Montgomery Co. to Lift Restrictions May 28
COVID-19 Cases Reach 1,174,069 in D.C., Md. and Va.
As of Saturday morning, 48,530 people have tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, in D.C. with 1,118 deaths; there have been 455,635 cases in Maryland with 8,773 deaths; and in Virginia there have been 669,904 cases with 11,008 deaths. You can read last week’s updates here.
At 6 a.m. on May 28, Montgomery County will lift nearly all COVID-19 restrictions after the county reached its threshold Friday of 50% of residents being fully vaccinated. In April, the County Council approved a three-phase plan based on the percentage of county residents vaccinated. Under the third phase, the county reverts to any requirements currently in place at the state level. Beginning Saturday, Gov. Larry Hogan lifted all restrictions on bars, restaurants, entertainment venues and other facilities. He also lifted the state’s indoor mask requirement, although masks must still be worn on public transportation, in healthcare facilities and inside schools. Local jurisdictions have been allowed to set their own timetable for easing COVID-19 restrictions, and Montgomery County has consistently kept more stringent restrictions in place. To reach the third phase, 50% of Montgomery County residents had to be fully vaccinated — two weeks after receiving the second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine, or the one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Two weeks is the amount of time that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates is required for the body to build protection against the virus. County Health Officer Dr. Travis Gayles wrote in a memo to County Council President Tom Hucker and Council Vice President Gabe Albornoz that as of Friday the county had reached the 50% benchmark. Under the county’s Board of Health regulation, the reopening takes effect at 6 a.m. on May 28, which is two weeks after Friday’s benchmark was reached, council spokesperson Sonya Healy said in an email. Healy said the county expects to move to phase two this week. Under that phase, gathering limits increase to 250 indoors, most businesses could operate at 75% capacity and smoking would be allowed at cigar and hookah bars. Montgomery County reported 24 new cases on Saturday and has had 70,466 cases since the pandemic started more than a year ago. The county added fewer than 100 cases for 16 consecutive days. The county reported one confirmed fatality from the virus on Saturday, bringing the death toll to 1,488. There also have been 46 probable deaths, which have the coronavirus listed as the cause of death but have not yet been confirmed by laboratory tests.
With summer right around the corner and COVID-related restrictions being loosened, Six Flags America in Prince George’s County will continue to require visitors to wear face masks. “We still require all of our guests and our team members to wear masks at all times during their visits,” said Dave Johnson, Six Flags America marketing director. That includes thrill rides, but not water rides. He encouraged visitors to plan ahead before leaving for the park. “We’re also controlling capacity, so as a result we’ll ask you to make a reservation,” Johnson said. Six Flags America will limit visitors to about 50% capacity to begin the summer, and while it is possible some rules might ease as summer goes on, Johnson wouldn’t speculate on that possibility. The amusement park that caters to families, and children in particular, has to keep in mind that until more kids are vaccinated, not all parents are going to have the same comfort level and risk tolerance adults who are vaccinated might have. “The safety of our guests and team members is our top priority,” said Johnson, who pointed out that Six Flags America employ “clean teams” who wipe down surfaces and make sure hand-sanitizing stations are available around the park. Markers have been set up in the ride queues to help people stay distanced from others and concession stands have more contactless payment options for people as well. “We
Maryland and Virginia both lifted their indoor mask mandates, falling in line with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance issued earlier this week. Beginning today, people in both states no longer have to wear masks indoors, except while riding public transit, in healthcare facilities and inside schools. Businesses can still require customers to wear a mask, and employees in certain industries including restaurants, retail, fitness, personal care and entertainment must wear masks until they are fully vaccinated. The announcement applies to everyone, but both Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam urged people who have not yet been vaccinated to do so. “If you’re fully vaccinated, which means two weeks have passed since you received your second shot or your one dose of Johnson & Johnson, you should feel free to safely resume any activities,” Hogan said during a press conference Friday. Hogan had previously announced he would end all capacity limits on outdoor entertainment and sports venues, indoor entertainment venues and indoor dining. Virginia will relax other COVID-19 restrictions, including expanded capacity for sports and entertainment venues, increased social gathering limits and allowing bars to sell alcohol after midnight starting at midnight Friday. Northam said Friday that Virginia will probably ease all social distancing and capacity limit restrictions by May 28, two weeks earlier than expected. “Virginians have been working hard, and we are seeing the results in our strong vaccine numbers and dramatically lowered case counts,” Northam said in a press release issued Friday. “That’s why we can safely move up the timeline for lifting mitigation measures in Virginia.” D.C. is set to ease capacity limits this coming Friday. D.C, Maryland and Virginia have seen drastic decreases in their daily coronavirus case counts in recent weeks. Maryland reported 747 cases on Friday morning, down from a high of 3,791 on Dec. 4. Virginia reported 579 daily COVID-19 cases Friday compared to a high of 9,914 on Jan. 17. Northam said Virginia’s state of emergency will remain in effect until June 30. Hogan also said the state will not lift its state of emergency just yet. “It allows us to continue utilizing the National Guard as we are continuing the vaccination effort,” Hogan said. The state of emergency “still remains in place, but there are no restrictions.” Maryland health officials had decided to lift the mask mandate by Memorial Day weekend before the CDC issued its guidance, but the surprise news encouraged them to move that timeline up. “Our long hard-fought battle against the worst global pandemic in more than a century is finally nearing an end,” Hogan said.
D.C. is stepping up efforts to get more residents vaccinated, offering clinics at Nationals Park next weekend. The one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine will be available at a walk-up clinic at Nationals Park’s first-base gate from 4-8 p.m. on Friday and 10 a.m.-2 p.m. next Sunday. The first 200 fans to get vaccinated both days will get a Nationals-themed prize bag. Elsewhere, Serve D.C., the mayor’s community volunteer group, is organizing the D.C. COVID-19 Community Corps, which will host another Day of Action scheduled on May 22. Volunteers will go door-to-door asking D.C. residents about their plans to get vaccinated. Those who want to register for the event can do so online.
Prince George’s County will lift nearly all coronavirus-related restrictions in the county on Monday and align with the state following a rapid and dramatic decline in COVID-19 case rates over the past week. Among the restrictions the county will end at 5:01 p.m. Monday are social distancing and capacity restrictions both indoors and outdoors. However, face masks are still required indoors, on public transportation and at crowded outdoor venues including concerts and ticketed sporting events, County Executive Angela Alsobrooks said in a press release Friday. “Generally speaking, the county executive’s plan is to align the county with the state regulations, with the exception that when it comes to indoor masks, that’s going to stay in place, irrespective of when the governor changes,” county attorney Rhonda Weaver told members of the county council Friday morning. “It’s going to stay in place until our own metrics determine” it’s safe to do so. Later Friday afternoon, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan ended the state’s mask mandate except on public transit, in healthcare facilities and inside schools. “That’s the one piece we’re not tying ourselves to … That doesn’t mean we’re not going to look at it,” Weaver said. The county will make its own decisions based on data within the county, she said. County Health Officer Dr. Ernest Carter said the county’s COVID-19 metrics have been “exponentially declining” over the past several weeks with a marked decline in just the past 10 days. “It’s really dramatic,” he said. The number of people testing positive has declined from 5% to 4% in the last five days. “That’s a dramatic decrease in positivity,” he said. Previously, it took 10 days for a one point decrease. The daily case rate per 100,000 residents has also fallen to 8.7 cases from 14.2 cases, also in the past five days. Hospitalizations have declined, with fewer than 100 per week in the last two weeks. “All the major indicators are going down,” he said. In addition, Carter noted that most of the surrounding communities have also seen declining coronavirus case rates. “That sort of gives us a wall of protection,” Carter said. He told the council that he had been more cautious in the past but was seeing signs of optimism. “I’m very conservative, as you well know, and for me to come and say I’m going to align with the state is probably a little bit over the top for me, but I’ve looked at the data, and I feel very confident about this move,” Carter said. He said he doesn’t anticipate a spike in cases as the county lifts most restrictions. Still, he said, “let’s say something dramatic happens in the reverse. We have the ability to put the restrictions back in. But again, we’re hoping we see this continual progress.”
A new study found that a single dose of COVID-19 vaccine may not be enough to protect you from variants. “There was a big differential between one-dose protection and two-dose protection that is much more disparate than we’ve seen with the typical COVID strains,” said Dr. Danny Avula, Virginia’s vaccine coordinator, about a study in the New England Journal of Medicine last week. “You go from north of 80% effectiveness against these variants to more like 20% effectiveness with just one dose,” Avula said during a press conference Friday. And he said variants are here. “The [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] reported that 66% of the new cases in the United States right now are the U.K. variant,” he said. He said another 10% are the variant first identified in Brazil and another 3% are the variant first identified in South Africa. Avula is troubled that 6.7% of Virginians who have gotten one dose of the vaccine have not received their second dose within the CDC’s recommended 42 days. To that end, efforts are shifting to medical providers. Previously, people had to go back to the location where they got their first shot to get the second. For some, that location was not easy to get to nor convenient. When there was a tight supply, those second doses were earmarked to the site where a first dose was administered. Now that supplies are more readily available, healthcare providers are asked to encourage patients to come in and get that second shot.
Officials across the DMV reacted to Thursday’s guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that eased mask requirement and social distancing for fully vaccinated people outdoors in crowds and in most indoor settings. Maryland Secretary of Health Dennis Schrader said he “definitely welcomes the news” but the state will keep its own indoor mask mandate until 70% of all adults are vaccinated. “We have to be real careful not to get out ahead of ourselves,” Schrader said. Although there is good progress returning to normal, the “most important issue is breaking the transmission chain” through vaccinations, he said. D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser tweeted that city officials want to discuss the recommendations before making any calls. “Consistent with past practice, we are immediately reviewing the CDC guidance and will update D.C. Health guidance accordingly,” said Bowser, who is also focused on vaccinating residents. “It is critical that every resident, worker and visitor get vaccinated to help us crush the virus,” she said. “The vaccine is safe, free and accessible. Don’t wait to be vaccinated.” Virginia’s message was similar, with a primary focus on inoculating residents while looking over the new federal recommendations and providing “more updates soon.” “Ultimately this reinforces the importance of getting vaccinated,” Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s office said in a statement. “Vaccines are our pathway out of this pandemic, and they are how we can all get back to doing what we love.”
The D.C. Court of Appeals on Thursday sided with tenants and issued a stay pending appeal of a trial court’s decision that the city’s ban on eviction filing is unconstitutional. That means the trial court’s decision will not go into effect as the appeals court reviews the case, and landlords will continue to be barred from filing eviction cases as long as D.C.’s moratorium on evictions remains in place. The ruling comes as the D.C. Council prepares to vote on an extension of the city’s public health emergency and consider Chairman Phil Mendelson’s proposed changes to the current eviction ban, which some tenant advocates say will limit protections against evictions. D.C. landlords challenged the council’s moratorium on eviction filings last year, arguing that it violated their rights of access to the courts. Evictions would still be barred during the public health emergency, but the landlords fighting the law wanted the ability to begin the legal process by filing writs of evictions in court. The trial court ruled in favor of landlords last year, saying that the filing moratorium violated the landlords’ right to court access. The D.C. Attorney General’s office then appealed the trial court’s decision, defending the city’s law and asking for stay pending appeal. The appeals court’s ruling, issued Thursday, argues that D.C. made a “strong argument” that the filing moratorium didn’t restrict court access and that there would be “irreparable harm” to tenants if the trial court’s ruling in favor of landlords was allowed to stand. Even though the trial court’s ruling didn’t allow landlords to evict their tenants, the decision could encourage a tenant to move anyway out of fear, misunderstanding or the knowledge that they can’t afford legal representation to fight the eviction, the appeals court ruled. Meanwhile, Mendelson issued amendments Thursday to the city’s eviction and utility moratoriums, which the council will consider next week when it convenes to vote on granting D.C Mayor Muriel Bowser the authority to extend the public health emergency through July 25. The city’s eviction and utility moratoriums are tied to the current public health emergency, which is set to expire on May 20. Under one amendment, the blanket utility moratorium would only extend to individuals who are currently on a public assistance program and receiving utility assistance from the city, a move to get more people to seek financial help for missed payments. Mendelson also wants to encourage tenants and landlords to enroll in the STAY DC program, a replacement for D.C.’s old COVID-19 Housing Assistance Program, which helps renters and housing providers cover unpaid rental payments as well as utilities like water, gas and electricity. According to Mendelson’s proposal, a landlord could only file an eviction case after they had completed an application to receive funding from STAY DC to cover a tenant’s overdue rent. Then, a tenant would need to complete that application for STAY DC or have a community organization complete it on their behalf to receive the relief money, thus making an eviction unnecessary. “The focus of these amendments is to protect low-income utility customers and renters, but encourage utilization of federal assistance,” according to Mendelson’s introduction of the measures. “The effect will be to increase utilization of the federal money – much of which will be taken back by the federal government if not obligated over the next four months. And, more importantly, the low-income households will come out of the pandemic with little or no debt to their landlords and the utility companies.” The ruling in favor of tenants and Mendelson’s legislation changes come a little over a week after a federal judge threw out the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s eviction moratorium, the immediate impacts of which have yet to play out for local tenants. D.C. renters are protected under the city’s legislation, while Virginia requires landlords and tenants to work together to access rent relief before an eviction can proceed. In Maryland, an executive order from Gov. Larry Hogan provides limited legal defense to residents facing eviction over missed rent during the pandemic.
Maryland drivers have until Aug. 15 to renew licenses that expired during the COVID-19 state of emergency and until June 30 to renew other documents, including vehicle registrations and handicap placards. The Maryland Department of Transportation Motor Vehicle Administration issued the new guidance after Gov. Larry Hogan signed an executive order Thursday. New deadlines include all driver’s licenses — both noncommercial and commercial (CDLs) — as well as learner’s permits and identification cards that expired during the state of emergency must be renewed by Aug. 15, 2021. All other expired documents issued by MDOT MVA, including vehicle registrations and handicap placards, must be renewed by June 30, 2021. Medical Certifications for CDL holders that expired on or after Dec. 1, 2020 will remain valid until May 31, 2021, as designated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. The MVA said customers should try to complete registrations or renewals online before scheduling an appointment. The agency said most services, including driver’s license renewal, can be done online. “As Maryland makes great strides toward slowing the spread of COVID-19, we remain ready to help our customers with their MDOT MVA transactions, whether online or through one of our branch offices,” MVA Administrator Chrissy Nizer said in a press release. “We know there are many customers statewide who have seen their important documents expire during the pandemic, so we appreciate their patience as we all work together to bring everyone into compliance as safely and efficiently as possible.” Customers with expired products will get a reminder by email and through the U.S. Postal Service. Anyone needing to schedule an appointment should use the state’s Central Scheduling System. “This new schedule gives MDOT MVA a plan to help customers update the documents they need in a timely and efficient manner,” said MDOT Secretary Greg Slater. MDOT’s new guidance has no impact on the REAL ID deadline, which is May 3, 2023.
Frequent cleaning, social distancing in trains and buses, and frequent service are among the top issues that would bring Metrorail and Metrobus riders back to public transit as the pandemic wanes. About 55% of riders surveyed said more frequent cleaning of buses and trains would make them more likely to ride transit. About 50% said more space between riders would help and about 45% said more frequent service would make them more likely to ride. A survey by Metro conducted in April and another from the region’s Transportation Planning Board conducted in February are helping drive Metro’s service planning. The board heard the survey results during their Thursday meeting. The results come as Metro’s board is discussing reducing fares to lure riders back as the region begins returning to normal. Metrorail customers said price was not among the top barriers for return. Metro officials say cost was actually among the bottom three barriers as many that ride earn more than $100,000 or receive travel subsidies from their employers. The transit agency is facing an uncertain future as businesses determine how much telework will play into office work of the future. About 75% of people said they would feel safe riding Metro when they are vaccinated. But 90% said they want to work from home at least one day a week. With fewer commuter trips, Metro officials are figuring out how much peak service will be needed compared to spreading out trains and buses throughout the day. “That’s a significant change in Metro’s model,” said Tom Webster, the agency’s head of planning. “Particularly with Metrorail, we’ve been focused on the peak of the peak of the peak of service. So it’s going to take some of some work and some planning and, of course, some service development to get there.” Assistant General Manager Lynn Bowersox said riders want to see just more service overall. “To be clear, [riders] do not want to see the peak frequencies decrease, they want to see the off-peak frequencies increase,” she said. Still, Metro officials said they only expect to get to about 42% of pre-pandemic ridership by the end of 2021 as telework, especially at federal agencies, is expected to continue in some form. “Overall regional trip volumes and patterns are uncertain and challenging to predict,” officials wrote in a memo to the board. “Factors include the potential for more work and non-work trips taken at other times, an expected robust economic recovery and continued growth in population and activities near transit.” Officials estimate about 70% of Metrorail commuters will take four fewer trips per week on average. They say their goal is to provide service ahead of demand and that it takes about three or more months to ramp up service and to get schedules updated, workers on shifts and new maps printed, among other needs. So far, Metrorail ridership is still much lower than the 650,000 average weekday rides pre-pandemic, currently hovering about 100,000 rides a weekday. Metrobus has been busier since it often serves lower-income communities and essential workers. Nearly 60% of bus riders are using the system now. Metro is adding more bus service, including extending service until 2 a.m., in June. More changes are expected in September.
All of Maryland’s coronavirus restrictions will end this Saturday except its indoor mask mandate, but local counties won’t reopening as quickly. Gov. Larry Hogan’s announcement on Wednesday makes Maryland the first state to lift all its COVID-19 measures. Beginning this Saturday, all indoor and outdoor activities can operate at 100% capacity. Hogan said the mask mandate will be lifted when 70% of the state’s adults have received at least one dose of a vaccine. As of Wednesday, 65.4% of Maryland residents 18 and older have received at least one dose. But not all jurisdictions in Maryland will follow Hogan’s reopening plan. In the D.C. suburbs of Montgomery and Prince George’s counties, leaders have consistently been more conservative on relaxing restrictions than the governor and have not moved when he made statewide changes to ease restrictions. A Montgomery County spokesperson said the county will remain in its current reopening phase with a 50% capacity limit on most indoor activities. Restrictions will ease as more county residents get vaccinated in accordance with the county council’s vote on April 27 that established a tiered reopening – restrictions will ease when 60% of residents have at least one dose of vaccine and end when 50% of the population is fully vaccinated. As of Tuesday, 56.6% of county residents have had their first dose and 44.0% are fully vaccinated. Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks said in a press release that the county will wait until 5:01 p.m. Monday to lift capacity limits on most businesses, like gyms, restaurants and places of worship with social distancing and mask requirements remaining. Concert venues, large event halls and large sporting events will still be required to operate at 50% capacity. Hogan justified the move with the state’s rising vaccination rates and plummeting coronavirus metrics. In the past four weeks, the state’s daily case rate per 100,000 residents has dropped by 64% and hospitalizations are at the lowest point since early last November. As of Wednesday, the state had administered more than 5.3 million doses of the vaccine, vaccinating 86% of residents 65 and older. Hogan predicted that by Memorial Day, 70% of all adult residents will have at least one dose, at which point he will end the indoor mask mandate. “We truly are closer than ever to getting back to a sense of normalcy,” Hogan said. “But once again, the fastest way to get rid of our damn masks, and to put this pandemic behind us once and for all, is for every single eligible Marylander to get vaccinated as quickly as possible.” Last week, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam announced the commonwealth will relax capacity limits on indoor and outdoor gatherings this Saturday and would end most of its restrictions by mid-June. Entertainment venues will also be able to operate at 50% capacity starting Saturday. On Monday, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said she will end most of the city’s capacity limits on businesses and private gatherings May 21. Bars, nightclubs and large entertainment venues will be permitted to reopen at full capacity on June 11.
Now that the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine has been approved for children ages 12-15, they can now get vaccinated in the DMV. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration cleared the use of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine on children 12-15 years old on Monday and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention followed suit Wednesday. In addition to publicly-run clinics, children can be scheduled for coronavirus vaccinations at most major pharmacy and supermarket chains including CVS and Walgreens. In most cases, adolescents must have consent of a parent or guardian and be accompanied by a parent, guardian or someone acting in place of a guardian to be vaccinated. Valid proof of age may be required. D.C. Health on Wednesday said residents 12-15 can begin getting vaccinated today at walk-up vaccine sites, hospitals, health centers and pharmacies across the city. As of this morning, Children’s National Hospital’s waitlist is closed, with its website stating that the “waitlist is currently full.” It will reopen once additional vaccine is available. Families can still register their children for a vaccine by scheduling an appointment with The George Washington University Hospital, Howard University Hospital, MedStar Georgetown University Hospital, One Medical sites and federally-qualified health centers. In Maryland, children 12-15 can get vaccinated at the 11 mass vaccination sites in Maryland, where no appointment is required, and 300 pharmacies across the state. In Montgomery County, Health Officer Dr. Travis Gayles said during a press conference Wednesday that guardians will not be required to accompany their 12- to 15-year-olds to vaccination appointments. He said kids can go to any vaccination location to receive a shot as long as it offers the Pfizer vaccine. However, Gayles said guardians must fill out online consent forms beforehand, and children must bring ID to prove their age. Valid forms of ID include a birth certificate, passport or school ID. He said the guidelines follow the same policy for children receiving the flu vaccine. “We are working with our partners in both the nonpublic school group as well as the public school MCPS to identify some potential sites within the next week to do some youth specific clinics to be able to again increase access points to get that population covered,” Gayles said. County Executive Marc Elrich said residents 12-15 can preregister for the vaccine. He said 5,000 children have already preregistered. In Virginia, written consent is required if the vaccine is being administered in a school setting, but a parent or guardian is not required to be present. The Virginia Department of Health said all providers in the commonwealth can begin vaccinating those 12-15. “Getting this safe, effective vaccine means that these adolescents won’t have to miss school, sporting events or other activities if they are exposed to someone with COVID-19, taking another step toward getting their lives back to normal,” Dr. Danny Avula, the state’s vaccination coordinator, said in a press release. Some 102,682 children have tested positive for the coronavirus in Virginia, or 15.5% of all cases, VDH said. The commonwealth ordered a significant supply of the Pfizer vaccine last week in anticipation of its emergency authorization approval, Avula said. Alexandria is offering vaccinations to residents ages 12 and older at existing health department clinics and private providers. A parent or guardian must consent either in advance or at the vaccination site. City health officials are also coordinating with Alexandria City Public Schools to host vaccine events for public and private school families. Appointments can be made at George Washington Middle School for May 22 and Francis Hammond Middle School for June 5. Walk-ins will be accepted at Francis Hammond. Kids aged 12-15 in Arlington County can receive a vaccine starting Saturday. Arlington will offer clinics the next two weekends for the age group. A parent or legal guardian will need to bring valid identification when they accompany their child. Eligible children in Fairfax County must make an appointment through the county health department’s scheduling system for appointments at health department clinics or community vaccination centers at Tysons Corner Center or George Mason University. Loudoun County parents and guardians can register children by making an account and searching for open appointments at the Dulles Town Center clinic. Prince William Health District director Dr. Alison Ansher said earlier this week children ages 12 to 15 can get a shot at multiple locations, including the old Gander Mountain store in Woodbridge.
The Virginia Railway Express, which carries commuters from the outer Virginia suburbs into D.C. weekdays, plans to return to a full 32-train-per-weekday schedule on June 1. Whether passengers will follow remains to be seen. The rail system slashed service in March 2020 due to the pandemic and its impact on commuter travel. VRE officials said that with the pandemic hopefully on the decline, the time has come to fully resume service. “As people return to the office, we recognize the reduced-service schedule may not be a good fit for their commutes. Convenience is important to our riders, and we are pleased to be able to accommodate them,” VRE CEO Rich Dalton said in a press release. “A return to full service will also allow us to maintain social-distancing on platforms and railcars, even as ridership begins to increase.” VRE’s riders, thus far, have yet to embrace a return to rail. For many months over the past year, passenger counts have been roughly one-10th of normal. As VRE returns to full service, it plans to implement a seasonal schedule on the Fredericksburg Line. This schedule adjusts the arrival times on select trains at certain stations in the afternoon, mitigating the effects of heat-related speed restrictions that occur in summer. VRE is the 13th largest commuter rail service in the U.S., providing 4.5 million rides in a typical year.
Prince William County Public Schools asked Gov. Ralph Northam to waive six-foot distancing requirements for outdoor graduation ceremonies next month, requesting him to either drop social distancing restrictions or limit them to three feet at most. In a letter to Northam’s office, school board chair Babur Lateef said the six-foot restriction would limit the number of tickets available for many graduations to just two per student, despite the fact that experts agree outdoor transmission of COVID-19 is very difficult. Ceremonies are set to take place one to two weeks before Northam plans to lift state restrictions if Virginia’s case numbers continue to decline. “We understand the challenges you face as you work to keep all Virginians safe during the pandemic. … In light of recent CDC guidance and scientific data regarding the safety of outdoor events and rising vaccination rates in our community, our request for a waiver falls well within acceptable safety guidelines,” the letter said. PWCS is planning 15 high school graduations, most of which are scheduled between June 3-8. PACE West School will hold its ceremony May 24 at its building. Eleven of the ceremonies will be held at Jiffy Lube Live, an amphitheater with 10,444 reserved seats, with the biggest graduating classes being more than 750 students. “[The order’s] six feet rule has the practical effect of reducing our capacity to approximately 3,000. With 750 graduates, that leaves at best 2,250 tickets to distribute among graduates and staff,” Lateef wrote. “The real-world logistics of six feet guidance limits each family’s participation to approximately two tickets. Invariably, grandparents, siblings, friends — or even parents — will be kept from celebrating this rite of passage. At the very least, a three feet standard would allow for the possibility of 4-5 tickets per family.” According to Lateef, Jiffy Lube Live is telling the district all the ceremonies must have assigned seating because social distancing would be hard to control on the lawn, and that the venue doesn’t want to run afoul of the order by allowing closer seating. Lateef said PWCS can make adjustments at any point if Northam agrees to waive the order, but that officials would like to hear as soon as possible to allow for families to plan. He said a number of surrounding districts are asking for a similar waiver from Northam and Virginia Secretary of Education Atif Qarni. “The ridiculous thing is you have to be six feet apart outside, inside the building in schools we have them at three feet apart,” Lateef said. “I’ve talked to the governor about it, he’s working on it. But I don’t know if the health department is going to stand in the way of it.”
D.C. residents and councilmembers are fed up with poor service from the city’s Department of Employment Services. Last week, more than 40 residents testified about what one person called the “DOES purgatory” when trying to claim unemployment benefits during the pandemic. “The call center is a disaster,” At-Large Councilmember Elissa Silverman, who chairs the D.C. Councils labor committee said during a 5-hour joint hearing held by her committee and the Committee on Government Operations Wednesday. “I am simply done with excuses. I’m done with it. Yes, we have an antiquated IT system that is constantly being Scotch Taped in response to changing federal rules and guidance.” Many residents have gone weeks or months without getting payments from DOES. “They’ve gotten verry little clear information about what to do about how to resolve their claims … if they were even able to reach anyone at all,” Silverman said. DOES Director Unique Morris-Hughes offered an explanation. The agency had to create seven different unemployment programs over the course of the pandemic, creating training in-house because the U.S. Department of Labor didn’t. DOES has been overwhelmed by unemployment claims throughout the pandemic, receiving five times as many claims from March to September 2020 as in all of 2019. And there have been major, sustained problems such as claimants receiving inexplicable error messages, not being given information in their spoken language or being placed on hold for more than an hour at a time. When they finally reach a representative at the call center, claimants are often told to call back or that their claim has been elevated to a “subject matter expert.” The chaotic rollout of benefits has led to several council hearings and increasing frustration from claimants and councilmembers. DOES’ contractors — On Point Technology, which operates the unemployment insurance portal, and Capitol Bridge and Codice, which run the call center — were invited but none attended. Capitol Bridge and Codice did submit written testimony. Morris-Hughes said providing accurate or consistent information is not a requirement of the vendors’ contracts. “The issues that you are raising about the quality of the interaction between the call take and the claimant is not a criteria that is evaluated,” she said. Call takers are not expected to resolve claimants’ issues but offer information. Claim examiners resolve claims. At one point, Morris-Hughes threatened to leave the hearing, frustrated by the council’s interpretation of the issues. At a May 5 hearing, Silverman announced the Inspector General’s office will audit DOES following months of claimants reporting delays in payment, technical glitches and contradictory information from the call center and agency leaders, leaving many unemployed workers frustrated and struggling to pay their bills. Silverman said good people work at DOES, but their work has been stymied by poor management and workflow, which she said she witnessed this firsthand when she visited the call center last summer. “This is a human problem, this is not an IT problem.” Ahead of the hearing, Silverman called for a “complete overhaul of the system,” including the call center. She doubled down on that statement during the hearing, saying she was prepared to ask her council colleagues to use “every legal tool” to change the current system, unless she could be persuaded otherwise. In defending the agency, Morris-Hughes presented previously unreleased data that outlines the problems DOES faces. She said the main problem has been changing guidance from the U.S. Department of Labor, as well as issues with individual filers. “Not a single person on this Zoom meeting can tell anyone with certainty all of the requirements that we are required to implement,” Morris-Hughes said. “So can you imagine a call taker who is entry level, learning all of these things and memorizing them, having the scripts, tabbing the scripts out to be able to search and answer a question? It is a difficult task.” DOES received 200,000 claims from 176,000 individuals since March 2020, and 114,000 people have received payments. By April of this year, more than 133,000 issues were logged based on claimants’ filing errors, according to DOES data. Pressed for answers by Ward 4 Councilmember Janeese Lewis George, Morris-Hughes explained some of the most common error codes that come up in the online portal, although she was a bit reluctant to do so. The codes can signify various issues, from the filer receiving income in another state to failed ID verification. There were 52 major changes in federal unemployment policy in 2020 — three times as many as 2019 — each one requiring technology updates and new training for staff. The federal government doesn’t provide any training or guidelines for how to train staff to meet these new requirements, Morris-Hughes said, so DOES had to come up with its own training. The pandemic brought on what she called an “alphabet soup” of programs, like the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program, and while a number of states reduced benefits or stopped federally funded UI programs altogether, D.C. adapted to administer seven more benefits programs than in a typical year. Part of an $11 million investment from the city went towards hiring more DOES workers and updating the agency’s technology to accommodate the many changes. DOES is planning to overhaul the current technology and modernize the system, a process Morris-Hughes said could take up to 18 months to test and launch, pending approval from council. Ward 2 Councilmember Brooke Pinto asked Morris-Hughes why D.C. hasn’t completely changed technology vendors from On Point as its system has been widely criticized as being antiquated. Hughes-Morris said On Point has run the system since 1999 and that, “It is in my best professional opinion to not bring in another vendor in the middle of the pandemic to try to operate and manage the system.” During the hearing Wednesday, several councilmembers read social media posts from their constituents to provide examples of the most common issues. “I don’t adjudicate claims over Twitter or phantom claims,” Morris-Hughes said at one point. “These are not phantom claims,” Silverman replied. She followed by reading a statement from another claimant who wrote that it is “very insulting” for the DOES director to dismiss their online claims as fake. By the end of the hearing, Silverman didn’t seem convinced of Morris-Hughes’ assessment of the issues: “I’m going to say that there’s a reality gap between what you’ve testified today and what claimants have told us.” It isn’t clear what the council’s next steps will be, but members of the public can submit written testimony to firstname.lastname@example.org or by voice mail by calling (202) 455-0153 before 5 p.m. on May 26.
The day after D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser cited the city’s plummeting COVID-19 case counts in her decision to end most capacity limits on May 21, D.C. Health said those case counts were actually wrong. On Tuesday, the city’s daily coronavirus update said D.C. Health identified “a backlog of cases from the past 3-4 days.” According to the health department, some of the missed cases were reported in Tuesday’s tally of 87 new cases and more will be reported today. The error was due to an IT issue, which has since been resolved. On Saturday, the city reported only 28 new cases and dropped to 16 on Sunday. On Monday, the day Bowser announced that the city would lift nearly all its coronavirus-related restrictions this month, only 15 cases were reported. The low numbers brought the city’s average daily case rate, a key metric that guides reopening decisions, to 5.9 per 100,000 residents as of May 9. The goal is to get that number below 5.0, indicating minimal community spread. During Monday’s press conference, Bowser cited the declining daily case rate, a measure of community spread, as a reason to lift most capacity limits by May 21 and the remainder on June 11. “We’re very pleased that over the last several days, we have seen our community spread numbers venture out of the red, into the yellow and fast approaching the green,” the mayor said. “Our health metrics continue to go in the right direction.” Spokespeople for D.C. Health and the mayor’s office did not respond to questions about if the backlog will impact or reverse Bowser’s decision to bring the city back to somewhat normal in a few weeks. Prior to the reporting errors, the city’s average daily case count was still declining and the missed cases will be reflected in the average case rate over the coming days.
Arlington County Public Schools won’t offer summer school to all elementary students this year because teachers aren’t signing up. “Despite having offered financial incentives to teachers to teach summer school, there are fewer applicants than the number of students who are eligible for summer instruction at the elementary level, making it impossible for APS to offer summer strengthening support to all eligible elementary students,” Bridget Loft, assistant superintendent of teaching and learning, said in a letter to families posted online. APS had planned to offer in-person summer school five days a week to all eligible students, but said classes would be contingent on staffing. “We understand that this decision is disappointing to families whose children will not be able to participate in summer school and regret that we are unable to serve all elementary students who met the initial eligibility standards as we cannot accommodate waitlists,” Loft wrote. The district still plans to offer virtual and in-person summer learning to some elementary-age students, including students with disabilities, English language learners and all pre-K students who are entering kindergarten in the fall. Eligible students who can’t attend summer school can receive learning materials remotely. APS will share more information about secondary summer school classes next week. Summer school had been touted to help make up for learning loss during the pandemic. The latest federal COVID-19 relief package included $30 billion for summer school, after-school and other enrichment programs, but teachers across the country have been slow to sign up for classes. Teachers nationwide say they are demoralized and exhausted after more than a year of virtual learning. The Alexandria City Public Schools is asking parents to fill out a survey about their summer school preferences. The city’s “Summer Learning for All” program includes virtual learning and limited in-person instruction for “targeted students” selected with a “prioritization matrix,” according to ACPS’ website. Arlington and Alexandria parents have criticized school officials for keeping children in virtual learning three days a week during the regular school year, while kids in nearby Fairfax and Loudoun county school districts returned to school four days a week last month. In Maryland, Montgomery and Prince George’s county public schools are offering both in-person and virtual summer learning. D.C. Public Schools plans to provide in-person and virtual summer learning to 23,000 students across every grade. In Fairfax County, Supt Scott Braband said summer school will be provided in-person five days a week, and the program “will be at a scale 10 times what is normal for summer school.” APS will host a virtual meeting about summer school on Monday. A meeting on Tuesday will focus on summer learning for students with disabilities.
From 4-8 p.m. today, D.C. residents can head to Audi Field, 100 Potomac Ave. SW, to get the Johnson & Johnson single-dose COVID-19 vaccine then head onto the pitch to kick a penalty shot. “We don’t let many people set foot on our grass. We protect it, and it is kind of hallowed ground. But we are excited to give people the opportunity to get on the grass and take a penalty against whoever may be in the net,” said Harry Hardy, D.C. United senior vice president of events and marketing. Some of the team’s rising stars will play keeper. Players from the team’s academy will primarily be in the net for the event, but Hardy said don’t be surprised if you end up going against some first team players. Also, the first 100 people to get vaccinated during the event will also get a free ticket to an upcoming game. “We’ll arrange for them to come to an upcoming match of their choice,” Hardy said. The team is bracing for hundreds to attend the event, but social distancing shouldn’t be a problem, as the stadium can hold around 20,000 people, Hardy said. Participants should enter through Gate B, which is located on First Street. The vaccination area will be just inside the gate, a short walk to the field. The event was announced by Mayor Muriel Bowser during a news conference Monday and is one of many pop-up events to get vaccinated in the city. Bowser also announced a vaccine event Friday from 4-8 p.m. at Atlas Brew Works, 2052 West Virginia Ave. NE, that will offer a free beer after getting vaccinated with the J&J vaccine.
Some pandemic restrictions in Prince George’s County will be lifted next week. During an online town hall meeting with residents Tuesday night, County Executive Angela Alsobrooks said infection rates are down, vaccination rates are up and changes are coming to pandemic restrictions on businesses at 5 p.m. Monday. “We are anticipating in the next few days … to make announcements about fully reopening our businesses,” Alsobrooks said. “We believe we are at a point … to reopen completely because our numbers have trended in the right direction. We know that we are seeing declining infection rates … declining positivity rates; we’re pleased with the hospital capacity. So we are really feeling good about our ability to safely reopen.” Currently, county businesses, including restaurants, retail shops, gyms, theaters and the MGM National Harbor Casino, can operate at 50% capacity. While Alsobrooks did not specify the changes, she said the action is imminent. “We will be releasing information that will detail the changes that will occur; they will begin May 17 at 5 p.m.” she said. Just two months ago, Prince George’s County struggled with its vaccination program, with mostly Montgomery and Howard County residents taking advantage of the Six Flags America mass vaccination site located in the county. The county also had among the worst vaccination rates in Maryland. “I am so proud to say that we are now one of the top counties in the state in terms of vaccines administered,” Alsobrooks said. More than 274,000 county residents are completely vaccinated; more than 367,000 residents have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. She urged all eligible residents who are unvaccinated to get the vaccine, and promised renewed efforts to reach people, including a 24-hour vaccine clinic on at the Wayne K. Curry Sports and Learning Center in Landover starting at 9 a.m. on Friday. Alsobrooks also announced a new countywide effort to boost vaccinations is set to launch, in which county representatives will knock on doors of 246,000 homes in the weeks ahead. They will offer vaccination appointments and information on county resources available during the pandemic.
After more than a year of reduced operating hours due to the pandemic, all Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control stores will return to pre-pandemic hours on May 14. Stores will open by 10 a.m. daily, except some stores that open later on Sundays. Closing times, which returned to pre-pandemic hours last June, will remain the same. Closing time varies by store. “With COVID-19 case numbers falling in Virginia and vaccinations increasing, we feel it is now safe to return to our normal operating hours,” Travis Hill, Virginia ABC CEO, said in a statement. “We truly appreciate our retail team’s dedication and flexibility throughout this pandemic, and we look forward to serving our customers with expanded hours soon.” Safety measures recommended for retailers by the Virginia Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention remain in place in all 393 stores. Those include a face mask for customers and store employees; masks for customers who arrive without one; plexiglas shields at registers; floor markers to ensure customers stand at least six feet from each other; daily cleaning and sanitizing with particular attention to most frequented areas including checkout counters and high-touch surfaces such as door handles and knobs; and hand sanitizer at registers for customers and employees. As an alternative to in-store shopping, customers can place orders www.abc.virginia.gov online for curbside pickup or home delivery in nearly all areas of the commonwealth. A list of ABC stores and their hours is available www.abc.virginia.gov/stores online.
After 15 months of pandemic closures and restrictions, D.C. will lift capacity and other restrictions on everything from restaurants and wedding venue to churches and gyms on May 21. Mayor Muriel Bowser made the announcement during a press conferment Monday. Beginning May 21, restaurants, libraries, museums, schools, places of worship and most other businesses will be able to open at full capacity, as well at private gatherings. D.C.’s ban on dancing at wedding venues and bars will also be lifted. Bars and nightclubs will only be able to operate at 50% of their normal capacity, and large sports and entertainment venues like The Anthem and Nationals Park will still need permission for events. But those remaining restrictions will end June 11, and bars, nightclubs, large entertainment and sports venues will be permitted to open at full capacity. Residents, workers and visitors will still be required to follow CDC mask guidance, including wearing masks indoors. The reopening announcement comes after a week of lobbying from local officials and business owners. Last week, Ward 5 Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie called for a reopening plan rather than restrictions being lifted by mayoral pronouncement so that businesses could prepare to offer normal service again. On Thursday, a coalition of performance and entertainment venues including the 9:30 Club and Monumental Sports sent their own letter to Bowser proposing a full reopening by July 1. In their letters, both McDuffie and the venue operators cited other jurisdictions, including Pennsylvania, New York City and Chicago that have lifted restrictions. Last week, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam announced the end of capacity limits and other restrictions on June 15. Bowser and D.C. Health Director Dr. LaQuandra Nesbitt have said it is health metrics, not letters and other jurisdictions’ decisions, that have driven D.C’s decisions. The city’s metrics are trending in the right direction, they said, with a seven-day COVID-19 case rate of 6.6 per 100,000 residents as of Monday morning. The goal has been to reach five or below, which means minimal community spread. “We are fast approaching the green and we expect, with continued vigilance, that that’s exactly where we’re going to be,” Bowser said. “Our health metrics continue to go in the right direction.” The city is also dismantling its temporary hospital site at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, which was never used. Fewer people have also been showing up at testing sites. “We are [fast] approaching what appears to be containment of the virus in the District,” Nesbitt said during the press conference. “A lot of people have been waiting on this day. It’s a true testament to the commitment that our residents have had, our businesses have had, our health care workers, everybody, this ‘we’re all in this together’ approach has paid off for us here in the District.” But she added residents must remain vigilant and that people still need to get vaccinated. She said health officials don’t want to see people “left behind” and infected by the coronavirus since there are ample opportunities to get vaccinated. “We still want people to be cautious,” she said. “If you are not fully vaccinated, your degree of risk is still going to be higher than someone who is fully vaccinated. The more that you want to do without a mask, the more we need people to continue to get vaccinated.” As the city moves into the next phase of the pandemic, D.C. Health is reviewing and updating all health guidance over the next week. Guidance will emphasize current mask and travel guidelines, cleaning and disinfecting recommendations, and more. Bowser said D.C.’s public health emergency will likely last beyond these reopening dates. The emergency status must be in place for federal reimbursement for fighting COVID-19, and Bowser said it will be in place while people work to completely end the pandemic.
The Food and Drug Administration on Monday granted approval to begin administering the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to children between 12-15. Vaccinations could begin as soon as Thursday. An announcement is expected Wednesday. The authorization offers a way to protect children before they head back to school in the fall and paves the way for them to return to more normal activities. The FDA declared the Pfizer vaccine is safe and offers strong protection for younger teens based on testing of more than 2,000 U.S. volunteers ages 12-15. The agency noted there were no cases of COVID-19 among fully vaccinated adolescents compared with 16 among kids given placebos. More intriguing, researchers found the kids developed higher levels of virus-fighting antibodies than earlier studies measured in young adults. The younger teens received the same dosage as adults and had the same side effects, mostly sore arms and flu-like fever, chills or aches that signal a revved-up immune system, especially after the second dose. In the DMV, Dr. Danny Avula, Virginia’s COVID-19 vaccine coordinator, said while there are a few hoops to jump through, shots could be going into children’s arms this week. “Really by Thursday or Friday, it’s pretty realistic that vaccine will be available to those who are 12 to 15 years old,” Avula said. The commonwealth ordered a significant supply of the Pfizer vaccine this past week in anticipation of its emergency authorization approval, Avula said. He added that Virginia has been working with school districts for several weeks in hopes of getting children vaccines in schools before the year ends. “But these students and their families will have lots of opportunities to get vaccinated right now. There is plenty supply of Pfizer,” he said. As to whether parents will be motivated to get their kids the Pfizer vaccine, Avula said he is optimistic. “My hope is that people recognize the inherent benefits to vaccination, not only are you protecting each individual from contracting COVID, but also the communal benefit,” he said. There are about 425,000 children 12-15 years old in Virginia. Prince William Health District Director Dr. Alison Ansher said in a press release that when final approval is given, eligible children can get the shot at multiple locations, including at the vaccination site at the old Gander Mountain store in Woodbridge. Other clinics include those at CVS Pharmacy, Safeway, Mason and Partner Clinic and Manassas Mall. The school district will help with communication and transportation for families, Ansher said. A press release from the Maryland Department of Health said it welcomes the Pfizer news and will work closely with providers to prepare for vaccinating kids in the age group. Officials in Montgomery County said they are already planning strategies to vaccinate young people, and it could involve clinics on school grounds. Children’s National Hospital recently opened a COVID-19 vaccine preregistration website for residents of D.C. and Prince George’s County who are 12-15.
Six Montgomery County libraries and two senior centers will reopen June 1 after being closed more than a year because of the pandemic. Libraries in Bethesda, Burtonsville, Gaithersburg, Olney, Rockville and Silver Spring will reopen by appointment only beginning June 1 for browsing, checking out materials and using computers. They will be open 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday and noon-8 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday. Holiday Park Senior Center in Silver Spring and Damascus Senior Center will reopen June 14. Officials said hundreds of seniors have already registered for programs. “Our library and senior center staff have provided valuable services and resources to our residents throughout this pandemic – in both traditional and innovative ways,” County Executive Marc Elrich said in a press release. “This reopening process will continue to evolve as many of our buildings and facilities are currently temporarily repurposed for other pandemic-related needs. We appreciate everyone’s continued patience, understanding and compliance to COVID-19 safe practices while we reopen these buildings.” The county is the last in the DMV to reopen its libraries. Last month, Elrich said the reason libraries are slow to reopen is a staffing shortage. “Without knowing when we would be able to reopen the county, we did not hire people for empty positions that we would then pay for not being able to work in those empty positions,” he said. The county is in the process of hiring library positions and Elrich expects a rolling opening of the county’s other libraries in the coming months. As part of the county libraries’ ‘Holds To Go’ program, residents can currently check out books from the library, but need to order them online at home and wait outside the library to pick them up. As for the county’s senior centers, the ones in Wheaton and White Oak will continue to be used as vaccination sites. The Long-Branch Senior Center will continue to be used as a homeless shelter. The Margaret Schweinhaut and North Potomac Senior Centers will be provide summer programming for children. “Reopening our facilities safely is one our highest priorities,” said Montgomery County recreation director Robin Riley. “COVID-19 has been hard for everyone and our seniors are one of the hardest hit groups.”
Beginning Friday, Capital One Arena, where the Washington Capitals and Wizards play, and the Entertainment and Sports Arena, where the Mystics play, can host up to 25% of their maximum capacity, or approximately 5,000 fans. When the city reopens on June 11, the stadium can welcome fans at full capacity. The D.C. Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency granted Monumental Sports and Entertainment, which owns all three teams and the Capital One Arena, permission to expand capacity from 10% to 25%. Both locations must maintain safety precautions including requiring fans to wear masks, seating people six feet apart and electronic ticketing. The Wizards are scheduled to play the Cleveland Cavaliers at home at 7 p.m. Friday and the Mystics will play their home opener against the Chicago Sky at 1 p.m. Saturday. “Russell Westbrook is making all-time history in the NBA as Bradley Beal is chasing the NBA’s lead scoring record for the season. And the Caps are in the postseason for the seventh consecutive season” said Ted Leonsis, founder and CEO of Monumental Sports, in a press release. “We are thrilled to have the best fans in sports together with us again to see these excellent teams chase championships!”
Lafayette Square across from the White House reopened to the public at 8 a.m. Monday. While fencing remains, gates were opened to allow pedestrian and cyclist access. The U.S. Secret Service would not say why the park reopened Monday or when the remaining fencing will be removed. “In protecting the White House and its residents, the U.S. Secret Service acknowledges that the surrounding area can be a powerful symbol of our nation and our democracy, and the agency is committed to balancing necessary security measures with the importance of public access and view,” a spokesperson said. “Due to the need to maintain operational security, we do not discuss the specifics of security fencing or other operational means and methods.” For now, Pennsylvania Avenue remains blocked off. Low metal fences, strapped into squares around concrete barriers, separate the park from Pennsylvania Avenue. The limited access came as a surprise for passersby after the park’s almost year-long closure. The fencing went up last June, shortly after police and National Guard troops forcibly removed peaceful protesters from Lafayette Square so former president Donald Trump could pose in front of St. John’s Episcopal Church, across the street from Lafayette Square, holding a Bible. In early March, fencing surrounding St. John’s was removed.
About one-third of the shots given at Maryland’s mass vaccination site in Hagerstown has gone into the arms of Montgomery County residents. Since the site at Hagerstown Premium Outlets opened on March 25, almost 60% of folks getting first doses there have come over the mountain from Montgomery or Frederick counties, according to the Maryland Department of Health’s most recent vaccine allocation report. “The virus does not recognize borders,” MDH spokesperson Charlie Gischlar wrote in an email. “We have a longstanding policy allowing vaccinations for people who live outside the state, although we prefer to prioritize state residents.” It isn’t surprising that people would travel from out-of-state to get vaccinated in Washington County because it is part of a tri-state region. Parts of the county touch West Virginia and Pennsylvania and the vaccination site isn’t far from the Interstate 81/Interstate 70 interchange. While the state report doesn’t specifically list which states people are traveling from to get vaccinated at the outlets, 8.9% of first doses went to out-of-state residents. The Washington County Health Department a few weeks ago broadened its vaccination eligibility from people who live or work in the county to folks 18 or older who “live, work, play, worship, etc.” in the county, according to an email from spokeswoman Danielle Stahl. The change recognizes the county is “geographically unique” with its closeness to Pennsylvania and West Virginia and that “there are many people who are a part of this community but may not necessarily live or work here,” Stahl wrote. The Hagerstown outlets site is a “key element” in the state’s network of mass vaccination sites, which have provided as many as 95,000 doses in a given day, Gischlar wrote. More than 50,000 doses had been administered at the former Wolf’s Furniture store in the outlets, Gischlar wrote last week. Of those, 77.8% have gone to residents of Montgomery, Frederick and Washington counties. The Hagerstown mass vaccination site opened before mass sites in Montgomery and Frederick counties. According to the state’s April 30 allocation report, the residency breakdown for doses provided at the Hagerstown site were Montgomery County, 37.1%; Frederick County, 22.5%; Washington County, 18.2%; Out of state, 8.6%; Howard County, 4.3%; Carroll County, 3.5%; Prince George’s County, 1.7%; Baltimore County, 1.5%; Anne Arundel County, 1.1%; Baltimore City, 0.5%; Allegany County, 0.3%; and Harford County, 0.2%; Charles, Calvert and Garrett counties, 0.1% each. Cecil, St. Mary’s, Queen Anne’s, Talbot, Worcester, Kent, Wicomico, Caroline, Dorchester and Somerset counties also were represented on the bar graph, but the number of doses was so small they were listed as 0% for each county.