Prince George’s Co. Is Closing 2 Vax Centers
COVID-19 Cases Reach 1,179,568 in D.C., Md. and Va.
As of Saturday morning, 48,727 people have tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, in D.C. with 1,125 deaths; there have been 458,048 cases in Maryland with 8,799 deaths; and in Virginia there have been 672,793 cases with 11,097 deaths. You can read last week’s updates here.
Prince George’s County is closing two of its COVID-19 vaccination sites in Cheverly and Laurel, citing the overabundance of supply as the primary reason for shutting down the clinics. The Cheverly Health Center ended vaccination efforts Friday, and the Laurel-Beltsville Senior Activity Center won’t offer vaccines after May 28. Anyone scheduled to get vaccinated at one of these sites will automatically be rescheduled at the Wayne K. Curry Sports and Learning Complex and will receive notification of the change by phone. “Getting vaccinated against COVID-19 is easier than ever as vaccine supply is outpacing demand nationwide. More pharmacies, hospitals and private practices are offering these free and life-saving vaccines to anyone who is eligible,” said the county’s deputy chief administrative officer for health Dr. George L. Askew. County-run vaccination clinics will continue at three mobile sites, the Sports and Learning Complex and the Southern Regional Technology and Recreation Complex. Anyone 12 and older can get a vaccine at the sites.
The D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation reopened all of its facilities in line with the city’s most recent COVID-19 guidance. Recreation and fitness centers, athletic fields and courts have reopened, and permits for sports, indoor and special events are available. Indoor pools have also reopened with the need for reservations ending on June 1, while outdoor pools will reopen on the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend (May 29) as they usually do. DPR is also launching some new initiatives to improve the experience by extending hours and programming at certain recreation centers. The department’s Roving Leaders, which work with children, is organizing movie nights and youth-focused mobile recreation activities. Meanwhile, senior citizens will be offered arts, fitness, social recreation, horticulture therapy and musical performances as part of the Platinum Saturdays program. D.C. public charter school students will also get the chance to participate in boost camps. Free summer meals will be offered at more than 30 recreation centers and dozens of more sites across the city. There will also be summer camps across D.C., as well as a virtual Camp-At-Home option. The department will host large-scale events citywide.
Fully vaccinated D.C. United fans no longer must wear a mask at Audi Field. The club made the announcement Friday bringing Audi Field policies in line with mask guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the city. The new rule starts Sunday for the team’s game against the Philadelphia Union at 7 p.m. Fans who aren’t fully vaccinated still need to wear a mask except when they are eating or drinking in their seat.
With Memorial Day about a week away, Arlington National Cemetery on Monday will loosen its coronavirus-related restrictions. Fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear face coverings outdoors, but unvaccinated people must still wear face masks and maintain social distancing. Everyone, regardless of vaccination status, is still required to wear masks in all indoor areas of the cemetery, including restrooms. There is no longer a limit to how many people can attend graveside services. The Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall Old Post Chapel is still limited to 50 mourners and only two family members at a time can enter the cemetery’s administration building. Beginning Monday, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and President John F. Kennedy’s grave site will be fully reopened to visitors and public wreath laying ceremonies will resume. Also, the Memorial Amphitheater and Welcome Center exhibits will be open. The welcome center bookstore will reopen May 27. The amphitheater bowl is still closed for renovations. The Arlington Cemetery Metro station, which had been closed since February for platform reconstruction, reopens Sunday. The cemetery is open daily from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. with visitors being screened either inside or outside the welcome center.
The D.C. Public Library is increasing capacity at all its open branches beginning June 1. Guests will be allowed to browse the library’s collections, sit at tables and in lounge areas, and use the computers for up to 70 minutes. The change comes after months of limited service and reduced hours due to the pandemic and following relaxation of the city’s mask and capacity guidance. Visitors will be able to use printers, scanners and restrooms. Face masks will be required for all staff and guests, including fully vaccinated people. In addition, the remodeled Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library, which reopened in September, will open its second, third and fifth floors to guests. At the MLK branch, customers can make appointments to use its labs, adult learning department and People’s Archive, which includes the Black Studies and Washingtoniana collections. The DCPL has outdoor programming scheduled, and in the coming weeks, it will begin introducing a number of indoor events while reopening its conference and study rooms to the public. The following branches will be open from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday through Saturday: Anacostia, Bellevue, Benning, Capitol View, Chevy Chase, Cleveland Park, Deanwood, Francis A. Gregory, Georgetown, Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, Mount Pleasant, Northeast, Palisades, Petworth, Shaw, Shepherd Park, Southeast, Southwest, Tenley-Friendship, West End, and Woodridge. Smaller branches, including Takoma Park, Rosedale, Parklands-Turner, Lamond Riggs Interim and Northwest One, will reopen in the coming weeks.
Any Marylander who gets vaccinated against COVID-19 in the state is eligible to receive up to $400,000. The Maryland Lottery $2 Million VaxCash promotion is part of a push to get Maryland residents vaccinated against the virus. Every day for 40 days starting next Tuesday and continuing through July 3, the Maryland Lottery will give away $40,000 to someone who was vaccinated. There will be a final drawing for a $400,000 winner on July 4. A total of $2 million will be given away, with funds coming from the lottery’s marketing budget, Gov. Larry Hogan said during a press conference Thursday. People who already have been vaccinated will automatically be entered to win, as will people who are newly vaccinated. Winners must be residents 18 and older. “All you have to do to enter the drawing is get your shot,” Hogan said. “I know there are Marylanders who have been hesitating or who just haven’t gotten around to it yet, but the only way to protect yourself against COVID is to get vaccinated right away.” Winners will be contacted by the state health department. “Please get vaccinated so we can all return to our normal lives,” Hogan said. Ohio’s governor announced earlier this month that residents who have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine are eligible to win one of five $1 million prizes and five full college scholarships. Officials there said they have seen a boost in the vaccination rate.
Following Monday’s announcement from D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser about loosening more pandemic restrictions, the D.C. State Athletic Association is allowing all high school sports to resume today. It is essentially a rubber stamp on Bowser’s order that now allows for high-contact sports to return with no COVID-19 restrictions. While all high school sports are coming back, there are still some rules to follow, especially for people who have not been vaccinated. The DCSAA said unvaccinated coaches and athletes still must wear a mask while participating in any athletic-related activity, including conditioning drills, practice and games. The rule also applies to unvaccinated coaches and student athletes even if they are standing on the sidelines and not actively participating. Also, if an unvaccinated coach or student-athlete is suspected of having possible COVID-19 exposure, a 10- to 14-day quarantine will be required based on D.C. Health guidelines. In a press release announcing the move, DCSAA said coaches and athletes “should get vaccinated as soon as possible,” and that it is “the best way to stop the spread of COVID-19 and ensure one remains in good health.”
Montgomery County Public Schools will allow more guests at graduation ceremonies after the county relaxed many COVID-19 restrictions earlier this week. Individual high schools will determine how many guests each graduate can invite based on class size and facility capacity. Schools will communicate those numbers directly with students and their families. Despite the change for seniors, fifth and eighth grade promotion ceremonies in Montgomery County will remain virtual. In addition to the graduation updates, MCPS said in an update Wednesday that mask requirements and capacity limits will be lifted for outdoor school athletic events. Masks will still be required in school buildings and on school buses through the end of the school year.
Kings Dominion reopens this Saturday after being closed last year because of COVID-19. Some things will be different at the amusement park in Doswell this year. The park will open with limited capacity to allow for social distancing and tickets must be purchased in advance online. There won’t be any temperature checks but there will be a health screen questionnaire at the front gate. There also won’t be any limitations to ride capacity except in the waterpark and indoor attractions. Parkgoers who have been fully vaccinated won’t be required to wear face masks, the park said. But all guests 5 and older who are not fully vaccinated are required to wear a face covering outdoors except on water attractions while in Soak City Waterpark or in RelaxZones, and indoors unless actively eating or drinking.
With COVID-19 cases dropping, traffic around the DMV is on the rise heading into summer; and experts wonder if the traffic will stick around. The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments’ National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board has been collecting traffic data since the start of the pandemic and reporting it monthly. In April 2020, as stay-at-home orders were enacted, traffic fell about 51% compared to the previous April. The most recent data show overall traffic in the region was down about 27% in February compared to the same month in 2019. “I would expect in the coming months that we’ll start seeing some recovery in travel as employers and employees alike start considering going back to the office,” said MWCOG Planning Data and Research Program Director Tim Canan. “What we don’t yet know is when we’re going to declare ourselves fully in the post-pandemic period, and what that post-pandemic period is going to look like.” Weekday travel is rebounding, but the timing has changed. Instead of two rush-hour peaks, it is a gradual midday, early-afternoon buildup. Early mornings and late evenings, traffic is a little lighter. But middays and early afternoons tend to be busier. Canan said it appears to be especially true in outer suburbs, such as Loudoun and Prince William counties in Virginia, and Charles and Frederick counties in Maryland. “We see a lot more … midday travel trips that are being taken from people who aren’t at the office and have the ability to do that in the middle of the day,” he said. Canan said summer traffic could be busy, but what happens after that could be particularly telling. “What will that mean for September when the schools open back up and families have to be back home in order for their kids to go back to school, and offices may be expecting more of a presence of their workers in their facilities?” he said.
Beginning Friday, fully vaccinated fans no longer need to wear face masks anywhere in Nationals Park. People are considered to be fully vaccinated two weeks after their final dose of vaccine. The Washington Nationals made the announcement Wednesday, in line with D.C.’s new mask guidance. Unvaccinated people must still wear masks at all times, unless they are eating or drinking in their seats. A press release announcing the mask change doesn’t mention needing proof of vaccination, so the new rule likely operates on the honor system. Nationals Park is the first large venue in the DMV to drop its mask mandate for fully vaccinated people. Some retailers, like Trader Joe’s, Target and Walmart, have lifted their mask mandates for fully vaccinated customers, as have some bars and restaurants. Under Mayor Muriel Bowser’s Monday order, it is up to a business to require face masks for all customers. On June 10, ballpark capacity will return to 100% from its current 36% limit.
Although coronavirus restrictions are easing around the DMV, the Celebrate Fairfax festival is canceled this year. “While we as a community begin to find ways to safely gather, Celebrate Fairfax Inc. has made the difficult decision to cancel the 2021 festival,” the organization said on its website. “We hope you will continue to celebrate Fairfax and join us in supporting our fellow community events.” The organization also canceled its last year’s festival because of the pandemic. Celebrate Fairfax, which runs for three days in June at the Fairfax County Government Center, usually attracts 70,000 people a year. In addition to the traditional carnival rides and games and nightly fireworks, the 40-year-old festival typically has a craft beer garden and offers more 120 performances on seven stages. Headliners in 2019 included Better Than Ezra and Smash Mouth. In 2018, Good Charlotte and Sugar Ray & Gin Blossoms performed.
Montgomery County is taking applications for its third round of grants for restaurants that are still facing pandemic-related financial challenges. This round totals $3.8 million and will be distributed in $10,000 grants to eligible restaurants that have not already received a county relief grant. Restaurants that received county relief grants are eligible for an additional $5,000. In the first two rounds of grants, the county made grants to more than 900 restaurants. When this round is complete, the county will have distributed more than $16.5 million in direct business assistance to county businesses. The funding for the MoCo Restaurant Relief Fund comes from Maryland’s RELIEF Act of 2021. It is administered by the Montgomery County Economic Development Corp. Applications are being accepted through May 28, and funds will be distributed by June 30. Caterers, food trucks, wineries and breweries are also eligible to apply for the grants.
The D.C. Council on Tuesday voted down a proposal from Chairman Phil Mendelson to allow landlords to resume evictions during the pandemic. Several councilmembers expressed reservations about the amendment from Mendelson that would have provided an exception to the moratorium enacted early in the pandemic. Under the moratorium, landlords cannot evict tenants for nonpayment during the health emergency and 60 days after. But under an amendment Mendelson proposed as part of a bill extending the public health emergency until July 25, eviction filings could have resumed July 1 with the goal of encouraging renters to take advantage of STAY D.C., the city’s federally funded rental assistance program. The emergency designation allows the city to collect certain funding from the federal government, as well as empowers the mayor to enact pandemic restrictions. Landlords would have been able to file for an eviction only after applying for assistance on the tenant’s behalf in the previous 60 days, informed the tenant about the availability of rent relief and served written notice. Renters could have requested a 15-day extension if they weren’t able to access funds due to reasons beyond their control. A similar law has been in effect in Virginia since Jan. 1. Mendelson also called to undo the city’s ban on utility shutoffs, another effort to compel residents to pay what they owe. Residents receiving public benefits, including Medicaid, unemployment, rent or utility assistance, SNAP and TANF, would have still been protected. Mendelson justified his eviction moratorium amendment by saying landlords complained that many renters aren’t taking advantage of relief funds even though they are eligible, and they believe sending eviction notices would pressure renters to seek assistance. He also said the city must spend at least 65% of its first half of federal aid by the end of September or it will have to forfeit the rest of the money. The STAY D.C. program has received roughly 10,000 applications since it began April 12 — about $30 million of the total $352 million in funds. Roughly another $100 million must be spent by Sept. 30. “Every week that we wait makes it much less likely that we utilize all this funding by September,” Councilmember Brooke Pinto said. But others said there is nothing stopping the city from getting assistance to more residents now and allowing landlords to pressure tenants with eviction notices is not the only way to speed things up. Councilmember Charles Allen led a successful effort to undo Mendelson’s amendment, urging his colleagues to wait until a hearing on Friday to determine how to handle the eviction moratorium as the pandemic winds down. Tenant advocates said STAY D.C. is still new and not functioning smoothly. The application process must be refined before tenants are forced to depend on it. “This proposal comes at a time when these rental assistance programs are not working, and a lot of changes need to be made to get them working,” said Beth Mellen of D.C. Legal Aid. “We really want to see those changes made first.” Debate over the eviction moratorium is expected to continue with councilmembers reconvening in June to consider any changes.
On Tuesday, the Montgomery County Council officially lifted the county’s mask mandate and raised capacity limits for indoor dining starting May 28. The county is now closely aligned with state reopening plan after following its own plan for most of the pandemic. The council unanimously approved a resolution updating its reopening rules and removing the outdoor mask mandate. Anyone who is fully vaccinated does not have to wear a mask indoors, with some exceptions including public transportation, schools and healthcare facilities. The county will also remove its outdoor capacity limit and raise its indoor limit to 250 people. Montgomery County has been one of the hardest-hit counties in Maryland and trailed behind state reopening guidance. On April 27, the county adopted a fifth version of changes to its reopening plan after it reported that 50% of residents received at least their first vaccine dose; that allowed gathering limits to increase to 50 people indoors and 100 people outdoors and let businesses that don’t sell food or drinks increase their capacity to 50%. On Monday, the county moved into its second phase of reopening after reporting that 60% of residents received at least their first dose. The new restrictions include dropping the outdoor gathering limit, increasing the indoor gathering limits to 250 and allowing businesses that serve food and drinks, as well as religious facilities, to operate at 75% of their maximum capacity. Those changes and removing the mask mandate were approved T
Arlington Public Schools and Fairfax County Public Schools are partnering with their local health departments to vaccinate children 12-17 against COVID-19. On Monday, Arlington County held one of the first in-school vaccine clinics in the DMV, turning the gymnasium at Wakefield High School into a vaccination site for close to 1,000 students. The school-based clinic operated from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. with appointments required. Students getting their first dose of Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID vaccine had to be accompanied by a parent or guardian. According to Arlington County, there are about 8,000 children between 12-15 who are newly eligible to get Pfizer’s vaccine after last week’s emergency authorization. Arlington County Public Health worked closely with APS to organize the vaccine clinic, but said students 12-17 from any public or private school in Arlington could book appointments there. Another appointment-based, in-school clinic is planned for May 24 from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. at Kenmore Middle School. The Walter Reed Community Center will also host clinics specifically geared toward children ages 12-17 this coming Saturday, Sunday and Monday. The county has said it is trying to meet families where they are and make the vaccine easily accessible to eligible students. FCPS will partner with the Fairfax Coun Health Department to vaccinate students 12-18 at different high schools. Parents must pre-register students with the health department and parent/guardian consent must be provided by 8 p.m. on Thursday. According to the school district, the vaccine clinics will take place Tuesday, May 25 at Bryant High School, 2709 Popkins Lane, Alexandria; Wednesday, May 26 at South Lakes High School, 11400 South Lakes Drive, Reston; Thursday, May 27 at Annandale High School, 4700 Medford Drive, Annandale; and Friday, May 28 at Mount Vernon High School, 8515 Old Mt. Vernon Road, Alexandria. More school vaccine sites are expected to be available starting June 1. FCPS said it will announce the site locations in school newsletters and on its website along with a “follow-up letter” to families from grades seven to 12. Appointments will be available between 9:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. If maximum capacity is reached during the clinics, the district said families will be referred to make an appointment with the closest vaccine clinic. According to FCPS, transportation will be provided to and from the vaccine clinic from students’ base schools. Virtual students will need to be dropped off and picked up from their base school. Students will participate in normal daily schedules before and after their appointment and will ride the school bus to and from school for the day as scheduled.
Loudoun County Public Schools students will return to classrooms five days a week in the fall. Interim Supt. Scott Ziegler made the announcement in a video message to the school community. “We know our students are excited to return, and staff is committed to providing as normal a school experience as possible, while following the most updated guidance,” he said. The school district is finishing the current school year in a hybrid learning model, with in-person and virtual learning for some students. Over the course of the year, LCPS moved from two days a week of in-person learning for some students to four days. The district will continue to offer virtual instruction on a limited basis for families that show a need for it based “primarily on medical reasons.” An application process for virtual instruction will open sometime later this month. In announcing the return to full-time learning inside school buildings, Ziegler said they wish to build “on their success” from the hybrid model, during which the transmission of COVID-19 “between students and staff remained low.”
Rolling to Remember, a motorcade of former and current military members advocating for suicide prevention, will hold its annual Memorial Day Weekend ride around the National Mall this year. Approximately 50,000 motorcyclists will gather at RFK Stadium at noon May 30 to make their way through D.C. and circle the monuments, according to a press release. This is the second annual Rolling to Remember Ride, which succeeded Rolling Thunder. This year’s ride will travel from RFK to the National Mall along Interstate 395. Event organizers said they plan the route to minimize disruption to nearby neighborhoods. “The route is the most direct possible, staying out of the residential neighborhoods and avoiding certain routes key to the faith-based community on a Sunday morning,” said AMVETS national executive director Joe Chenelly in the press release. AMVETS is a federally recognized nonpartisan organization that advocates for more than 19 million veterans and issues they are especially affected by. The organization advocates for prisoners of war and people missing in action. “As we continue with this tradition of holding Congress accountable for those still missing in action from past wars, we also ride to raise awareness of veteran suicide,” the press release said. Earlier this month, the Department of Defense rejected an event permit from organizers to gather at one of the Pentagon’s parking lots on Memorial Day, citing the pandemic and unexpected crowd size. Still, the group maintained it would stick to its scheduled ride day. Not long after, Mayor Muriel Bowser gave the group permission to gather at RFK Stadium ahead of the event. “When others turned us away, the District of Columbia helped AMVETS find a way for our fellow veterans to be heard, to honor the fallen and missing,” Chenelly said. “They and several other leaders and agencies have shown remarkable support for veterans and the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.”
The 46th Marine Corps Marathon will return in person to the DMV this fall. The marathon, 10K and 50K will be held from Oct. 29-31. All three races will be held in-person one year after running as a virtual event last year. “Throughout my many years heading the MCM Organization, we have faced various challenges and hurdled them all, often repeating the Marine Corps mantra to ‘adapt and overcome.’ This year will be no different,” race director Rick Nealis said in a press release. There will be health and safety measures in place that will follow guidelines of local jurisdictions. They include reducing the size of the field and dividing runners into scaled and social-distanced start times. There is also a virtual option for all three races, which can be run from Oct. 1-Nov. 11. Anyone currently registered for a virtual run or deferred from the 2020 events will have the first opportunity to switch to the live event this fall. Registration for the virtual event is closed. General entries to the live event will be made available to the public May 26 at noon.
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser lifted the city’s mask mandate for fully vaccinated people on Monday. The order, which went into effect Monday, still requires masks on public transit, taxis and ride hailing services, airports, train stations, schools and daycares, healthcare settings, workplaces (if applicable), homeless shelters and correctional facilities. Also, businesses can still require masks by posting a sign on the door. “Fully vaccinated people only need to wear their mask or social distance in places where it is required,” Bowser said during a press conference, noting that people are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after their final dose. “That said, if you are fully vaccinated, continue to take a mask with you when you leave your home. Then, respect signs at the places you are visiting. If a business posts a sign indicating that masks are required, then you must follow their request … or they could deny you entry.” Other coronavirus restrictions, including capacity restrictions, time restrictions and limits on bars and churches, will be lifted at 5 a.m. Friday. D.C. plans to lift the rest of its restrictions on June 11, including capacity limits at bars and large entertainment venues. Maryland and Virginia both lifted mask mandates last Friday, although Montgomery and Prince George’s counties are handling masks slightly differently. At its meeting today, the D.C. Council is expected to extend the mayor’s authority to extend the public health emergency through July 25. Bowser said she will extend it, if approved, mainly for administrative purposes, including federal reimbursement and hiring.
As 60% of Montgomery County residents received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, it triggered officials to relax some coronavirus restrictions. Most businesses, including restaurants, theaters and religious facilities, may expand capacity to 75% and expands indoor gatherings are now limited to 250 people. Also, capacity limits on outdoor gatherings have ended. Other changes include sporting events can increase capacity for participants and spectators to 250 people indoors and no limit outdoors; camps may increase their gathering limits and can have campers from outside the DMV; convention and banquet facilities are increased to 50% capacity; and cigar and hookah bars may permit smoking outdoors. The easing of restrictions in Maryland’s most populous county came after Gov. Larry Hogan last week ended most statewide capacity limits on businesses and lifted its mask requirement. Montgomery County has moved more slowly, and put in place a reopening plan tied to the county’s vaccination rate. Montgomery was one of the fasted jurisdictions in the state at administering shots. Last weekend, the county administered 15,000 shots. Of those, 9,000 were newly eligible 12-to-15-year-olds, officials said Monday. The third phase of reopening when all capacity limits will lift and businesses can resume normal operations in line with the state’s policy is set for May 28. That is two weeks after the county reported having 50% of its residents fully vaccinated. While the CDC and state lifted mask mandates for fully vaccinated people, the Montgomery County Council is set to vote on new rules today, including lifting the outdoor mask mandate. The council will also hear a resolution proposing that those who are fully vaccinated would no longer need to wear masks indoors, except where the state health department requires it. Unvaccinated residents will still need to wear a mask in indoor public spaces until May 28, when the order will be rescinded.
Johns Hopkins University is launching a new effort to improve COVID-19 information reported through its Coronavirus Resource Center. Expert analyses revealed “a troubling truth” about the data, the university said in a press release. “In the absence of standards and uniform methods, the states used an uneven patchwork of policies and disjointed reporting that hampered efforts to slow COVID-19’s spread; sowed confusion for policymakers and the public; and hindered the ability to target resources to the most vulnerable and measure the effectiveness of public health interventions and vaccinations,” the university said. The Coronavirus Resource Center will investigate both state and national data discrepancies. That includes reporting testing results and tracking vaccine distribution. JHU said inconsistent data practices make it harder to bring the pandemic to an end. It said a lack of demographic data to fully illustrate the disproportionate impact COVID-19 has inflicted on minority communities and how resources for medical care and vaccinations were not equitably distributed are among the “most troubling” aspects. “There is a lot of complexity in the way COVID-19 data has been collected and reported that we haven’t been able to fully contextualize because of a lack of uniformity in how state and federal agencies manage it,” said Beth Blauer, associate vice provost for public sector innovation and the CRC data lead. “The PDI aims to explain how the data got to where it is and explore the opportunities for creating more high value public data sets.” The new initiative will feature a blog and updated analyses.
Prince George’s County will lift nearly all coronavirus-related restrictions in the county this afternoon 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. today 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 the county council Friday morning. “It’s going to stay in place until our own metrics determine” it is safe to do so. Later Friday afternoon, Gov. Larry Hogan ended Maryland’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.
With new public health guidance and lifted capacity restrictions coming May 28 in Virginia, Northern Virginia schools are preparing to allow more guests at this year’s graduation ceremonies. “We’re excited that the governor moved up the timeline for lifting restrictions to May 28,” Babur Lateef, the chairman of the Prince William County School Board, told WTOP. “We believe that the new mandate will allow us to have more guests at our outdoor ceremonies with less restrictions …[and] we believe that the governor’s order clears the way for Jiffy Lube [Live] to do that.” The Bristow-based amphitheater is hosting graduations for both Prince William County and Fairfax County schools. Rare instances of COVID-19 transmission outdoors have turned the popular concert venue into a destination for regional graduation ceremonies that previously took place inside large theaters or stadiums. Now that Gov. Ralph Northam is no longer mandating capacity restrictions to control the spread of coronavirus, Lateef said that the decision falls on Jiffy Lube Live as to whether the site will allow more guests at graduations. Currently, the site is only allowing each student to have two guests under the covered pavilion area. The relaxed restrictions could mean students could have up to five guests, with a possibility of Jiffy Lube Live allowing the grassy lawn area to have guests as well, Leteef said. It would also bring the pavilion’s total number of attendees from 3,000 people to 5,000, according to Lateef. That will be discussed during a meeting between Prince William County’s school board and Jiffy Lube Live today. “There’s no guarantee that they will do that,” Lateef said. “But we believe [by] working with them over the last few weeks that they are inclined to accommodate us as much as the governor’s order will allow.” “Many of their rites of passages have been stripped away,” Lateef said of this year’s senior class as well as last year’s. “Rewarding them with a proper ceremony, allowing as many of their family to participate as possible, I think is the right thing to do. And [it] will help us get back to a level of normal that the country desperately needs.”