Vaccination Site Opens Tuesday in Tysons
COVID-19 Cases Reach 1,126,266 in D.C., Md. and Va.
As of Saturday morning, 46,579 people have tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, in D.C. with 1,095 deaths; there have been 434,859 cases in Maryland with 8,359 deaths; and in Virginia there have been 644,828 cases with 10,564 deaths. You can read last week’s updates here.
Virginia will open a Community Vaccination Center in the former Lord & Taylor store in Tysons Corner Center on Tuesday. The mass vaccination site is being organized by the Virginia Department of Emergency Management and Virginia Department of Health, according to a Fairfax County press release issued Friday. It is one of eight state-run high-capacity vaccination sites in the commonwealth. One is currently open in Prince William County at the former Gander Mountain store near Potomac Mills. They Tysons site will be open Monday through Saturday and appointments are required. “We are excited that we can offer our residents another large-scale COVID-19 vaccination site, this time in the Tysons area, which is easily accessed by several bus routes and located within walking distance of the Tysons Corner Metro station along the Silver Line,” Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay said in the press release. He said the site is expected to vaccinate as many as 3,000 people daily. The Tysons mass vaccination site comes as the county and the rest of Virginia opens up vaccine eligibility to anyone 16 and older and changes the process for scheduling vaccine appointments. Appointments can be scheduled through the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s VaccineFinder.org website instead through the statewide pre-registration system and waiting for an invitation to book appointments. Fairfax officials said the new mass vaccination site will initially not be searchable on VaccineFinder.org, as the county expects to use the site to finish vaccinating people on the county’s Phase 1 waitlist. Fairfax County’s seven-day case average is 175. Cases in the county have mostly plateaued at around that rate since early March. Almost 664,000 vaccine doses have already been administered in the county, according to state data, and more than 431,669 residents have received at least one dose.
Additional funds are available for Montgomery County renters hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. In its first two phases, the county’s COVID-19 Rent Relief program provided more than $16 million to more than 4,000 low-income households. Recently, the program received a $59 million cash infusion of federal funds for its third phase, which is more than three times the amount of assistance given out so far. The money comes from the U.S. Treasury Department’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program. Previous funding came from the federal CARES Act. “We’re going to be in a lot better position to help people,” Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich said Friday during a press conference. “This now allows us to give up to $12,000 in relief to families for up to 15 months of lost rent.” The money is paid directly to landlords. To qualify, renters must have lost income because of the pandemic, owe at least $1,000 to a landlord, have lived in Montgomery County since at least August 2020 and meet income requirements. Gross household income for an individual in the last 30 days must be $3,675 or less and for a family of four, it must be $5,250 or less. Renters don’t have to be a U.S. citizen or have a Social Security number to qualify. Applications for Phase 3 will not be processed first-come, first-serve. Instead, they will be prioritized based on several factors, including whether the household is in a “high-impact” neighborhood, if the applicant has been unemployed for 90 days or more or if eviction actions are being taken. “We know … the COVID pandemic has disproportionately impacted the economic well-being of our poorest and most vulnerable renters. They’re often referred to as essential workers, but when you don’t have health insurance and you don’t have access to unemployment, you’re pretty much expendable workers,” Elrich said. Applications can be submitted online. Previous recipients may reapply for additional funds as long as household income is less than $12,000. People who don’t have internet access or need help filling out the application should call Montgomery County’s 311 or 240-777-0311 from outside the county.
All Virginians 16 and older are eligible to book COVID-19 vaccination appointments beginning Sunday. “With COVID-19 cases on the rise in many parts of Virginia and across the country, it is important that everyone has an opportunity to make a vaccination appointment,” Gov. Ralph Northam said in a press release Friday. “If you are over 16 and want to get the safe, effective and free vaccine, please make a plan to get your shot.” In Phase 2, the way Virginians register and book vaccine appointments will change too. In February, the Virginia Department of Health set up a statewide pre-registration system, centralizing what had been a patchwork of county-run sites. As Virginia moves into Phase 2, people will be directed to look for and schedule appointments on VaccineFinder.org, a Center for Disease Control and Prevention website that shows users a map of available appointments pulled from public health providers, hospitals, medical practices, pharmacies and more. Fairfax County, which ran its own pre-registration system, will also direct residents to VaccineFinder.org. A Fairfax County press release from the county notes the site is “not currently available in other languages, but users can change their web browser settings to their desired language as an alternative.” Northam’s announcement cautions that there may still be delays in finding and booking appointments, given the number of newly eligible people. “Virginians seeking an opportunity to get vaccinated may have to wait for an appointment, as demand for vaccination is expected to continue to outpace supply in many parts of the Commonwealth,” the press release said. People eligible under Virginia’s Phase 1 who are struggling to find an appointment through the VaccineFinder tool will be able to use the old system — vaccinate.virginia.gov or 877-VAX-IN-VA — to register for a priority appointment. More than 3.3 million people have received at least one dose in Virginia, or almost 39% of the commonwealth’s population. Officials expect anyone in Virginia who wants a vaccine will be able to get a first dose by the end of May at the latest. D.C. and Maryland already started making vaccinations available to the general public.
The University System of Maryland’s Board of Regents on Friday gave Chancellor Jay Perman the authority to develop a COVID-19 vaccination policy for the fall. Perman said any decision would come only after getting input from the university presidents across the system, but at Friday’s meeting, Perman made his position on the issue clear, saying, “Widespread vaccination is how we’ll have a fall semester that resembles our pre-pandemic normal.” Perman said he understood that some people are reluctant to get vaccinated, and that the pause of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine may have “exacerbated” concerns. But, Perman told the board, “I believe that vaccination is necessary, and that vaccination is especially necessary on college campuses.” The University System of Maryland includes 12 universities, including the University of Maryland, Bowie State University and the University of Baltimore, as well as three education centers. Towson University President Kim Schatzel said her office has gotten “dozens and dozens” of emails, texts and calls about whether students will have to be vaccinated against COVID-19. She said she was concerned about being able to answer that question soon, as application deadlines loom and families are making choices about the fall. If the system decides to require COVID-19 vaccinations before students, staff and faculty return in the fall, Board of Regents member Ike Leggett asked, “What is our ability to enforce and ensure compliance?” Perman answered, “All of us that have been vaccinated, as you know, have a card — we will need to depend on some sort of documentation.” University of Maryland Baltimore County President Freeman Hrabowski, a member of Gov. Larry Hogan’s #GoVaxMD effort to encourage vaccinations, voiced his support for mandates. “As the chancellor said, we should be following the science, and the science is definitely saying mandatory vaccinations,” Hrabowski said. Former Maryland Health Secretary Robert Neall, now a member of the Board of Regents, said he looked forward to hearing from Perman once university presidents have weighed in, saying any decision “will be guided, I’m sure, by science and good sense.” Nate Sansom, student board member, said a recent informal poll of student leadership showed that students were “overwhelmingly in favor” of vaccination requirements, with exceptions carved out for medical or religious concerns. No date was given for a final decision. Within hours of the meeting, University of Maryland President Dr. Darryll Pines issued a tweet showing him getting a COVID-19 shot and adding, “Terps, you’re next!”
Like many brides, Sarah Studley’s wedding reception was canceled due to the pandemic. She couldn’t wear the gown she got for her reception, but she didn’t let it go to waste. When the 39-year-old Baltimore woman, who is a lawyer for a D.C. nonprofit, got her COVID-19 vaccination at the M&T Bank Stadium mass vaccination site operated by the University of Maryland Medical System last Sunday, she made the moment extra special: She showed up wearing her retro, white, A-line satin dress with polka-dot tulle paired with peep-toe pumps. She and her husband, Brian Horlor, got married last November in a civil ceremony – although they wore traditional wedding attire – outside the San Diego County clerk’s office followed by a small dinner with immediate family and a cake from Costco. They were planning a larger reception form extended family and friends in June, and Studley bought the gown to wear to the party. But with vaccine rollout lagging in January, they pulled the plug. “It just didn’t feel like it was going to be possible to have a wedding [reception]that was both safe and fun,” Studley told WJZ. So, her reception dress went into the closet, where it stayed until last weekend, when she decided to pull it out for another momentous occasion. “I knew this was the dress I would wear,” she said. “No pretty dress should sit in your closet forever unworn.” When she showed up to the vaccination site, Studley was the belle of the ball. “For me, it was a celebration,” Studley said. “There were so many low moments during the pandemic, so many things that got canceled, this dress, if nothing else, represents hope.” She is already brainstorming what she is going to wear for her second dose.
Several groups filed a federal class-action suit against the Virginia Employment Commission on Thursday for its failure to reach residents with unemployment benefits and abruptly cutting off payments to others without explanation. The Legal Aid Justice Center, Legal Aid Works, the Virginia Poverty Law Center and others filed the lawsuit seeking relief for the thousands of Virginians who have lost jobs during the pandemic and who are still waiting on the VEC to approve their unemployment claims. According to VEC statistics, nearly 1.6 million unemployment claims have been filed in the commonwealth since March 27, 2020. While weekly unemployment claims have decreased since last year, thousands of Virginians are still seeking aid from the state. For the filing week of April 3, 2021, the VEC reported 57,371 continued claims. “After getting cut off benefits, I became homeless for roughly four months,” said Lenita Gibson, a plaintiff, in a press release. “I have no income now, other than food stamps. I have a roof over my head again, for now, only through temporary assistance from rent relief program.” The suit focuses on the snail’s pace at which applications for unemployment benefits are reviewed, and the abrupt cut-off of benefits without proper notification to residents. According to the lawsuit, it is currently taking at least 10 weeks for almost all unemployment claims to be processed. That is seven weeks more than the three-week limit required by law for a claim to be addressed. Some residents have also reported that their employment benefits abruptly ended without any notice or a hearing from the VEC deputy — another violation of the law. While the American Rescue Plan extended Pandemic Unemployment Assistance for independent contractors and other self-employed workers, and allows other individuals to claim Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation through Sept. 6, the VEC controls the process for claiming and distributing the money. And delays within the commonwealth’s system are denying Virginians access to federal payments, despite Virginia receiving more than $38 million from the federal government to respond to the high levels of unemployment, according to a press release announcing the suit. “Bureaucratic delays in the processing of unemployment claims by the VEC compound the suffering of newly jobless Virginians,” Steven Fischbach, litigation director for the Virginia Poverty Law Center, said in the press release. “Without income, these Virginians face the loss of their homes through foreclosure or eviction, shut off essential services such as gas, electricity and water, and they cannot pay other bills.” The lawsuit comes more than a year after beleaguered unemployment systems in the region failing to meet residents’ needs as job losses skyrocketed. Earlier this month, the VEC limited some of its unemployment website functions while it investigated reports of fraud, which only made it harder for residents seeking unemployment assistance in Virginia, which ranks 50th in the nation for its response to filed claims. In late March, Virginia Sen. Mark Warner wrote a letter to Gov. Ralph Northam, with several demands to improve the system, calling the delays unconscionable. “From Newport News to Henrico to Alexandria, constituents are contacting my office from every corner of the commonwealth with desperate requests for relief. Some of them have waited three months, others have waited 11 months and many are struggling to feed their children and keep a roof over their heads,” Warner wrote. Meanwhile, VEC plans to requirement in the near future that an individual apply to at least two jobs a week in order to claim unemployment benefits. This work-search requirement was suspended during the pandemic. Delays in unemployment claims and nightmarish government systems are not isolated to Virginia. Residents in Maryland and D.C. also waited weeks or months for relief, forcing some to skip meals, borrow money from friends and family or even lose their homes.
There will be a full-time virtual school option for Montgomery County Public Schools students next year, mainly for families with lingering health concerns amid the COVID-19 pandemic and high school students who need more flexible schedules. The “virtual academy” will be a yearlong, all-virtual option available to students in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade, MCPS officials said during a school board committee meeting Thursday. Students who apply and are accepted into the program will remain enrolled as students at their “home schools,” but will take all their classes online. Students will be allowed to participate in in-person sports and extracurricular activities, and receive meals, at their home schools. MCPS is still working to determine what criteria students might need to meet to be accepted into the fully virtual model. But the parameters are likely to be more rigid for elementary school students, according to Kara Trenkamp, MCPS’ director of technology integration and support. “The idea for our youngest learners is that you’re in brick and mortar, because that’s where we feel we can serve you best,” Trenkamp said. “We really want our elementary and middle school kids in school, but with that said, we know that we will have families that require a virtual option for health reasons for the child, or for the family in general. We also know we have other extenuating circumstances.” High school students will have more leniency and acceptable reasons to opt into the program, including needing to work during the day or care for family members. MCPS plans to send out a survey next week to determine how many students and families might be interested in the all-virtual option. Families’ answers to that survey will not be an official commitment to the program but will help the district continue its planning. Registration is expected to officially open in May. MCPS officials said on Thursday it isn’t clear if there will be one overarching virtual academy for the entire district, or if there will be several smaller regional models. That will depend on the level of interest from families, Trenkamp said. The virtual academy was derived from the long-term need for some students to take classes from home because of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, MCPS staff members on Thursday were adamant that the concept would be “very different” than virtual classes students have taken this academic year. There will be staff members dedicated to the online program, rather than splitting attention between students in person and on the computer, and teachers will not be forced to participate, Trenkamp said. Funding for additional employees will largely be provided through grants. Online students might have a different curriculum designed for virtual classes. Elementary and middle school students will have full days of live instruction. There will be three blocks for high school students: morning, afternoon or evening. The morning session is expected to run from about 7:45 a.m.-noon, the afternoon session from noon-3:45 p.m. and the evening session from 6-9:30 p.m. High school classes will likely have more time for “asynchronous,” or self-paced, work, although there will be live instruction, too, Trenkamp said. Parameters for how to measure and track student attendance have not yet been set, but Trenkamp said each schedule would meet state requirements for the number of days and hours of instruction students must receive in an academic year. MCPS employees encouraged students who want to participate in specialized programs, like magnet programs, to apply for those in-person programs.
The University of Maryland and American University will both hold in-person graduation ceremonies next month for students who will graduate in 2021 and those who graduated in 2020 but did not have an in-person ceremony due to the pandemic. University of Maryland President Darryll Pines said in a letter to the university community on Wednesday that the school worked with Prince George’s County to develop a graduation ceremony that follows local health and safety guidelines. The commencement ceremonies will be held at 11 a.m. and 4 p.m on May 21 at Maryland Stadium. They will be livestreamed for those unable to attend. Graduates and their guests will be assigned to one of the ceremonies based on their school or college, according to Pines. Graduates may have two guests. This year’s commencement speaker will be University of Maryland grad and president and CEO of IonQ, Peter Chapman. According to the announcement, IonQ is a company focused on quantum computing. Pines warned that the situation is still fluid and subject to change. “We must keep in mind that all campus events are contingent on evolving COVID-19 conditions and guidelines from the Prince George’s County health department,” he said. “Hosting successful in-person commencement ceremonies will depend on everyone doing their part and remaining diligent in following our 4 Maryland guidelines.” American University also announced its commencement plans on Wednesday. The ceremonies will be held in Bender Arena “over a series of weekends in May,” the university said in a statement. Ceremonies for Spring 2021 graduates will take place on May 8 and 9, while the ceremonies for the Class of 2020 will be May 15 and 16 and the Washington College of Law ceremony for 2020 and 2021 graduates will be May 23. The ceremonies will be in addition to an online commencement. Graduates will walk across the stage and hear their names read aloud, the university said, but photos will be taken from a distance; masks will be required and family and friends cannot attend in person. A livestream will be set up. “Our graduates have worked so hard and achieved so much, and now they can have this special moment that is so well-deserved,” President Sylvia Burwell said in the statement.
The Shakespeare Theatre Co. will reopen its Sidney Harmon Hall in Penn Quarter on May 1 with Blindness, a dystopian sound and light installation. The New York Times called the production from London’s Donmar Warehouse “brilliant.” The theater announced last fall that it would postpone the show following Mayor Muriel Bowser’s order to pause an entertainment pilot program, one of several restrictions on nonessential businesses enacted amid rising COVID-19 cases in the DMV. But with a waiver from the city’s Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency and the relaxing of restrictions on entertainment venues beginning May 1, STC announced new dates for Blindness. The audience will sit socially distanced on the stage without actors, alone or beside someone in their own party. Masks are required the entire time and seating capacity is 40, a fraction of the usual 761 people. Other safety measures include contactless tickets, fresh air flow using MERV-13 air filters and a trained safety compliance officer on site monitoring each performance. Blindness is a re-imagining of Portuguese author José Saramago’s 1995 novel about a pandemic of blindness that afflicts a doctor but mysteriously spares his wife. Adapted by playwright Simon Stephens, directed by Walter Meierjohann and voiced by British actress Juliet Stevenson — the show’s sole performer. STC artistic director Simon Godwin said the production is “very topical,” but it is more than a 75-minute podcast or audiobook. “It’s an immersive experience,” said Godwin. “So you are hearing it. You are feeling it. You are seeing it. You are inside it somehow.” Under floating fluorescent lights, audiences tune in with headphones that are sanitized before use and listen to a dystopian story about how the public and the government respond to a plague. It has a thought-provoking, perhaps even hopeful message at the end. Godwin hopes to gradually put on shows with live actors sometime later this year. Blindness runs from May 1-23, with shows at 7 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 11 a.m., 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday and noon on Wednesday. Tickets are $49 and $44 for matinees.
D.C. Health will open 10 walk-up vaccination sites around the city where residents 65 and older can get the COVID-19 vaccine without an appointment beginning Monday. In a press release Wednesday, the city said each walk-up site will administer up to 30 of either the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines per day. Most of the sites will take residents from anywhere in the city, but the Bald Eagle Recreation Center site is limited to residents of Wards 7 and 8 who are 18 or older. The sites include the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, 801 Mt. Vernon Place NW, 7 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday; Lamond Recreation Center, 20 Tuckerman St. NE, 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday; Langdon Park Community Center, 2901 20th St. NW, 2-7 p.m. Monday through Thursday; Turkey Thicket Recreation Center, 1100 Michigan Ave. NE, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday; Arena Stage, 111 Sixth St. SW, 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Thursday through Sunday; Rosedale Recreation Center, 1701 Gales St. NE, 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday; Kenilworth Recreation Center, 432 Ord St. NW, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday; Bald Eagle Recreation Center, 100 Joliet St., 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday; Entertainment and Sports Arena, 1100 Oak St. SE, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday; and Fort Stanton Recreation Center, 1812 Erie St. SE, 2-7 p.m. Monday through Thursday. This week, all D.C. residents 16 and older became eligible for the vaccine, but only about half of the city’s seniors have been fully vaccinated. The city is struggling to vaccinate elderly residents, especially in neighborhoods with a high number of Black and Brown residents. Just 40% of seniors in majority-Black Ward 8 have been fully vaccinated, compared to 60% in Ward 3, one of the city’s wealthiest and whitest wards. The additional sites come as the DMV’s paused the distribution of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine at the recommendation of the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. D.C. had been using the J&J vaccine primarily at walk-up clinics for those experiencing homelessness and mobile clinics for homebound seniors because requires only one dose. Approximately 119,700 D.C. residents have pre-registered through the city’s vaccination portal and are waiting to get an appointment. The city allocates appointments each week to people based on a formula that is meant to prioritize more vulnerable residents. D.C. residents can also make vaccination appointments directly through their health care provider, CVS Pharmacies and the FEMA mass vaccination in the Greenbelt Metro station parking lot. Veterans and their spouses can get vaccinated by making an appointment at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center.
Fairfax County will move to Phase 2 of its vaccination plan with the rest of the commonwealth on Sunday. Everyone in the Fairfax Health District who are 16 or older will be eligible to schedule a vaccine appointment directly through VaccineFinder.org starting Sunday, according to a Wednesday press release. “We are excited to take the next step to Phase 2. While our scheduling in Phase 1 went well, I am confident that the new scheduling process in Phase 2 will help since everyone will become eligible,” Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay said. The county will no longer accept registrations for the COVID-19 vaccine, as the new system displays available appointments from approved vaccine providers across the county, including the health department, pharmacies, hospitals and some private practices. Fairfax County Health Department clinics and some of its partners may not be listed on VaccineFinder until late April or early May due to available vaccine supply and the need to finish vaccinating those on the county’s waitlist. Fairfax County will contact those on the waitlist to schedule an appointment. “The high demand for vaccination in Fairfax County combined with the available vaccine supply will continue to be a challenge, especially in the initial weeks of Phase 2. With patience and care, we will get everyone vaccinated,” McKay said. Fairfax County joins Loudoun County and Alexandria, which have already started vaccinating those in Phase 2. Gov. Ralph Northam previously set April 18 as the deadline to have every Virginian over 16 and older eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. Coronavirus vaccine eligibility, availability and appointments in Northern Virginia are expected to loosen up, Dr. Danny Avula, Virginia’s vaccine coordinator, told the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments Wednesday. “I think people in the next couple of weeks will be able to find open appointments online,” Avula said. Initially, it may be hard to schedule appointments as jurisdictions begin to move into Phase 2. “I do very confidently think that everybody who wants to be vaccinated will get that chance by the end of May,” he said. Statewide, Avula said about 37.5% of the state’s entire population and about 50% of Virginians 16 and older have had at least one COVID-19 vaccination. Looking at vaccine distribution based on race and ethnicity, Avula admitted more work needs to be done. The number of people in the Latino community who are vaccinated roughly matches their percentage of the population, about 9%. But, in the African American community, which makes up about 19% of the population, about 14.5% have been vaccinated. Avula believes increasingly relying on community partnerships and mobile vaccine clinic outreach might help. “Churches, other networks on the ground, faith communities, NAACP are all a part of how we’re using the voice and influence of key stakeholders or key networks to increase access to vaccination … we’ll be doing a lot more of this in the weeks to come,” Avula said. The push toward herd immunity will depend on kids getting vaccinated. “We are just starting our outreach to pediatrician’s offices,” Avula said. He said vaccinations, including kids as young as 12, could begin in late summer or early fall. “Younger kids down to age 2 are currently enrolled in clinical trials across the country,” Avula said, noting that collecting enough data on them to begin vaccinations could take until late 2021 or early 2022. As for Virginia’s goal of herd immunity with 75% of people vaccinated? “I think we’ll get there with adults by the end of summer,” he said.
More than 50% of Marylanders 18 and older and more than 80% of residents 65 and older have received at least one dose of vaccine according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Overall, the state has reported a total of 3.6 million vaccinations, including nearly 489,104 doses administered over the past week. That brings the state’s seven-day average to 69,872 shots a day. This week, vaccine eligibility across Maryland expanded to anyone 16 and older under a stepped-up timeline Gov. Larry Hogan announced earlier this month. The Maryland Department of Health has directed all vaccine providers to temporarily pause giving the Johnson & Johnson vaccine following a recommendation by the Food and Drug Administration and CDC amid concerns the single-dose vaccine causes a rare blood-clotting disorder. Earlier, allocations of J&J vaccines to the state had been reduced because of production issues. In Montgomery County, more than 448,0000 residents have received at least one dose, which is slightly less than 43% of the county’s entire population. In Prince George’s County, about 350,000 residents have been vaccinated, or one-third of the county’s residents 16 and older. Prince George’s set a goal of vaccinating 65% of its 16-and-up population — about 473,000 residents — by the summer and 80% of the county’s population by the fall. According to the CDC, Maryland is leading the pack in terms of the adult population with 50.3% of adults receiving at least one dose. Virginia is right behind with 49.9% and D.C. has vaccinated 45%. As for fully vaccinated adults, Maryland is at 31.7%, according to the CDC data. Virginia is at 29.8%, and D.C. at 24.9%.
Howard University’s College of Medicine received $1.59 million from the Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Greenwood Initiative to build mobile vaccination units and to boost vaccinations in Black and other medically underserved communities. The money comes from former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg through his foundation meant to increase wealth accumulation in the Black community and address systemic underinvestment in Black communities. Howard and three other historically Black medical schools — Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta and Charles R. Drew University of Medicine in Los Angeles — received a total of $6 million for the mobile units. Howard will use its share to purchase a new mobile unit to take vaccines to D.C. residents and to staff a new call center that will book appointments over the phone for residents who can’t schedule online, according to a university press release. The university said the mobile clinic will work with D.C. Health. Howard has vaccinated more than 25,000 people in D.C. since December at an on-site clinic and a mobile support unit in communities. “Howard University plays an outsized role in caring for the Black community in Washington, D.C. While this is always the case, it has been especially true during the pandemic,” Howard University President Wayne A. I. Frederick said in the release. “By helping fund our mobile unit, Bloomberg will enable us to vaccinate more of the Black community, a critical step in mitigating the effects of a devastating virus that has disproportionately affected African-American individuals.” D.C. Health was planning on launching its own mobile vaccination program for homebound residents, but D.C. Health Director Dr. LaQuandra Nesbitt said on Tuesday that will be delayed due to the pause in the administration of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine at the recommendation of federal health officials.
Three universities in the DMV released their fall semester plans Wednesday, signaling a return to in-person instruction. American University will require students to receive a COVID-19 vaccine before returning to campus, according to a letter from President Sylvia Burwell. She said all students who plan to live or travel to campus for any reason in the fall must be vaccinated. Students must provide proof of vaccination similar to the other vaccinations already required by the university before the August move-in. “This requirement is an important component of our return to campus in the fall,” Burwell said. “COVID-19 vaccines reduce the spread of the disease and are very effective at preventing serious illness and hospitalization.” International students will be contacted directly before arriving for the fall semester and be given information on how to get vaccinated. Exemptions will be allowed for medical or religious reasons under university protocols, Burwell said. Staff and faculty will be strongly urged to get vaccinated, she said. Face coverings, social distancing rules and other safety protocols will be in effect during the fall semester, including for those who receive a vaccine. Georgetown University will require all its undergraduate and graduate students at its main campus, medical center and law center to receive a COVID-19 vaccination for the fall semester. In a letter to the university community, President John J. DeGioia said the decision was made following the guidance from the school’s chief public health officer Dr. Ranit Mishori and its Public Health Advisory group. Students, staff and faculty leaders were also consulted. “As I shared in my message on March 25, we anticipate that the conditions will be in place this fall to bring our community back and resume more regular life on our campuses,” DeGioia said. “Our gradual return is beginning this summer, with a full return of our community for the fall.” Georgetown will send additional information to international students and students living abroad in the coming weeks. Medical and religious exemptions will be granted, DeGioia said, as long as it is in accordance with local and federal laws. A decision on requiring faculty and staff to be vaccinated will be determined at a later date based on the ongoing public health measures. The University of Maryland plans to gradually expand the presence of people on its College Park campus this summer toward a full return in the fall. In its phased plan, the university said it will adhere to public health guidelines from Prince George’s County and the state of Maryland. Everyone on campus will be subject to regular COVID-19 testing and plans must be in place to deal with any COVID-19 cases and quarantines. Mask-wearing will be required in all indoor and outdoor public locations, according to the university’s guidelines. Vaccines are highly recommended for students, staff and faculty. The university also called on faculty and staff working remotely to gradually increase the number of days they are present on campus. The school said by July 5, it expects to reach medium population density on campus. By Aug. 2, the campus will be near 100% capacity, according to the plan. Teleworking by staff and faculty may continue through July but any telework after Aug. 2 will require a new teleworking agreement between staff and supervisors. The university cautioned that the dates in their phased plan are predictions and hinge on anticipated changes in government regulations and health advisories. It could also change depending on the course of the pandemic. UMD anticipates that by Aug. 2 there will be full capacity in campus classrooms and labs, full dining service, near capacity and typical operations in university residence halls, full capacity and typical operations in gyms, libraries and lounges. Classes begin on Aug. 30.
Health officials in the DMV paused the use of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine at the recommendation of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration, who are reviewing extremely rare but severe blood clots identified in six women who had received the vaccine. The CDC and FDA issued a joint statement Tuesday morning recommending vaccine distributors delay the use of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine out of an “abundance of caution,” while they investigate the cause of the blood clots. More than 6.8 million doses of the vaccine have been distributed in the U.S. The pause comes amidst an already-lowered supply of the J&J vaccine in the DMV this week, and as parts of the region expand eligibility to all residents 16 and older. Across D.C., Maryland and Virginia, the allotment of the J&J vaccine fell by 85% this week, compared to last week due to production issues Gaithersburg-based Emergent BioSolutions Baltimore plant, which manufactures the J&J vaccine. According to CDC data, D.C. received 1,300 doses, Maryland got 10,500 doses and Virginia received 14,800 doses. On Tuesday, White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator Jeff Zients said the pause will not have a “significant impact” on the country’s vaccination plan, and that the White House will make an additional 28 million doses of Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines available this week. According to Zients, the U.S. has secured enough doses of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines to continue vaccinating Americans at the rate of 3 million people per day. It isn’t clear whether the blood clots reported in the women who received the J&J vaccine were a side effect of their doses, and health officials, including White House Chief Medical Advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci, have sought to allay concerns about the vaccine among those who have received it. Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, said during a White House briefing on the pause Tuesday that the odds of the blood clot disorder are less than one in a million.
D.C. Health officials said 16,000 J&J doses have been distributed in the city with no reports of the rare blood clots. D.C. canceled all appointments for the J&J vaccine from Tuesday through Saturday. The roughly 1,200 individuals who had an appointment scheduled through D.C. Health’s portal to receive the J&J vaccine those day should have received an email on Tuesday to book an appointment this week or next week for another vaccine, a D.C. Health spokesperson said. Individuals should check their spam folders for the emails. An additional 8,000 doses of the J&J vaccine went to federal partnerships in the city this week, like independent pharmacies and federal government agencies, according to D.C. Health Director Dr. LaQuandra Nesbitt. During a press call Tuesday, Nesbitt said the agencies and retailers are communicating with individuals to reschedule their appointments and added that the city is not aware of any providers that are not following the federal guidance for a temporary pause. For the roughly 1,200 J&J appointments booked through the health department, Nesbitt said the department will reschedule individuals to receive doses that were set aside for appointments this week that were not booked, or it will prioritize those individuals for next week. Nesbitt noted that the pause will impact the city’s plan to launch a program for homebound seniors, who likely would have gotten the J&J vaccine. It may also impact the city’s vaccination efforts for residents experiencing homelessness. Residents experiencing homelessness or those within the Department of Human Services’ shelter programs have received the J&J vaccine as part of a partnership with Unity Health. The city also recently opened walk-up clinics for unhoused residents. During the call, Nesbitt said the agency is “optimistic” that Unity Health, which originally began vaccinating residents with Moderna, can transition back to using doses of the Moderna vaccines to keep the sites functioning. For the high-capacity sites that have also been using the J&J vaccine, Nesbitt said there is availability to use Moderna and Pfizer vaccines at the locations this week.
The Maryland Department of Health directed providers to pause the administration of the J&J vaccine until more federal guidance is available. Montgomery County, which was set to use 960 doses of the J&J vaccine at the mass vaccination site in Germantown on Tuesday, substituted the Pfizer vaccine instead, according to a press release. George Askew, Prince George’s County’s deputy chief administrative officer for health, human services and education, said that the county has 738 doses of the J&J vaccine on hand, but will not need to reschedule any appointments as a result of the pause. “While we are presently looking at the impact of this recent announcement, it appears the greatest impact will be the health department’s ability to schedule clinics to full capacity due to the combined recent decrease in availability of other vaccine options,” Askew said in an email.
The Virginia Department of Health also temporarily halted the administration of the J&J vaccine. Dr. Danny Avula, Virginia’s vaccine coordinator, said in a statement that those with appointments for the J&J vaccine will be contacted to reschedule. Arlington County, which had been using the J&J vaccine at its public health clinics, will pause distribution. People who had appointments Tuesday at the Lubber Run Community Center, which was using the J&J vaccine, received the Moderna vaccine, according to a statement from the county. The clinics will continue “to the extent [the county] receives doses of Pfizer or Moderna over the next few days.” Appointments may be rescheduled depending on vaccine availability. Alexandria also announced that anyone scheduled to receive the J&J vaccine will be contacted to reschedule their appointment or receive either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. Fairfax County did not receive any J&J vaccine this week or next, according to a statement from the county. A small number of doses left over from last week’s J&J allotment will be substituted with Moderna or Pfizer vaccine, to avoid any cancellation of appointments this week.
A 45-year-old Virginia woman died of blood clots from the effects of the Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine. She received the vaccionation March 6 and developed a worsening headache on March 12. She was hospitalized on March 17 with dry heaving, sudden worsening of her headache and left-side weakness. She was diagnosed with a sinus thrombosis and suffered a brain hemorrhage. She died March 18. The woman was one of six who experienced blood clots that prompted a federal investigation, Dr. Danny Avula, Virginia’s vaccine coordinator said Tuesday during a conference call. He said he didn’t know where in Virginia the woman, who died in mid-March, lived. However, the Virginia Department of Health said in a statement that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed the woman was the one fatality listed in its database of adverse vaccination effects. The pause on the J&J vaccine may or may not last long. Avula said that Dr. Anne Schuchat, the deputy director of the CDC, told him it would be “days to weeks” while they look into the data, but he emphasized “This could be just a couple of days.” The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practice will meet this afternoon to go over the relevant data, and more will be known about when and if the recommendation will be lifted after that. It is possible, Avula said, that the J&J vaccine will no longer be recommended for people with the conditions of the six women who are all between 18-48. It is also possible that medical providers will be advised not to prescribe the common treatment heparin for people who have gotten the J&J vaccine. Again, he said, more will likely be known late Wednesday, after the CDC commission meets. In the meantime, VDH reschedule some of the 72,000 appointments at about 30 events this week that were slated to distribute the J&J vaccine and substitute the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines for others, he said. The impact is “not insignificant,” given that about 15% of the doses scheduled for this week in Virginia were J&J. But enough of the other vaccines remain that he foresees no problems meeting the commonwealth’s goal of moving into Phase 2 this coming Sunday or President Joe Biden’s goal for every adult who wants to be vaccinated to get a shot by the end of May. But it might slow down Virginia’s efforts at moving through Phase 2 once it begins. “We will not be able to have quite as many appointments available for first doses” in the next week or so, he said. Still, Avula foresees no problems. In most places in Virginia, there is more vaccine available than there are people who want it. While that isn’t true in the very populous Northern Virginia region, he said, more large-scale community clinics are on the way. While the blood clotting and stroke-like symptoms called thromboembolic events that led to the recommendation to pause the use of the J&J vaccine are extremely rare – six known cases out of 6.8 million people who have been vaccinated — Avula said the “concerning pattern of medical conditions” led the authorities to issue the recommendation. “It’s pretty rare to have that kind of a stroke with a low platelet count,” Avula said. The recommendation was spurred by “not the frequency, but the establishment of the pattern.” He said the pause on the J&J vaccine would give people more faith in the system. “The CDC surveillance system is doing exactly what it’s supposed to do. … Everybody recognizes how important public trust is in the process, in the government. I think they were very conservative about the decision because they know we need to maintain public trust.” The onset of the cases so far happened within six to 13 days after vaccination, Avula said. “Anyone who’s more than a month out of their vaccination is likely at very minimal risk.” People in the six to 13-day period should watch for severe, acute-onset headaches, abdominal pain or leg pain, he said, and seek medical attention for them. About 184,000 Virginians have gotten the J&J vaccine. The Moderna and Pfizer vaccines work on a “completely different platform,” in a completely different way than the J&J vaccine, Avula said, and there haven’t been any reports of the same kind of problem. J&J is “an adenovirus vector – it uses the shell of another common cold virus,” Avula said. The pause is not a total ban, he said. Local providers might look at patients who are particularly vulnerable and particularly suited for the one-shot vaccine due to their health conditions, age or job and decide it is worth the risk. About 10% of the U.S. population has had COVID-19 and about 1 in 585 of those have died, Avula said. “When you look at that, six [cases] out of 6.8 million is really rare. … There probably will be cases where local providers will decide to continue using it.”
Two students incarcerated at the D.C. jail have not regularly interacted with teachers for more than a year, according to a lawsuit filed last week on behalf of the two students and 42 others that alleges the city failed to educate them during the pandemic. Attorneys for two students and others enrolled in the Inspiring Youth Program, which operates inside the jail and is run by D.C. Public Schools, said the school district has only provided worksheets to students since last March. All the students qualify for special education services but have not received them during the pandemic, in violation of federal law, the class action suit says. Kaitlin Banner, deputy legal director with the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs, said the young people at the jail are already among the city’s most vulnerable students. “The fact that they have had no education provided to them and really no option to get their education for over a year is really just unacceptable,” she said. In a statement, DCPS said it is working with Attorney General Karl Racine to address the complaint but declined to comment further because of the pending litigation. The school district is “committed to providing every student, including those receiving special education services, with a high-quality education,” the statement said. In the lawsuit, two of the students enrolled in the program are asking a U.S. District Court judge to mandate DCPS and the Office of the State Superintendent of Education provide in-person or live virtual instruction so the students can receive the special education services they are entitled to. The students, who filed the complaint under pseudonyms, and their lawyers have asked the judge to grant a preliminary injunction, which would expedite a ruling on the case without going to trial. When the pandemic pushed learning online, students in D.C. schools were given electronic devices and WiFi hotspots so they could participate in virtual classes. But students in the jail have mostly received paper packets of work or been given limited access to tablets uploaded with digital versions of the packets, the lawsuit says. The tablets are equipped with a messaging feature where students may message a teacher to request help, according to the complaint. But many of the students struggle with reading and writing, making sending messages challenging. The incarcerated students say worksheets are sporadically dropped off in their cells or uploaded on tablets. They are expected to complete assignments without instruction or communication from teachers and students do not receive feedback except for progress reports or final grades at the end of each term, the lawsuit says. The jail has been on lockdown during the health emergency, which means the students are only allowed outside their cells for one hour a day. Since the fall, two teachers have visited students in the jail on a volunteer basis to drop off worksheets. One special education teacher meets with three students for one hour, three days a week, according to the complaint. Another teacher visited the students twice a month for a few months before stopping. In the complaint, Israel F., an 18-year-old male in the 12th grade, said he cannot access the online system that houses digital copies of the work packets and slideshows from inside his cell because the wireless signal is not strong enough. He must hold a tablet through a narrow slot in his cell door to connect and must keep his arms outstretched to download the materials. The student requested and received paper worksheet packets because he could not complete any assignments on the tablet, according to the lawsuit. The senior, who has been diagnosed with several disabilities including ADHD and depression, has an Individualized Education Plan, a personalized legal document for students with disabilities that spells out services the teenager must receive. The plan says the student is entitled to two hours of counseling each month, but he has only received an hour total of counseling since he arrived at the jail in November, the lawsuit says. Charles H., a 20-year-old male in 11th grade, also said he has not received any specialized services for his disabilities, which include several mental disorders, since March 2020. The student filed a complaint over the lack of services with the Office for the State Superintendent of Education, which oversees education in the city. A hearing officer ruled DCPS must meet with the student to figure out a plan to provide tutoring and virtual instruction. But the hearing officer did not say the virtual instruction must include the special education services specified in the student’s individualized plan. A lawyer for the student said he has not received additional instruction since the ruling. The lack of live lessons jeopardizes the junior’s ability to graduate from high school, potentially creating “irreparable educational, psychosocial, emotional and personal harm,” according to the lawsuit. Tayo Belle, an attorney with the School Justice Project, a non-profit advocacy organization that provides legal services to incarcerated youth, said most students have not heard from teachers. “Most of the clients that we represent at the D.C. jail complex do not even know who their teachers are this school year,” she said. “They couldn’t name them if they wanted to because they haven’t been introduced.”
The Montgomery County Council on Tuesday approved new rules for the operation of summer camps. The new rules include only allowing campers from Maryland, Virginia and D.C. attend. Camps must separate participants into groups of 25 or fewer for indoor activities and 50 or fewer for outdoor activities, and the groups can’t mix. Also, each camp must have a COVID Protocol Plan approved by the health officer. Participants who test positive or who are in close contact with someone who has tested positive will be sent home or remain in quarantine. And sports activities will be required to follow the rules for youth sports.
Single game tickets for Washington Nationals games are now on sale as D.C. raised capacity at Nationals Park from 5,000 fans to 25% or about 10,000 fans The team will play four-game homestand with the Arizona Diamondbacks beginning Thursday followed by a three-game series against the St. Louis Cardinals. Tickets start at $14 and will be sold in “socially distanced pods” of one to six tickets, the team said in a press release Tuesday. Promotions during the Arizona series include Jackie Robinson Day on Thursday, a 106.7 The Fan radio lanyard giveaway on Friday and a kids hooded T-shirt giveaway on Sunday. Facial coverings are required, and guests must enter the park according to a color-coded gate location listed on the ticket.
ArcLight Cinemas in the Westfield Montgomery Mall will not reopen. Los Angeles-based Pacific Theaters, the parent company of ArcLight Cinemas, announced Monday that after closing all of its theaters temporarily at the beginning of the pandemic, none would reopen. “This was not the outcome anyone wanted, but despite a huge effort that exhausted all potential options, the company does not have a viable way forward,” the message said. ArcLight was a chain of upscale movie theaters that featured kiosks instead of box offices. There was also a café in addition to a regular concession stand. ArcLight opened in the Bethesda mall in the fall of 2014.
D.C. will use $350 million in federal funds to help qualifying tenants pay overdue rent and utility bills. Mayor Muriel Bowser unveiled The Stronger Together by Assisting You (STAY DC) program during a press conference Monday to help renters and housing providers cover rent, water, gas and electric bills. “STAY DC will help us prevent housing instability by ensuring District residents can keep a roof over their heads and their utilities on, without sacrificing other basic needs,” said Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development John Falcicchio in a press release. STAY DC will replace the city’s COVID-19 Housing Assistance Program (CHAP), which provided $6.2 million to renters who were financially impacted by the pandemic. It will also augment D.C.’s existing Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) and Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). Under the program, a family of four must make less than $79,600 to be eligible. Eligible participants may receive up to 12 months of assistance dating back to April 1, 2020 and three months of assistance for future payments, for a total of 18 months. Renters and housing providers can submit their applications now using a new website that includes information in seven languages. Residents without internet access can get help through community-based organizations to submit paper applications. D.C. received $200 million through the COVID-19 last December’s stimulus package and another $152 million from the American Rescue Plan Act that Congress passed in March. The city said all of the money is available for STAY DC and related efforts. Prior to STAY DC, the city offered tenants smaller rent relief grants through CHAP, which set aside $10.2 million from the federal Community Development Block Grant program for rent relief. But tenants and activists said it wasn’t enough and didn’t always reach people who needed it most. STAY DC and other rent relief programs determine who gets assistance based on factors like the number of units in a building and the income levels of tenants. Funding for rental providers through the D.C. Department of Housing and Community Development, for example, offers assistance to providers with 20 or fewer units in their building.
New COVID-19 cases in Northern Virginia are at their highest level in almost two months as the virus spreads despite increasing vaccination efforts. As of Monday, the region’s seven-day average of new cases was 458.3, the highest since Feb. 21. The region’s daily average was as low as 139.4 last summer, although it peaked at more than 1,600 new cases a day in mid-January. As has occurred elsewhere as older populations received vaccines first, cases are the highest among the region’s younger residents, according to demographic data tracked by the Northern Virginia Regional Commission. For the week ending April 3, 38% of the region’s cases were reported in residents ages 20-39 and another 22% were reported in residents 19 and younger. In Fairfax County, eight outbreaks are currently in progress at daycare/pre-kindergarten centers or K-12 schools, with the worst, at South Lakes High School, resulting in 10 positive cases. Loudoun County has one current outbreak at Independence High School, while none are reported in Arlington County, Alexandria or Prince William County. Statewide, the seven-day average of new cases stood at 1,527.3 as of Monday. That is up 10% in the past week and 18.5% in the past month. Hospitalizations for treatment of the virus have also plateaued statewide after falling sharply from the mid-January peak of more than 3,200 patients, according to the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association. As of Monday, 1,046 patients were hospitalized, generally level over the past three weeks. In Northern Virginia, 245 patients were hospitalized Monday, down from 270 last Thursday but still above the low of 195 on March 20. The Virginia Department of Health reported 50 new deaths statewide related to COVID-19 over the past four days. Of those, 10 were in Northern Virginia with six in Fairfax County, three in Prince William County and one in Alexandria. The seven-day average percentage of positive diagnostic tests stabilized in a narrow range over the past two weeks in the region’s health districts and statewide. VDH has been reporting results of slightly less than 20,000 diagnostic tests per day. VDH’s vaccine dashboard showed Monday that more than 3.1 million Virginians had received at least one vaccine dose, representing 36.6 % of the state’s population of about 8.5 million. In addition, the health department reported that another 249,000 doses of vaccines were administered in Virginia by the federal government. About 21.5% of the state’s residents have been fully vaccinated. The state is currently averaging almost 75,000 doses of vaccines per day, down slightly from a peak of 83,000 a day on April 2.
A concession worker at Nationals Park tested positive for COVID-19. According to a National’s spokesperson, the worker is an employee of Levy, the company that operates the ballparks concessions. The person last worked at the ballpark on April 7, two days before they tested positive. “Both the D.C. Department of Health and Levy determined that no additional employees or fans were considered to be at risk,” the team’s spokesperson said Monday. As vaccinations increase and crowds return to the ballpark, the team said it has “stringent protocols in place to keep both our employees and fans safe.” They include requiring daily health screenings and temperature checks for every worker at the ballpark; providing KN95 masks to all ballpark workers; and adding partitions at concession stands, which have been reconfigured to allow for proper social distancing and are being sanitized regularly, to limit potential virus spread among fans and workers.
On Monday, many Washington Nationals players received the coronavirus vaccine in St. Louis before beginning a series with the Cardinals. “Today we had most of our guys got vaccinated,” Manager Davey Martinez said during a press conference. “Thanks to MLB and the Cardinals it was a joint effort. The guys that wanted to get vaccinated got vaccinated today so we’re elated … For the most part we all got vaccinated, so we’re going to move forward.” Martinez, who has been vocal about his support for the vaccines, got his first dose a few weeks ago and will receive his second dose when the team returns to D.C. All the players who opted to get vaccinated Monday received the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Martinez said he was unsure if the team has reached the 85% threshold for players vaccinated that would allow for some relaxed COVID-19 protocols but said that the team will continue to work toward that goal. The availability of the vaccine for players came at a convenient time for the Nationals, as the team is finally back to full strength after a coronavirus outbreak sidelined 11 players to begin the season. “Seeing what happened to us, we were able to get this done today and we had a lot of guys participate and get their vaccinations,” Martinez said. Not every player chose to get vaccinated on Monday. “Everybody has their own opinion about the vaccination, and I think we all looked at it that way. So the guys that want to get vaccinated had an opportunity to get vaccinated today, they did,” Martinez said. “And those guys that didn’t get it, the opportunity is still there for them.” The vaccine is known to have some side effects following the shot, meaning that players could experience some pain in the arm or other symptoms in the hours or days following the vaccination. While that may potentially impact availability, it is something Martinez is prepared to work around. The main priority was getting the players vaccinated to avoid more severe problems in the future. “Obviously, we thought about it, but we also thought about the future going forward with these guys and being vaccinated. I think it’s more important that we got the vaccination when it was our turn and the day we were able to get it,” Martinez said. “And then if anybody gets sick or something, we’ll have to deal with that. I’m excited we all got it and hopefully we can move forward from there.”
Volunteers are needed at the Inova Stonebridge COVID-19 vaccination center in Alexandria. Volunteers are needed daily for at least the next six weeks to help clinical and logistical support teams. Volunteers must be 18 or older, fluent in English, able to stand for extended periods of time, able push an adult in a wheelchair and pass a background check. “We’ve got a job for everybody,” said Michelle Vassallo, Inova Health System’s vice president of nursing for clinical platforms. “Our outdoor needs are going to get more as we increase volume. So, people who are comfortable being outside and interacting with the public. And, certainly people who are able and willing to assist our patrons who have mobility issues.” Shifts are at least four hours between 8 a.m.-4 p.m. at 5001 Eisenhower Ave. Volunteers are required to wear a mask, but do not have to be vaccinated. Jobs include line management, patient access assistance, pharmacy runner, patient monitoring (non-clinical), vaccination station assigner and greeter. Volunteers will work alongside Inova’s registration team, check-in staff and up to 70 clinicians on the pharmacy and vaccinator teams. Those interested in volunteering can find more information on the Fairfax County website.
Residents of the DMV can seek financial help from the federal government for funeral expenses related to the pandemic. People who have lost a loved one to COVID-19 can seek financial help with funeral arrangements, interment or cremation through a new program from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Applications opened Monday. To apply, call FEMA’s COVID-19 funeral assistance line at 844-684-6333 weekdays from 9 a.m.-9 p.m. eastern time. “At FEMA, our mission is to help people before, during and after disasters,” said acting FEMA administrator Bob Fenton. “The COVID-19 pandemic has caused immense grief for so many people. Although we cannot change what has happened, we affirm our commitment to help with funeral and burial expenses that many families did not anticipate.” To be eligible, applicants must have incurred funeral-related expenses for a death attributed to COVID-19 after Jan. 20, 2020, within the U.S. or its territories. Assistance is limited to a maximum of $9,000 per funeral and up to $35,500 per application; a person can apply for multiple deceased individuals. Applicants are encouraged to keep related documents, including an official death certificate attributing the death directly or indirectly to COVID-19, expense receipts and funeral home contracts, on hand for the approval process. Applicants will also need to note any money or compensation received from other sources, such as insurance.
New federal data show Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport is making progress in its efforts to dig out of the pandemic-caused meltdown in air travel. The U.S. Transportation Security Administration reported that passenger originations at Reagan National were down 68.9% in March compared to the pre-pandemic March 2019.That is positive news since Reagan National typically has been down 80% even as airports in other parts of the country have started to see rebounds. The trade group Airlines for America each month uses TSA data to analyze air traffic on a state-by-state basis. For purposes of the evaluation, Reagan National is counted as the lone D.C. airport, while Washington Dulles International Airport is included in Virginia. As has been the case for several months, the figures show a rebound in domestic travel, especially to areas where economic lockdowns are more limited. Year-over-year passenger counts are down less than 20% in Montana, Wyoming and South Dakota, and down less than 40% in states like Texas, Florida and Utah. By contrast, passenger origination for March was down more than 60% in New York, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and California. In Virginia, passenger originations in March were down 49.1% from two year ago and down 48.8% in Maryland.
D.C.’s office market continued to soften in the first quarter of 2021 with the largest single-quarter occupancy loss on record. Commercial real estate services firm CBRE reports 1.1 million square feet of negative net absorption, the difference between space that was newly leased and newly vacated. It was driven by a couple of big relocations, as well as downsizing by coworking space tenants and office space given back by small tenants, exacerbated by the delivery of 300,000 square feet of vacant space in new construction. Small tenants, those leasing less than 10,000 square feet, contributed a quarter million square feet of occupancy loss in the first quarter, and a total of 600,000 square feet since the pandemic began, according to CBRE data. The office vacancy rate in D.C. rose to a record 17.4% last quarter. A total of 3.2 million square feet of office space remains on the sublease market, up 24% from a year earlier. The office vacancy rate in D.C. is the highest in Capitol Hill at 31.9%. It is the lowest in NoMa at just 8.6%. Average office rents decreased for the fourth consecutive quarter in D.C. CBRE does note an increase in touring activity by perspective tenants compared to prior quarter, which could indicate leasing activity picks up as businesses continue to reopen. The federal government remains the largest office leasing tenant in D.C., accounting for 45% of the market as of the first quarter, followed by nonprofits with 17% of office space and law firms with 13%. Vacancies aren’t any better outside the city. CBRE said the office vacancy rate in Northern Virginia last quarter was 20.2%. The steepest declines in office occupancy last quarter in Northern Virginia were in Fairfax County. The Tysons and Herndon submarkets accounted for more than 80% of the loss. The office vacancy rate in the first quarter in suburban Maryland was 16.4% After three consecutive quarters of negative net office lease absorption, the suburban Maryland office market actually posted 680,000 square feet of occupancy growth last quarter, but it was driven almost entirely by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which consolidated from several locations in D.C. and Virginia to its new 575,000 square foot headquarters in Prince George’s County’s Branch Avenue submarket. The DMV’s elevated office vacancy rate comes at a time when much more newly constructed office space is coming online. In a separate report, Commercial Café reported the DMV is the eighth-most active office market this year, with more than 3.2 million square feet of new office space expected to deliver, although it does not break down this year’s delivery by projects that are preleased and those opening as speculative properties with no committed tenants to part or all of the space.