Metro Cuts Spared by COVID Relief Funds
COVID-19 Cases Reach 728,536 in D.C., Md. and Va.
As of Saturday morning, 31,457 people have tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, in D.C. with 813 deaths; there have been 303,364 cases in Maryland with 6,075 deaths; and in Virginia there have been 393,715 cases with 5,381 deaths Social distancing is recommended to help control its spread. You can read last week’s updates here.
Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority officials expect to get $610 million from the federal stimulus package that was signed into law last month, putting off some service cuts and possible layoffs that were proposed to address a decrease in revenue caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. “Thanks to the leadership of the regional Congressional delegation and Senator [Mark] Warner, we will be able to keep transit employees working, providing essential service to customers in the national capital region through June 30th,” said WMATA Board of Directors Chair Paul C. Smedberg in a statement. “However, we will need additional federal relief to avoid service reductions next fiscal year as the region stabilizes.” Metro received $876 million in federal funds from the first stimulus bill passed in March 2020, but by September transit officials warned that continued low ridership due to the pandemic would require the agency to cut service and staffing unless more funding was made available. But even with the additional round of federal money, Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld warned that service cuts and layoffs could still happen, although they will likely be less dramatic than originally proposed in November, which included ending weekend service, closing 19 stations, slashing bus service and less frequent weekday rail service starting in July. “We are far from out of the woods, without sufficient revenue to cover all of next fiscal year. While the choices may not be quite as severe, there is still enormous financial pressure on our funding jurisdictions, and ridership and revenue is likely to return very gradually, so we have tough choices still ahead,” he said in the statement. Overall, ridership — a critical source of operating revenue — has been down 80%-90% on Metrorail and 30%-60% on Metrobus during the pandemic. Funding from local jurisdictions could help fill some of those revenue losses, but area governments are also facing their own budget constraints from the pandemic. “The residents who have been hardest hit by the health and economic impacts of the coronavirus are also the ones who are still taking public transit,” said Montgomery County Councilmember Evan Glass in a tweet. “These funds are critical to maintain existing service levels so that hard working individuals can provide for their families.” Metro’s board will meet next Thursday to consider revising the current fiscal year’s budget and to hear from Wiedefeld on new estimates for the next fiscal year, which starts in July.
Virginia reported single- and seven-day records for new COVID-19 cases on Saturday, and hospitalizations for the virus hit another high. Four of the state’s five health regions hit record highs for seven-day averages of new COVID-19 cases on Saturday, with the lone exception being Northern Virginia, which was just below its record high. The health department reported a record 5,798 new cases Saturday, nearly 400 more than the previous record set Wednesday. That followed 5,328 cases on Friday, and the state’s seven-day average stands at a new high of 4,994.3. The average is up 19.8% in the past week and 31.4% in the past two weeks as the impacts of holiday gatherings continue to push case numbers higher. In Northern Virginia, 1,305 new cases were reported Saturday, following 1,205 on Friday; the region’s seven-day average is at 1,073.7, just below its record high Dec. 12 of 1,124.4. The other health regions of the state and their new record average highs are: Eastern, 1,238; Southwest, 999.9; Northwest, 847.6; and Central, 835.1. The Virginia Department of Health reported 69 new deaths related to COVID-19 on Saturday, the second-most ever, behind 96 on Sept. 15, when a backlog of death certificates were recorded. Overall, the state has recorded 264 deaths over the past seven days, making it one of the deadliest weeks since the pandemic began. Of the new deaths reported Saturday, 10 were in Northern Virginia: eight in Fairfax County, which leads the state with 707 total deaths, and two in Prince William County. The health department had reported 37 new deaths on Friday, including two in Fairfax, two in Alexandria and one in Arlington County. Meanwhile, the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association reported that a record 3,032 patients were being treated across the commonwealth for COVID-19 on Saturday. In Northern Virginia, 635 patients were hospitalized with the virus, down slightly from earlier in the week and well below the region’s peak of 818 on April 30. In addition, a record 2,065 patients are currently positive with the virus in the state’s licensed nursing facilities, the association reported.
Year-round schooling is one of the options on the table to help Virginia students who have fallen behind with at-home learning. Gov. Ralph Northam said discussions are already underway, and if the year-round school is approved, it may start next year. He said state education officials are also looking at the possibility of adding school days to the summer. “Our children have suffered from COVID-19 as have our families,” Northam said Wednesday. As vaccines become more available, giving many hope that the end of the pandemic is coming soon, schools are trying to prepare for the return of students to classrooms. One of the concerns educators have is how to help students that struggled during at-home learning. While no set ideas have been decided, Northam said the need for all schools to welcome students back led to the state’s decision to put its 285,000 teachers and childcare workers as part of the next phase of Virginians eligible for vaccines. “Teachers are critical to getting schools back open, and that’s critical to people getting back to work and literally getting back to normal,” Northam said. In its current phase, healthcare personnel and staff and residents at long term care facilities can receive vaccines. While opening schools does not depend on teachers getting vaccinated, Northam said he believes it makes things easier. “We want to get our children back in school, we want to do it safely and responsibly,” Northam said.
Beginning Monday, the Alexandria, Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William health districts in Virginia, along with Cumberland Plateau, Lenowisco, Lord Fairfax, Mount Rogers, New River and Roanoke County/Allegheny health districts, will move into Phase 1B of the commonwealth’s COVID-19 vaccination plan. The Virginia Department of Health made the announcement Friday evening. Phase 1B includes front-line essential workers, people 75 and older, and people living in correctional facilities, homeless shelters or migrant labor camps, VDH said. A spokesperson for Gov. Ralph Northam confirmed elected officials will be included in Phase 1B. “The number of calls to our VDH hotline and to our local health departments asking about vaccines is evidence that people want this protection,” said State Health Commissioner Dr. Norman Oliver in a press release. “Our goal is to get shots into arms as quickly as possible. Vaccines are our best hope to get back to normal.” The rest of Virginia will likely move into Phase 1B before the end of the month. “The governor has made it very clear that the state should not be holding anyone back – if health districts are ready and able to begin Phase 1B, they must be able to do so,” said Dr. Danny Avula, VDH’s newly appointed COVID Vaccine Coordinator. Also, the state launches a new section of its dashboard so the public can track its distribution. While Maryland and D.C. have been supplying vaccine data online, Virginia will start sharing information tracking coronavirus vaccinations next week. The coronavirus vaccine tracker will be available on the existing Virginia Hospital COVID-19 dashboard. Virginia hospitals have delivered more than 102,900 does of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines since the first shipments arrived three weeks ago. “Hospitals across the commonwealth are working to vaccinate people in the initial priority population in a safe, effective and expeditious manner, and have made strong progress on that ongoing work,” said Steven C. Arner, the Carilion Clinic chief operating officer and the chairman of the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association’s Board of Directors in a press release. “Moving ahead, we will share vaccination data with the public to help track the continuing progress of this critically important public health effort.” More than 269,000 doses of both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have been shipped to 67 Virginia hospitals. Initial shipments of Pfizer vaccine doses arrived in Virginia during the week of Dec. 14, and some of the first doses were administered within a day of arrival. Last month, hospitals in Virginia began administering vaccine doses to front-line healthcare workers at the greatest risk of exposure to COVID-19 before moving to vaccinate other eligible medical professionals in accordance with guidelines established by the Virginia Department of Health and VHHA, according to the statement.
If the trend of new all-time high numbers of daily COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. continues, the virus could claim 400,000 lives by the end of January, according to Jennifer Nuzzo, senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. “More than 4,085 Americans died from the coronavirus [Thursday], and that’s the highest number we’ve seen on a single day,” Nuzzo said Friday in an online briefing. She said overall numbers are being driven by recent record-high days for daily deaths in 13 U.S. states, and the anticipated winter holiday surge could still be more than a month away. “What we keep seeing is that, often, the surges happen a bit silently at first,” Nuzzo said. Holiday travelers may be healthier and less likely to develop severe symptoms before spreading the virus. The surge begins to become more obvious when people get sick enough to get tested or require specialized care. “We start seeing changes in hospitalizations, etc. So, I give [the holiday surge] a fairly long runway — probably at least a month, and it will continue past there, past that time,” Nuzzo said.
U.S. employers shed jobs last month for the first time since April, cutting 140,000 positions, clear evidence that the economy is faltering as the pandemic tightens its grip on consumers and businesses. At the same time, the unemployment rate stayed at 6.7%, the first time it hasn’t fallen since April. Friday’s figures from the Labor Department depict a sharply uneven job market, with losses concentrated among restaurants, bars, hotels and entertainment venues, many of them affecting low-income employees, while most other sectors are still adding workers. Still, the nation has nearly 10 million fewer jobs than it did before the pandemic sent it into a deep recession nearly a year ago, having recovered just 56% of the jobs lost in the spring. The pandemic will likely continue to weaken the economy through winter and perhaps early spring, and further job losses are possible in the coming months. But many economists say that once coronavirus vaccines are more widely distributed, a broader recovery should take hold in the second half of the year. The incoming Biden administration, along with a Democratic House and Senate, is also expected to push more rescue aid and spending measures that could accelerate growth. “We’ve got the vaccine and the stimulus, which are imminent, and which we do expect to turn things around,” said Leslie Preston, senior economist at TD Bank. For now, the renewed surge in cases, as well as cold weather, has caused millions of consumers to avoid eating out, shopping and traveling. Re-imposed business restrictions have shut down numerous restaurants, bars, and other venues. Economists at TD Securities estimate that more than half the states have restricted gatherings to 10 or fewer people, up from about a quarter in September. New York and California, among others, placed strict new limits on restaurants last month. New cases continue to set daily records. On Thursday, the nation registered more COVID-19 deaths in a single day than ever before, topping 4,000. The virus is surging in several states, with California, the largest state, hit particularly hard. Skyrocketing caseloads there are threatening to force hospitals to ration care. Last month, restaurants, bars, hotels, casinos, movie theaters and other entertainment venues eliminated nearly 500,000 jobs, the most since April, when nationwide shutdowns triggered 7.6 million layoffs. While those employers will regain some jobs as the economy recovers, changing consumer habits will likely mean that a portion will be gone for good. Business travel, for example, may not return to pre-pandemic levels. Most other industries added jobs in December, with manufacturers, construction companies and higher-paying professional services such as architecture, engineering and accounting hiring more workers. The huge disparities among industries are sure to exacerbate economic inequality, given that most of the job losses are in lower-paid industries, while middle- and higher-paid workers have largely remained employed. Friday’s data suggests that the pandemic economy is continuing to benefit some sectors, with transportation and warehousing adding nearly 47,000 jobs. E-commerce firms also ramped up hiring. Delivery jobs rose 37,000. “We’re seeing huge rotation here,” said Brian Bethune, an economist at Tufts University. “The higher-paying goods-producing industries are doing well. Unfortunately, the leisure and hospitality industries are still getting whacked.” Under financial pressure, consumers as a whole spent less during the holiday shopping season than in previous years, based on debit and credit card data tracked by JPMorgan Chase. Such spending was 6% lower in December compared with a year ago. That was worse than in October, when card spending was down just 2% from the previous year. The $900 billion financial aid package that Congress enacted last month should also help propel a recovery, economists say. It will provide a $300-a-week federal jobless benefit on top of an average weekly state benefit of about $320. In addition, millions of Americans stand to receive $600 payments, and the Treasury Department said Thursday that 8 million of those payments were going out this week. Goldman Sachs has upgraded its forecast for economic growth this year to a robust 6.4% from its previous estimate of 5.9%. Its upgrade was based in part on the expectation that the Biden administration will implement more stimulus. Friday’s monthly jobs report, the last of Donald Trump’s presidency, shows that the nation has 3 million fewer jobs than it did four years ago. That makes Trump the first president since Herbert Hoover, early in the Great Depression, to preside over a net loss of jobs. All the job losses during the Trump administration occurred after the pandemic struck. Before then, the unemployment rate had reached a 50-year low of 3.5%. Still, Trump had pledged to create 25 million jobs in four years.
With COVID-19 surging and vaccinations off to a slow start, President-elect Joe Biden will rapidly release most available vaccine doses to protect more people, a reversal of Trump administration policies. “The president-elect believes we must accelerate distribution of the vaccine while continuing to ensure the Americans who need it most get it as soon as possible,” spokesperson T.J. Ducklo said in a statement Friday. Biden “supports releasing available doses immediately and believes the government should stop holding back vaccine supply so we can get more shots in Americans’ arms now.” Biden’s plan is not about cutting two-dose vaccines in half, a strategy that top government scientists recommend against. Instead, it would accelerate shipment of first doses and use the levers of government power to provide required second doses in a timely manner. The Trump administration has been holding back millions of doses of vaccine to guarantee that people can get a second shot, which provides maximum protection against COVID-19. It is seen as a prudent approach, since both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines require a second shot after the first vaccination. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar raised questions about Biden’s plan, telling a hospital forum on Friday that “we’re pushing the system as much as I as secretary believe is ethically and legally appropriate.” But a recent scientific analysis in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine estimated that a “flexible” approach roughly analogous to what Biden is talking about could avert an additional 23%-29% of COVID-19 cases when compared to the “fixed” strategy the Trump administration is following. That is assuming a steady supply of vaccine. The nation’s inoculation program has gotten off to a slow start. Of 21.4 million doses distributed, about 5.9 million have been administered, or just under 28%, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Biden has indicated his displeasure with the progress of vaccinations. “I think the way it’s being done now has been very, very sad,” he said at his news conference Friday. The Trump administration’s “Operation Warp Speed” has delivered vaccines to the states, he said, “but did not get them from those vials into people’s arms,” he continued. “And so it is a gigantic logistical concern of how we do that.” Biden says he intends to speed up vaccinations by having the federal government deliver more vaccines and take a stronger role ensuring that they are being administered. The American Hospital Association estimates that the nation would need to vaccinate 1.8 million people a day, every day, from Jan. 1-May 31, to reach the goal of having widespread immunity by the summer. That is also called “herd immunity” and would involve vaccinating at least 75% of the population. Biden has set a goal of administering 100 million shots in the first 100 days of his administration. He has previously said that he and Vice-President elect Kamala Harris have been talking with state and local leaders about meshing the efforts of governments at all levels. Among the specifics: opening up vaccination centers and sending mobile vaccine units to hard-to-reach communities. The Biden transition office said its experts believe that pushing out available vaccine as fast as possible will not create problems for people needing their second dose. Biden will make broader use of a Cold War-era law to direct private industry to supply materials for vaccine production, should that become necessary, his office said. One-shot vaccines are moving through development. But Azar said if vaccine production doesn’t increase Biden’s approach could lead to “fits and starts” in vaccination. “What we’ve set up is a system that manages the flow, to maximize the number of first doses, but knowing there will be a second dose available,” Azar said, defending the Trump administration’s decision.
Less than a week before some students were supposed to return to hybrid in-person learning, Fairfax County Public Schools delayed the plan for at least a month. Supt. Scott Brabrand and the county school board agreed to the delay on Tuesday. During a work session, Brabrand heard concerns from board members, principals, teachers and educators’ unions that bringing willing students back into classrooms during current high numbers of COVID-19 cases was unsafe. After presenting the “Return to School” plans and mitigation strategies developed to bring some students back on Jan. 12, Brabrand suggested delaying the reopening. “What we need to do right now is say we’re taking a pause, and let everybody take a big exhale,” Brabrand said during the virtual meeting. “Let me take time and make sure people don’t feel rushed, to talk to talk to teachers and teachers’ associations, and principals and principals’ associations, and get a plan that I bring back Feb. 2.” One main concern was teachers and school employees had not received their first doses of the coronavirus vaccine. Fairfax County Director of Health Gloria Addo-Ayensu said although school employees had been classified as essential workers as part of the Phase 1B group for vaccinations, Virginia is still giving vaccines to healthcare workers, long-term care residents and others in Phase 1A. Since the vaccination rollout protocols are still in their earlier days, Addo-Ayensu said she didn’t have enough information to provide a date for teachers to be vaccinated. “I am working with the county executive as we speak about the vaccination,” Brabrand said. “We know that is a game-changer in back-to-school and lowering anxiety of our staff to return.” Even after employees begin receiving vaccines, Brabrand said the new mitigation strategies will still be implemented throughout the district. “It’s not a magic wand because we don’t have a vaccination for our children,” he said. While FCPS board members and parents have reiterated that a return to in-person learning is the ultimate goal and essential to children’s mental health, Brabrand said he suggested the pause based on the current situation. “In February, we’ll know more about the vaccine,” Brabrand said. “If we’ve got distribution that starts in another week or two, that might mean some of our people are already vaccinated, and I think that makes for a very different conversation.”
About 4 a.m. Thursday morning, Congress confirmed President-elect Joe Biden’s victory, hours after a mob of loyalists urged on by President Donald Trump stormed and occupied the Capitol, disrupting the final electoral count in a shocking display of violence that shook the core of American democracy. Pro-Trump supporters in town for protests as the U.S. Congress worked to certify Biden’s win in the November presidential election, stormed the U.S. Capitol Wednesday afternoon, breaching the building and sowing chaos inside. Four people died on the Capitol grounds, including a woman fatally shot by U.S. Capitol Police inside the building and three others who died of apparent medical emergencies, according to acting Metropolitan Police Department Chief Robert Contee. Mayor Muriel declared a public emergency and issued a curfew from 6 p.m. Wednesday until 6 a.m. this morning. Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam also declared a 6 p.m. curfew in Arlington County and the City of Alexandria and issued a state of emergency in Virginia. DMV residents had been asked by elected officials earlier in the week to stay away from the rallies scheduled to protest Congress certifying Biden’s victory. The Proud Boys, an extremist group of self-described “western chauvinists” with ties to white supremacy, threatened violence and destruction in the city leading up to the events. Two previous MAGA rallies in D.C. in the wake of the 2020 election ended in four stabbings and other altercations. Several local officials raised concerns about a response by Capitol Police they said was underprepared and inadequate. After lawmakers went into lockdown or were evacuated, D.C. police took the lead in clearing the Capitol building of insurrectionists, with the help of neighboring law enforcement agencies called in to assist. By late Wednesday evening, D.C. police had arrested 52 people — 47 were related to curfew violations and unlawful entry, and half occurred on U.S. Capitol grounds, according to Contee. He said that police began enforcing the curfew order at the Capitol and then fanned out to other parts of the city, and would continue to enforce it until it ended at 6 a.m. Officials are releasing images of people who breached the Capitol to make sure they are “held accountable for the carnage,” Bowser said. Police also recovered weapons including two pipe bombs near the Republican National Committee and Democratic National Committee headquarters, as well as a cooler with Molotov cocktails discovered in a vehicle on the Capitol grounds. Incited by Trump’s speech Wednesday morning at the Ellipse, demonstrators pushed past police towards the Capitol building earlier in the afternoon during Congress’ session to count the Electoral College’s votes. The session was halted in the middle of debate over the results in Arizona, and Capitol Police proceeded to try to lock down the building. Police were unable to secure the building: After successfully breaking through a barricade, one group clashed with Capitol Police on the Capitol steps. Police deployed chemical irritants in an attempt to control the crowd. Inside the building, pro-Trump extremists were seen wandering in the House and Senate floors, smashing windows and occupying offices. Outside, protesters chanted to push forward, while individuals climbed walls around the Capitol grounds. Others paraded large American flags through the crowd. A haze of smoke obscured the building as Capitol Police used what appeared to be chemical irritants and flash bangs to clear extremists from the steps and nearby scaffolding. MPD officers arrived in riot gear shortly after, and law enforcement succeeded in clearing protesters entirely off the Capitol lawn shortly before 6 p.m. The D.C. National Guard was deployed after the Secretary of the Army initially denied the mayor’s request. The governors of Virginia and Maryland both sent in National Guard troops and state police. Police officers from Fairfax County, Prince George’s County and Baltimore Coutny were also in the city to assist with the response. At 7:30 p.m., nearly an hour and a half into the city-wide curfew, a crowd dozens strong remained on Pennsylvania Avenue. Hundreds of law enforcement officers, some of whom appeared to be members of the National Guard and FBI, began encircling the crowd. As law enforcement officers let people exit, one man shouted: “Fucking pig cocksuckers, we’re coming back with rifles next time.” Late in the evening, the mayor extended the public emergency she declared for an additional 15 days, which includes the presidential inauguration. That allows her to more easily corral resources for public safety. She, like many local officials, has insisted that Trump be held accountable for the day’s events. Biden called for Trump to “go on national television now to fulfil his oath and defend the Constitution and demand an end to this siege” in a public address around 4 p.m. “Let me be very clear: the scenes of chaos at the Capitol do not reflect a true America, do not reflect who we are,” Biden said, calling the event a “godawful display” adding “It’s not protest — it’s insurrection.” Shortly after 4 p.m., Trump tweeted a recorded message that appeared to be filmed outside the White House, in which he told insurrectionists at the Capitol, “go home, we love you, you’re very special.” Trump also told his supporters he “feel[s] their pain,” repeating his false claim that the “election was stolen from us.” Twitter later announced it had locked Trump out for 12 hours and removed a series of tweets, including that one, for “repeated and severe violations of our Civic Integrity policy.” Election officials across the country have not found instances of widespread fraud. Several Republican and Democratic lawmakers, all living former defense secretaries and former U.S. Attorney General William Barr have all dismissed the conspiratorial claims of election fraud. As the scenes from the Capitol shocked the nation, businesses and other institutions, including the public library, began closing early ahead of the city’s curfew. Metro suspended rail service at 8 p.m. and bus service at 9 p.m., and some COVID-19 testing sites across the District closed early. Shortly after 8 p.m., Congress reconvened and resumed its work certifying Biden’s victory
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam laid out the commonwealth’s plan for distributing the COVID-19 vaccine to residents by priority groups, as he urged Virginians to ready themselves for a long winter with high rates of infection. Northam said his administration’s goal is to give 25,000 vaccinations every day in the short-term. “Hitting it will depend on manufacturing ramping up and supplies being distributed to states over time,” he said. “We don’t have everything we need yet — no state does — because it’s being manufactured, literally, in real-time.” Because the current vaccines require two doses, Northam said that the amount distributed per day would need to double later this year for the commonwealth to hit its goals for number of residents vaccinated. “We can be faster, and we’re going to be faster. That starts with a simple message to healthcare providers: health departments, hospitals, clinics, pharmacies, everywhere,” Northam said during a press conference Wednesday. “You use it or you lose it. I want you to empty those freezers and get shots in arms. When you have vials, give out shots until they’re gone. No one wants to see any supplies sitting unused. … So don’t save anything. You’re going to get every dose you need because more is coming. But if you’re not using what you receive, you must be getting too much. So in the next shipment, we’re going to allocate more doses to other places that need them.” Northam said the numbers are going to be public so everyone can see what is out there, where the doses are being deployed and how quickly. “Now I want to be clear: Use it or lose it does not mean that you give shots to everyone who shows up. There’s a clear prioritization of who should get shot first, and who should get them in what order.” The commonwealth’s priority order largely follows the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendations for priority groups. Group 1 has been broken into three subgroups with Group 1A being the highest priority and the first to receive the vaccine in Virginia. Northam said Group 1A includes healthcare workers and people who live in long-term care facilities and represent about 500,000 people. Group 1B includes more than 2 million people ages 75 and older and essential workers such as firefighters, police officers, grocery store workers, people who work in food processing plants, bus drivers and transit workers, food workers, corrections officers, postal workers, childcare workers and teachers. “Opening schools doesn’t depend on vaccinating teachers, but that sure will make it a lot easier,” he said. “That’s why we have chosen to put teachers so high on the list of essential workers.” Group 1C includes another 2.5 million people including people 65 and older, people ages 16-64 with high-risk medical conditions and essential workers in construction, transportation, food service and utilities. Northam said all people in Group 1 combined would account for roughly half of the commonwealth’s population. In preparation for the further rollout of the vaccine, Northam put Dr. Danny TK Avula in charge of vaccine distribution for Virginia. Northam also said the Virginia National Guard will be helped to give vaccines as numbers ramp up.
Montgomery County launched a new webpage on Wednesday that allows residents find out where they fall in receiving a coronavirus vaccine. Earl Stoddard, director of the county’s emergency management agency, said the webpage, part of the county’s COVID-19 website, won’t let residents register to get a vaccine, or find out when they can get one. That depends on how many doses the county receives, which is determined by how much the state gets from federal officials. “All of us are kind of in this waiting line,” County Executive Marc Elrich said. But the website lets residents find out what priority group and what tier of that group they are in, and to sign up for email or text notifications on how many doses have been given out, which groups are currently getting the vaccine and what group they fall in. County Health Officer Dr. Travis Gayles said it is hard to predict when the vaccination queue will move on to a new group because the county finds out its weekly allotment each weekend for the coming week, and the state only finds out a week in advance what it is getting. The vaccine news comes while coronavirus numbers in the county are still high, officials said. The county recorded 531 new cases of the virus on Wednesday, about 10 times the daily rate in August. “This is not a good number,” Elrich said. Neither were the positivity rate, at 8.4%, or the 39.1 cases per 100,000 residents in the county. Even though a vaccine is on the way, “the virus is still very much with us,” Elrich said. “We are still in the midst of a major public health crisis,” and “it will be a while” before the general public can get the vaccine. Stoddard said he was “still incredibly concerned about the numbers,” adding that 20% of EMS calls on Monday involved people under suspicion of having COVID-19. Gayles added that two of six hospitals in the county are at capacity in terms of staffed ICU beds. “We cannot stop doing what we’re doing to keep people safe,” Gayles said. While hospitals have beds, Stoddard said, hospitals don’t have enough capacities, for example, for every patient in them to be on oxygen. “We’re not happy with where we are, but we’re not worried that we’re going to blow out the system” like a month ago, Stoddard said. Gayles said about 94% of the doses the county has gotten so far — 4,047 of about 4,300 — have been given out. The county received 8,600 doses on Tuesday and hopes to have 5,500 of those administered by Friday for a total of 9,500 doses given. That’s “not enough to cover everyone who is eligible,” Gayles said, adding that that number is between 40,000 and 50,000 — the number of people who are in Group 1A, Tiers 1 and 2 who aren’t getting vaccinated through long-term care facilities or hospitals where they live or work. Gayles added that the county is not going to wait to confirm that the 50,000 people in Tier 1 are vaccinated before they move on. They will look at the trend of how many people in the top tier coming in. Montgomery County Public Schools has a tentative date of Feb. 1 for students to move into hybrid learning, with some classes being held in school buildings. Metrics are currently well above the target “I think it’s going to be challenging” to reach the goal, although teachers and staff are able to get vaccines, “that does maybe change the conversation a little bit,” Gayles said. He added that he and other officials supported the moving of educators into a higher tier. “I do not think that by Feb. 1,” there will be enough people vaccinated to start hybrid learning, Gayles said. “At the minimum, we will see people getting their first doses. But as always we will continue to study the literature and engage in best practices.”
Prince George’s County officials on Wednesday acknowledged the county’s rollout of COVID-19 vaccinations has been sluggish, but said they anticipate “ramping up our efforts significantly” in the next week. At a news conference Wednesday, County Executive Angela Alsobrooks said the county, which has been among the hardest hit by the virus, doesn’t need criticism from Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, who announced several steps Tuesday to speed up vaccinations but more help. “We’ve experienced some initial delays, and we have to be honest with you about that, because the truth is we have needed help, and we’re working to get that help,” Alsobrooks said. On Thursday, a team of four National Guard members and five support staff, will arrive in the county to help perform vaccinations, part of a statewide emergency effort Hogan announced Tuesday. For now, the county is still in the very beginning stages of its vaccination efforts, and Alsobrooks and other officials are cautioning county residents that it will be months before members of the general public can line up for shots. Under Phase 1A of its vaccination plan, the county just received its first batch of about 3,700 vaccine doses from the state and has used them to vaccinate front-line healthcare workers who are vaccinating others before moving on to other front-line healthcare workers and front-line first responders. Alsobrooks said the county is pushing to move to the next phase of the vaccine rollout by the beginning of February. Under Phase 1B, adults 75 and older and essential workers, such as teachers and childcare workers, would be vaccinated. Following that, Phase 1C includes people age 65-74 and other essential workers, such as grocery store workers and public transit employees. Prince George’s County Health Officer Dr. Earl Carter laid out a slightly more conservative timeline for completing the first phase of the rollout, saying it could take into the second half of February, but stressed, “We are determined to get through Phase 1A as quickly as we can.” Phase 2 isn’t expected to begin until April and would include people age 16-64 with certain medical conditions and additional essential workers, before the general public can expect to sign up to get vaccinated. “If we can start to vaccinate everyone else in the county by late spring or early summer, there’s a chance we can start talking about herd immunity by next fall and that would be absolutely wonderful. It means we can get back to a semblance of normal. However, we have a lot of work to do. And it will take a lot of collaboration to make this work,” Carter said. In the coming weeks, three vaccination sites are set to open in the county. By the end of this week, the county’s Sports and Learning Complex will open and be used as a staging ground to vaccinate first responders in the county’s fire and EMS department who are eligible, Alsobrooks said. That will be followed by the D. Leonard Dyer Regional Center in Clinton and a vaccination site in Laurel both in the coming weeks.
Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot on Wednesday announced extensions for certain tax filing and payment deadlines for some small businesses and self-employed people in the state. Franchot described the move as essentially a 90-day, interest free loan. “What we’re talking about — a zero-interest loan and economic stimulus to Maryland businesses and independent contractors that total more than $1.5 billion,” Franchot said. “They can keep that money in their pockets.” Emphasizing that the taxes must eventually be paid, Franchot noted that similar relief offered earlier in the pandemic ended up being budget neutral to the state, but enormously stabilizing to people who were struggling. “We need to get money in people’s pockets so that they can avoid suffering, and additionally, they can use that money to lubricate the economy,” he said. Businesses, self-employed people and independent contractors with estimated income tax returns and payments due on Jan. 15 are granted extensions until April 15, and there is no need to file requests. The extensions apply to sales and use, alcohol, tobacco and motor fuel taxes with due dates between Jan. 1-April 14. A tax alert from the Comptroller’s Office provides full details on which specific tax filings and payments are receiving extensions. The relief applies only to state taxes administered by the comptroller, which do not include, for example, unemployment insurance or personal property taxes. Franchot sent a letter to the Internal Revenue Service, requesting similar deadline extensions for federal tax payments. People with extension-related questions can reach the Comptroller’s Office by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Metropolitan Police Department made six arrests by 10 p.m. Tuesday related to several rallies by Trump supporters gathering to protest Congress’ certifying President-Elect Joe Biden’s victory, which is scheduled for today. The arrests included a series of gun-related charges, assault, assault on a police officer, possession of a taser, possession of illegal fireworks and a traffic offense. The arrests come as far-right groups threatened to violate D.C.’s strict gun laws and wreak havoc in the city despite closed streets and boarded up businesses downtown. Acting D.C. Police Chief Robert Contee said at a press conference Monday that law enforcement would not tolerate firearms at the demonstrations. There are signs throughout the downtown area explaining that all firearms are prohibited within 1,000 feet of the signs. Police are focusing on trying to keep demonstrators away from any counterprotesters. D.C. officials have warned residents to stay away from areas where rallies are expected, including Freedom Plaza, the U.S. Capitol and the Supreme Court. On Monday, Mayor Muriel Bowser urged Washingtonians not to “engage with demonstrators who come to our city seeking confrontation.” But large crowds, many not wearing face coverings, are expected at today’s events. One permit has been updated with a maximum attendance of 30,000 people. Based on hotel occupancy rates and Trump’s promotion of the events, officials believe there will be a large turnout. For weeks, Trump has been encouraging attendance at the demonstrations, along with spreading false claims about the election results. He plans to speak at a rally on the Ellipse at 11 a.m. today. In addition to MPD, U.S. Park Police and Secret Service policing the events, the D.C. National Guard was called up to help with crowd and traffic control. Among those expected at this week’s events are the Proud Boys, an extremist group with ties to white supremacy. At MAGA rallies in D.C. in November and December, the Proud Boys were linked to violent incidents and property damage, including the burning of Black Lives Matter signs taken from historic Black churches. Proud Boys Chairman Henry “Enrique” Tarrio, 36, of Miami, claimed responsibility for burning one of the banners. D.C. police arrested Tarrio for the incident Monday as he arrived in the city and found two high-capacity firearm magazines in his backpack, according to police. At his first court hearing on Tuesday, a D.C. judge released him from custody and barred him from the city. He faces arrest if he attends the rallies. His next hearing is in June. Meanwhile, the group has said it would be “incognito” this week instead of dressed in its signature black and gold colors. During the past two rallies protesting the election, at least five people were stabbed and police made more than 50 arrests.
Maryland has been slow to administer early doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, so Gov. Larry Hogan took steps Tuesday to speed up distribution. “While none of us are thrilled with the pace of this rollout over the first few weeks, I can assure you it is improving every day,” Hogan said during a press conference Tuesday. The state’s top priority is to initially vaccinate healthcare workers, first responders and residents and staff at long-term care facilities. As of Tuesday, just more than 79,000 doses of the more than 274,000 vaccines the state received have been administered, according to Maryland Department of Health data. State and local officials say delays in the supply chain and unpredictable distribution of vaccines are behind the slow start. That raises concerns about the long-term plan to vaccinate millions in the state against the virus. Mike Ricci, Hogan’s spokesperson, tweeted Tuesday that “supply [of the vaccine] is the limiting factor.” Ricci included a graphic showing how vaccines move from the manufacturer to distributors and then are transported to healthcare providers. Hogan said slow and uneven data reporting from vaccine providers is another part of the problem. To bolster the rollout, he said the Maryland National Guard would be activated today to provide support teams to vaccine providers. Hogan also issued an executive order that requires healthcare providers to report vaccinations within 24 hours of injection. To make sure providers are getting the vaccines into arms, the department released a directive that any provider that has not used 75% of its initial doses may have future allocations reduced until it can prove its ability to meet capacity requirements. “Our message to those responsible for vaccinations is clear,” Hogan said. “Either use the doses that you have been allocated, or they will be redirected to another facility or provider where they will be used immediately.” Hogan said the state is beginning what he called “a Southwest Airline model, a rolling vaccine distribution model. No doses should be sitting in freezers going unused … while others are in need of more. We’re no longer going to be waiting for all the members of a particular priority group to be completed before we move on to being that next [priority] group. … Either use the doses you have been allocated or they will be redirected to another facility or provider.” According to MDH data, the Montgomery County Health Department has administered 84.5% of its allocation, while Howard County has administered 81.7%, Anne Arundel County just 16.3% and Prince George’s County only 4.3%, the third lowest in the state despite having the most cases in the state. Hogan also announced changes to the state’s distribution schedule. Phase 1B, which he said should begin about the end of January, will include all Marylanders 75 or older, people in group homes, high-risk inmates, developmentally disabled populations, continuity of government workers, as well as teachers, childcare and education staff. That group will now include about 860,000 people. Phase 1C, which based on current allocation should begin in March, includes all residents 65-74 years old, workers in critical sectors, including grocery stores, public transit, agricultural production and manufacturing. That group now contains about 772,000 Marylanders. Phase 2 now includes people ages 16-64 at increased risk due to comorbidities, as well as essential workers in critical utilities and other sectors totaling more than 1.1 million people. Phase 3 is the general public.
One major priority for Arlington County’s new board chair in 2021 will be supporting residents and businesses most at risk due to the COVID-19 pandemic until some semblance of normalcy returns. “I want to issue a call to action from my heart to yours,” new County Board Chair Matt de Ferranti said Monday after being unanimously elected to lead the board this year. De Ferranti said Arlington County would react to the ongoing needs of those on the lower economic rungs by creating a Hunger and Food-Insecurity Working Group “to better collaborate and coordinate to maximize our resources.” He said the group would conduct its work “over the next 12 to 18 months,” suggesting it will have less to do with helping the current situation and look at the longer term. Efforts will also focus on providing further protections from eviction for those delinquent with rent and will attempt to address the needs of Arlington County’s small businesses – nearly 40% of which voiced concerns that a prolonged period before a recovery will prove to be an economic killer. “Now more than ever, we must support our hard-hit businesses and address office and retail vacancies,” de Ferranti said. “Our neighbors matter, jobs matter and Arlington residents matter.” De Ferranti predicted a “very tight” county-budget, but did not say if homeowners would be called upon to fill the budget shortfall through higher taxes, although without a substantial cut to the existing real-estate tax rate, many property owners are likely to pay significantly more due to higher assessments. The 2021 assessments are due out by the end of January. De Ferranti made passing reference to the fact that 28,000 Arlington County Public-Schools students remain out of classrooms. “Our children will need to resume in-person learning and return to routines,” he said, although board members have not pressed school officials on a timetable, saying it is not their place. Last June, Arlington became the first school district in the DMV to declare its intent go all-virtual for the start of the 2020-21 school year. Despite a majority of parents wanting classrooms reopened, it is an increasing possibility school could finish the academic year in an all-virtual format. In his remarks, de Ferranti predicted the incoming Biden administration would “lead our nation’s recovery” and said county government would continue moving forward with renaming streets and facilities that “do not align with our community’s commitment to racial equity.” Monday’s County Board meeting was organizational; the board’s first business meeting of the year will be later this month. The board chairmanship traditionally rotates annually among members of the majority party; all five current board members are Democrats. De Ferranti, an attorney, was elected in 2018. Katie Cristol will serve as vice chair, setting her up for her second stint as chair in 2022.
D.C. officials hope to begin vaccinating residents age 65 and older on Jan. 11; some essential workers, including public safety workers, grocery store employees, workers in PreK-12 educational setting and childcare workers on Jan. 25; and residents with chronic medical conditions and remaining essential workers on Feb. 1. During a press conference Monday, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser stressed the dates could change based on the progress of previous groups. “Almost 17,000 people have been vaccinated with their first dose,” Bowser said. While there are two vaccines that have been approved — Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna — the mayor said residents should get whichever vaccine becomes available to them first. “The District has received just over 40,000 doses, and additional doses become available each week,” Bowser said, adding that D.C. has also started weekly reporting of vaccine distribution. “It’s not fully activated as yet as those numbers represent about 58% of our vaccinators reporting. So, as we begin this process, just bear in mind that it’s getting fully rolled out and those numbers will change,” Bowser said. D.C. launched an online portal for healthcare workers to schedule their vaccinations. Healthcare workers at hospitals should get vaccinated at the hospital. A partnership with CVS and Walgreens will “allow for vaccination of residents in long-term care facilities as well as staff of long-term care facilities” so they do not need to schedule through the portal. But appointments through that portal aren’t fully being taken, Nesbitt said. Last week, 64% of appointments were available. “So, there’s lots of opportunity for healthcare workers in Phase 1A,” Nesbitt said. “All of those folks that we’re talking about — people who work in acute care hospitals, specialty care hospitals, long-term care facilities — we really want them to be vaccinated through their hospital.” She said people might not be aware of the vaccination opportunities. “So we could really use a full-court press to get people aware of vaccinate.dc.gov as a way for healthcare workers in the District of Columbia to schedule appointments and fill up all those slots.”
Law student David MacMillan was walking through the Giant Food store at 1050 Brentwood Road NE on New Year’s Eve day when the pharmacist offered him and his friend the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. Currently, only healthcare workers and first responders in D.C. are eligible to get the vaccine. He posted a video of him getting the injection on TikTok. “Today, we were walking through the grocery store when the pharmacist flagged us down,” he said in the video. “Several first responders scheduled to get the Moderna SARS-CoV-2 vaccine had missed their appointments. This mRNA vaccine cannot last more than a few hours at room temperature, so they would have been discarded. Talk about a great way to start 2021!!” He told NBC Washington that the pharmacist “turned to us and was like, ‘Hey, I’ve got two doses of the vaccine, and I’m going to have to throw them away if I don’t give them to somebody. We close in 10 minutes. Do you want the Moderna vaccine?” The two didn’t hesitate. The post received hundreds of thousands of views and thousands of comments. MacMillan said he had a mild reaction to the vaccine — a headache — but overall feels great. He said the CDC is checking with him every day by text to monitor any symptoms. Giant issued a statement backing the pharmacist’s actions, explaining that the healthcare workers scheduled to get the doses didn’t show. Giant said D.C. Health makes it clear that if there are extra doses that will expire, they should be given to anyone who will take them. “We have given all of our providers very clear instructions that once a vial of vaccine has been removed from the refrigerator and it has been thawed and you have a number of hours to use it, is that any person who is available to be vaccinated should be vaccinated,” D.C. Health Director Dr. LaQuandra Nesbitt said during a press conference Monday. “So even through we’re in Phase 1A, if you have a healthcare facility where you have other essential workers who are around and can be vaccinated that day, you should vaccinate those essential healthcare workers instead of wasting vaccine. If you are a facility that has patients around who could be vaccinated that day, you should vaccinate those patients in lieu of wasting vaccine. Our goal is to have minimal wastage of vaccine, so if there are people available at the end of the day to be vaccinated, then you should vaccinate them.” She said wastage of the vaccine is required to be reported to the D.C. and federal government. “The Moderna vaccine is valuable and lifesaving, and we are happy to have not wasted it and given this couple each a dose,” Giant said in the statement. MacMillan said getting the vaccine did not take away from anyone who needed it. The situation was use it or lose it. He is He’s scheduled to go back for a second dose later this month. “Obviously the pharmacist is the hero here,” he told NBC Washington. “She only had a short period of time and she wanted to make sure that as many people got vaccinated as possible. So props to her, absolutely.”
Henry “Enrique” Tarrio, chairman of the Proud Boys group, was arrested by the Metropolitan Police Department on Monday for his role in stealing and burning a Black Lives Matter banner from Asbury United Methodist Church, a historically Black church, during the group’s demonstration in D.C. on Dec. 12. The Proud Boys is a far-right organization identified by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group and classified by the FBI as having white nationalist ties. The group has a history of violence. Police said they arrested Tarrio, 36 of Miami, as he entered D.C. for this week’s protests as Congress certifies the Electoral College vote and declares President-elect Joseph Biden the winner of the presidential election. Tarrio was charged him with destruction of property. D.C. police also charged him with possession of two “high-capacity” gun magazines, which are illegal in the city. Tarrio previously claimed responsibility for the burning of the BLM flag from the church. He previously told the Washington Post he would plead guilty to destruction of property if he were faced with a criminal charge. D.C. police were investigating both incidents as hate crimes. An MPD spokesperson said it would “be up to prosecutors with the U.S. attorney’s office in the District to determine whether to file hate charges, which could increase the penalty.” In previous interviews, Tarrio said he decided to come forward after seeing the burning characterized as a possible hate crime by law enforcement officials. “That kind of made me angry, to be honest with you,” he said. Hate crime, he said, implies the act was motivated by factors like race, cultural background or religious affiliation, when, he said, it wasn’t. Tarrio and the Proud Boys were sued in D.C. Superior Church for unspecified compensatory and punitive damages by the Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church and the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law on Monday for destroying another BLM banner from that church. “The lawsuit seeks to hold accountable those responsible for acts of mob violence inside the nation’s capital targeting historically Black churches,” the lawyers committee wrote in a press release Monday, calling the banner burnings “coordinated and clear acts of trespass, theft and destruction of property.” During a press call Monday, Kristen Clarke, executive director of the lawyers committee, said, “The attack perpetrated against Metropolitan AME is one meant to intimidate and instill fear, especially in Black communities.” The Proud Boys area returning to D.C. to protest the results of the presidential election on Wednesday. Trump is expected to speak at the rally. During a press conference Monday, Mayor Muriel Bowser called for locals to avoid downtown areas where the demonstrations are scheduled including the National Mall and Freedom Plaza, saying, “We will not allow people to incite violence, intimidate residents or cause destruction to our city.” Acting Police Chief Robert Contee added that city official have called in the D.C. National Guard to assist with traffic and crowd control. Anyone agitating or participating in violence “will not be tolerated,” Contee said.
Maryland is holding a special enrollment period for people to obtain health insurance though the state’s health benefit exchange. On Monday, Gov. Larry Hogan announced the new enrollment period begins immediately and runs through March 15. It is being opened due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the recent rise in the positivity rate throughout the state. “This additional special enrollment period is another way we are helping Marylanders weather the pandemic and come back stronger and healthier in the new year,” he said in a press release. Coverage dates vary based on enrollment date. Coverage starts Jan. 1 for people who enroll between now and Jan. 15. Those who enroll between Jan. 16-Feb. 15 will have coverage start Feb. 1, while those who enroll between Feb. 16-March 16 will have coverage start March 1. Maryland residents can sign up at marylandhealthconnection.gov.
On Monday night, the Loudoun County Public Schools opened 2021 the same way it closed 2020: grappling over distance learning in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic. During its meeting, the school board heard from frustrated parents who want in-person learning to resume and also from teachers who said it isn’t safe to reopen all classrooms. On Dec. 15, LCPS resumed 100% virtual learning after revised COVID-19 metrics for the county passed more than 200 cases per 100,000 residents during a 14-day period and positive tests averaged more than 10% over the same two-week period. As of Monday, the county reported a 14.1% average positivity rate and an average case count of 419.8 for the last 14 days. Current board policy wouldn’t resume hybrid in-person learning until at least one of the metrics falls below the threshold for five consecutive work days. “My kids are not learning,” said parent Elizabeth Chan. “I’m frustrated, angry and disappointed with our school board that our schools are still closed, and [there is] no real plan to reopen them at 100%.” Chan was among the parents speaking out in the public comments period of the meeting. Some parents said there is no remediation plan — no plan to help students catch up from learning lost from the past school year. But the school board also heard from teachers and Sandy Sullivan, the head of the Loudoun Education Association teachers’ union, who said the dangers of the pandemic outweigh the risks of a return to classrooms. “Increasing the number of staff in buildings, while COVID-19 cases rise, is irresponsible and dangerous,” Sullivan said.
Local officials are urging people to not go to downtown D.C. to counterprotest demonstrations held in support of President Donald Trump on Tuesday and Wednesday, Jan. 5 and 6. Demonstrators are planning to gather at the Washington Monument, Freedom Plaza and the Capitol. “I am asking Washingtonians and those who live in the region to stay out of the downtown area on Tuesday and Wednesday and not to engage with demonstrators who come to our city seeking confrontation, and we will do what we must to ensure all who attend remain peaceful,” D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said in a statement on Sunday. The city will put emergency no parking zones in place from 12:01 a.m. Tuesday through 11:59 p.m. Thursday and close several streets on Tuesday and Wednesday around the White House, the National Mall, McPherson Square and Farragut Square. Bowser said that the Metropolitan Police Department will be fully activated with all staff reporting for response on Tuesday and Wednesday. Loudoun County Board of Supervisors Chair-at-Large Phyllis Randall discouraged constituents from going to D.C. to counterprotest during the rallies. She called the situation “a tinderbox.” Trump has claimed his defeat was due to fraudulent election practices, an argument that courts have repeatedly and consistently rejected. “In one clear voice, I join other regional leaders in strongly discouraging any persons or groups from traveling to Washington, D.C., for the purpose of staging a counterprotest,” Randall said Sunday. Trump’s die-hard supporters vowed to come to D.C. to rally and protest on Wednesday, the day Congress votes to affirm President-elect Joe Biden’s victory. Trump has encouraged these demonstrations, promising it will be “wild.” The president shared a video clip on Twitter Sunday encouraging supporters to attend a protest on the Ellipse Wednesday. “I will be there. Historic day!” Trump said in the tweet. “In the face of organizations that are more than willing — and in fact eager — to engage in violent acts, counterprotesters can only serve to inflame an already dangerous situation,” Randall said. “In addition, the presence of counterprotesters will put unneeded strain on law enforcement in the District of Columbia.” In November and December, election protests drew members of the extremist group the Proud Boys, and some confrontations turned violent in the neighborhood near Black Lives Matter Plaza. “Counterprotesting will unnecessarily embolden these fringe groups,” Randall said. Asbury United Methodist Church said it asked D.C. police to increase its presence and surveillance. The church was one of two historically black churches that had Black Lives Matter banners burned by Proud Boys members during protests last month. “I understand and join you in your desire to show support for our elections process, democracy and the constitution,” but “for now, be smart and remain safe,” Randall said. “Please stay home on Jan. 6.”
Frederick County Public Schools suspended small group instruction and winter sports practices effective today following an increase in local coronavirus cases. According to an announcement on the school district’s website Sunday, all instruction will be virtual until further notice. “FCPS will continue monitoring health metrics and conferring with the Frederick County Health Department to determine when small groups can return to classrooms and when winter sports practices can resume,” the announcement said. “Current county health metrics also affect the ability for FCPS to implement a hybrid model of instruction as originally planned. More details regarding a new schedule for the transition to the hybrid model will be shared later this week.” Teachers may still use their classrooms to teach virtual lessons, but teleworking is encouraged. Students who need the internet to access remote classes will be allowed in school buildings, the district said. As of Sunday, Frederick County had an 11.23% seven-day positivity rate for the coronavirus. Statewide, the seven-day positivity rate is 9.25%. The county has had 11,868 confirmed cases and 198 related deaths. There have been outbreaks in three Frederick County schools, according to the Maryland Department of Health schools dashboard.