and Secret Service agents, to COVID-19. “We take COVID-19 seriously” in Montgomery County, Elrich tweeted. “We ask our resident to act responsibly with family & friends and expect the same from our guests. Please think about those caring for you and stay in the hospital until you can return to the White House.” Montgomery County has been slower to reopen than the rest of Maryland as it fights the spread of COVID-19. The pace has often been met with backlash, but officials have said they believe Montgomery County has avoided many cases and deaths by doing so. Conversely, over the past several months, Trump has routinely downplayed the severity of the coronavirus, once saying, “It affects virtually nobody.” He was often seen in public without a face covering prior to his diagnosis. During last week’s presidential debate, he said he wears a mask when he thinks he needs to. On Sunday, Trump’s doctors said he is doing well and could be discharged as soon as today. They also said the president had begun a steroid treatment after his oxygen levels dropped twice. Since Trump arrived at Walter Reed on Friday, a near-constant crowd of supporters and critics has been outside the hospital. Many have not been wearing masks, despite a local order mandating their use in public spaces when it is difficult to social distance. The crowd, at times, has grown to more than 50 people, the local limit on the size of gatherings. Montgomery County police have been on the scene since Trump arrived, including Sunday night as part of Rockville Pike was closed during the president’s ride.
The number of new weekly COVID-19 cases in Virginia may have peaked in early August, according to the latest model from the University of Virginia’s Biocomplexity Institute. The model, updated every Friday, previously projected that the number of new weekly cases would peak statewide in late October or early November, with a total of more than 200,000 cases statewide by Thanksgiving. However, the latest update suggests cases may have peaked the week ending Aug. 7, when 7,583 were reported, and that total cases should only be about 184,000 by Thanksgiving. However, the report notes that the onset of fall and the flu season could drive the numbers higher and emphasizes that its modeling is based on current trends. “Virginia residents should continue with social distancing and infection control,” the report says. Since the report was released, the state has reported two successive days with more than 1,000 new cases each for the first time in more than two weeks. On Sunday, the Virginia Department of Health reported 1,067 new cases statewide, following 1,116 new cases on Saturday. That increased the state’s seven-day average of new cases to 818. In Northern Virginia, 268 new cases were reported Sunday, pushing the region’s seven-day average up to 167.4. The state’s positivity rate ticked up again, to 4.8%, but has now been below 5% for nine days in a row. Only three new deaths were reported statewide on Sunday, with none in Northern Virginia. The UVA report found that cases were declining or had plateaued in 28 of the state’s 35 health districts. Six were seeing slow growth and only one was at a “surge” level. The reproduction rate, or number of additional infections generated by each new infection, was 0.868 statewide based on the onset date of symptoms for the seven days ending Sept. 19. That was the third straight week the rate was below 1, which is the critical level for minimizing spread of the virus. In Northern Virginia, the rate was 0.824 that week. The institute also reported that the average time between the onset of symptoms and confirmed diagnosis dropped to 4.2 days in September. It was as high as 6.3 days bac in July due to backlogs of tests. According to the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association’s dashboard, the number of patients on ventilators for treatment of COVID-19 fell to 98 statewide on Sunday. That is the lowest level since July 11. And the number of patients being treated generally in Northern Virginia for the virus fell to 189, the lowest since July 26.
The 32nd Memorial Illumination that had been set for Dec. 5 at Antietam National Battlefield has been canceled this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The event involved 23,000 luminaria placed across the park in honor of those who were killed in the Civil War’s Battle of Antietam on Sept. 17, 1862. “Public health concerns, as well as the lead time needed to plan and execute this event, led the National Park Service and our partners to this mutual decision,” park service spokeswoman Katie Liming said in an email Friday. While spectators viewed the illumination on the battlefield from their cars, it took about 1,000 volunteers to set out and light the candles. The park service “looks forward to seeing volunteers and visitors at the Annual Memorial Illumination in 2021,” Liming wrote.