DC Eyes Incentives to Get People Vaccinated
COVID-19 Cases Reach 1,186,125 in D.C., Md. and Va.
As of Saturday morning, 49,068 people have tested positive for COVID-19 (June 4), the disease caused by the coronavirus, in D.C. with 1,136 deaths; there have been 460,471 cases in Maryland with 9,426 deaths; and in Virginia there have been 676,586 cases with 11,229 deaths. You can read last week’s updates here.
D.C. officials plan to roll out an incentive program this summer that would offer financial rewards for those who get COVID-19 vaccinations amid a slowdown. “We will be announcing more expansive financial incentive programs,” D.C. City Administrator Kevin Donohue told D.C. Council members during a weekly call Friday. So far, D.C. has offered small incentives, such as a free beer or the opportunity to kick a penalty shot at Audi Field. Donohue didn’t give other details on the program. “I’m not in a position on this call to describe them, but we want to offer a variety of different financial incentives that will be spaced out over the course of the summer,” he said. Donohue referred to big-ticket incentive programs, including Ohio’s Vax-a-Million campaign, which offers the chance of a $1 million prize to those who get vaccinated and has provided an uptick in vaccinations in the state when demand has fallen nationally. But Donohue also pointed to research studying vaccination efforts for the flu and hepatitis B, which found that while financial incentives can entice people, other factors may weigh more heavily. For example, he said research shows vaccine incentive programs offering between $50 and $100 can reduce hesitancy by about eight percentage points. But improving access and comfortability — seeing others you know get the shots — can reduce hesitancy by 15 to 30 percentage points. There is also a sweet spot in terms of the reward. According to research from Boston University on COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy, incentives that are too large can actually cause more suspicion, especially in communities of color and in Republican-leaning groups, he said. D.C. has an incentive program for city employees, who are eligible for an additional eight hours of leave if they are vaccinated. A May 5 survey of city government employees, discussed on the call with the council, indicated 73% of respondents were already fully vaccinated. Another 9% said they were partially vaccinated; 3.5% said they weren’t vaccinated but planned to do so; and 8.7% said they were not vaccinated and didn’t plan to get one. Overall, about 3,500 city employees filled out the survey. That is about 9% of the total city government workforce, and officials acknowledged it is not a representative sample and the survey likely had a “vaccine positivity bias.” The push to get shots in arms comes amid a slowdown in the pace of vaccinations nationally and in the DMV. About 52% of all D.C. residents and 68% of adults have received at least one dose, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data. In D.C., the pace of vaccines administered to residents in Wards 7 and 8 lag far behind other parts of the city. Overall, about 42% of all D.C. residents are fully vaccinated, compared to just 18% of Ward 8 residents and 24% in Ward 7, according to D.C. Health data, which lags slightly behind CDC data. Councilmember Christina Henderson questioned Mayor Muriel Bowser’s plan to phase out most of the city’s large-scale vaccination sites by the end of June. Dr. Ankoor Shah, D.C. Health’s principal senior deputy director, said the large walk-up sites “are having very anemic show rates” in terms of the numbers of people getting vaccinated. Shah stressed that pharmacies and other clinics still allow people to walk up to gets shots without appointments and closing the large sites allowed for the repositioning of staff to more targeted efforts through the city’s Vaccine Exchange program.
The Prince William Health District will close its community vaccination center at the former Gander Mountain store in Woodbridge on June 26. The site near Potomac Mills Mall, operated by contractors working with the state Department of Emergency Management, opened in late March with capacity to administer more than 3,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses a day. The closure comes as the health district reports nearly 60% of all residents 12 and older have received at least one dose. Daily vaccination doses in Prince William County, which makes up the bulk of the health district, peaked at 7,300 on April 21 and have been declining gradually ever since, just as they have done statewide and nationaly. During the final days of May, 2,000-3,000 doses were administered per day in the health district. The health district’s data show that 59.6% of Prince William County residents 12 and older have received at least one dose of a vaccine and 50.1% are fully vaccinated. Numbers are slightly higher in Manassas and slightly lower in Manassas Park. Both cities are part of the health district. In total, 470,000 doses have been administered in the health district, with slightly more than 300,000 of those being the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which requires two doses administered three weeks apart to be fully effective. About 158,000 Moderna doses have been administered — requiring two shots four weeks apart — and only about 11,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which requires just one shot, have been administered. The county’s numbers do not include doses administered by the federal government, which has administered more than 400,000 doses statewide, primarily to military personnel, veterans and their families, as well as to some federal civilian employees. Prince William has consistently lagged behind other Northern Virginia jurisdictions in terms of the share of population vaccinated, according to Virginia Department of Health data. Based on the percentage of the total population, for example, 57.9% of Fairfax County residents have received at least one dose compared with 50.7% of Prince William County residents. The Gander Mountain site is open 8:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday and will also be open 8:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. this Sunday, June 6. It offers the Pfizer vaccine, which has been approved for anyone 12 and older, and the one-dose J&J vaccine, approved for anyone 18 and older. The Prince William Health District is also operating two other clinics this weekend, both of which will offer the Pfizer vaccine: Metz Middle School, 9950 Wellington Road, Manassas from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday and Americana Grocery, 14428 Jefferson Davis Hwy., Woodbridge from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Sunday. Appointments are not required but are preferred. A parent or guardian must accompany children to get vaccinated.
Maryland’s mass vaccination centers are beginning a “phased demobilization” as the state shifts vaccinations to mobile clinics and community-based providers. Gov. Larry Hogan announced the move in a press release Thursday. Several sites will stop providing first doses of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines in the coming weeks, transitioning to second doses only. Most sites will continue to provide the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine until they close permanently. Appointments are not required. The Federal Emergency Management Agency-operated site at the Greenbelt Metro station closed Tuesday. The site at Hagerstown Premium Outlets will move its operations to Meritus Hospital as of June 5. Sites at Ripken IronBirds Stadium in Aberdeen and the Wicomico Youth & Civic Center in Salisbury will close June 19 followed by the Regency Furniture Stadium in Waldorf on June 24, M&T Bank Stadium on July 2, The Mall in Columbia and Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium on July 3 and the Six Flags America site on July 17. Closing dates for the Baltimore Convention Center Field Hospital, Montgomery College Germantown Campus, Frederick and Maryland State Fairgrounds in Timonium sites have not been set yet. Maryland has administered almost 1 million doses through its nine mass vaccination sites, according to Secretary of Health Dennis Schrader. “The mass vaccination program has been a major accelerant of our vaccine effort since early 2021,” Schrader said in the press release. “We continue to partner with our local health departments, primary care physicians, hospitals and other COVID-19 vaccine providers to offer vaccines to all eligible Marylanders.” Uber and Lyft are offering free to vaccination sites, and KinderCare, Learning Care Group and local YMCAs are offering free short-term childcare while parents and caregivers go to get vaccinated, according to the press release. The state also kicked off its GoVax Summer Tour, which will bring mobile vaccine clinics to cultural events, bars and breweries, and other popular destinations across the state. It is at the Ocean City Convention Center through Sunday. Also, 723 pharmacies across the state are offering vaccines, according to Hogan’s office. “I said our goal was to put ourselves out of business at these mass vaccination sites, and as one of the most vaccinated states in the country, we are now approaching that point,” Hogan said. Slightly more than 70% of adult Marylanders have received at least one dose of vaccine, according to state data, meeting President Joe Biden’s goal to at least partially vaccinate 70% of the nation’s adults by July 4. But some counties are lagging behind, particularly in more rural jurisdictions. Only 30.78% of Somerset County’s population is fully vaccinated compared with 53.43% in Montgomery County and 38.44% in Prince George’s County. Vaccine demand has declined considerably in recent weeks.
Washington Area Metropolitan Transit Agency officials proposed lower fares and more frequent all-day service to lure riders back this fall and meet the needs of current ridership. WMATA’s board requested a thorough look at fares and service in April in preparation for a gradual return to a post-pandemic normal. One of the most significant changes would be 20 core bus routes across the region and all six rail lines would offer service at least every 12 minutes from 7 a.m.-9 p.m. seven days a week. WMATA said increased bus service would reach more people, especially in high-density areas, and promote transit equity. Metrorail hours could be extended from 11 p.m. to midnight this summer and to 1 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays this fall. That would benefit hospitality workers who often work late and must rely on more expensive ride-hailing services, said Lucinda Babers, the new D.C. board member. The board will take a preliminary vote on which ideas to adopt at its June 10 meeting with the approved initiatives implemented this fall. Buses have had more riders than the subway during the pandemic because they serve essential workers. Meanwhile, many office workers have been able to work from home and may be able to do so after the pandemic ends, altering the makeup of the rush-hour commute. Metro data shows the rush hours have significantly flattened, ramping up the push for more all-day service to serve people who don’t work traditional 9-to-5 jobs. Metrorail ridership, WMATA’s largest passenger revenue source, is only about one-sixth of normal. Part of the agency’s proposal would change train frequency from increased peak service before the pandemic to more consistent service all day. “We do have a fairly high level of confidence that frequent and reliable service is going to drive ridership and be attractive to people moving around our communities in our region,” said Tom Webster, Metro’s vice-president for planning. Metro isn’t expecting to return to pre-pandemic levels until after 2024. Webster said there is still a lot of uncertainty around how and when travel trends will change, but he suspects different types of activity will resume at different rates. Offices will likely return later than retail, events and other travel, he said. But at least three board members were reluctant to stray away from peak service periods. Matt Letourneau of Virginia said he thinks a lot of office workers will return after Labor Day. “I think we will still continue to see some peak,” he said. “Things might be more spread out … there’ll be more telework, I still think you’re gonna see a surge in the morning and a surge in the evening, as we’ve sort of had in the past. I don’t want us to go overboard [on non-peak hour service] and make sure we have adequate service, even if that means needing to scale back a little bit during the day.” Among fare proposals, Metro officials proposed implementing some ideas that were delayed because of the pandemic. Those include eliminating bus to rail transfers, reducing weekly bus passes from $15 to $12 and a flat $2 weekend rail fare. Maryland Transportation Secretary Greg Slater said that as workers’ commuting habits change, Metro should create discounted packs of 10-15 rides instead of a monthly pass that assumes people are going into work every weekday. Officials also proposed long-term ideas. Among them are $1 bus fares, lowering rail fares in part by reducing the cost of longer trips, simplifying the zone fare system which charges more the farther you go and trying a fare program for low-income residents. They could also cap how much a person spends per day, week or month on trips. Board member Michael Goldman said Metro needs to stop charging peak fares if there is no peak-period service during the pandemic. “It makes no sense,” he said. One idea that may entice more suburban riders is free or reduced parking through the end of 2020. Metro went from a dire financial picture last year to now being able to get through the next couple of years thanks to $2.5 billion in aid from three federal relief packages. While Metro is flush for now, Letourneau worried about the future with a $190-250 million deficit looming in 2024. “I’m very cognizant of that as we discuss all this because the more money that we use now to restore service or improve service, the less we will have down the road,” he said. “And I agree with the sentiment that we’re not likely to see significant federal funding coming in, so I would tend to take a more conservative approach.”
Prince George’s County Public Schools will offer free COVID-19 vaccines to students 12 and older, as well as their families, starting next week. From Monday through June 15, PGCPS will offer Pfizer vaccination clinics at some high schools. Vaccines will be administered from 1:30-5:30 p.m. at mobile clinics at the schools through a partnership with the Prince George’s County Health Department. Eligible students must have the consent of a parent or guardian and will need to present completed consent forms to be vaccinated. Parents and guardians may accompany their child, but are not required to do so. Family members may also receive the vaccine at the clinics, PGCPS said in a news release. Vaccines will be available June 7 at Northwestern High School: 7000 Adelphi Road, Hyattsville and Suitland High School: 5200 Silver Hill Road, Forestville; June 10 at Crossland High School: 6901 Temple Hill Road, Camp Springs and Gwynn Park High School: 13800 Brandywine Road, Brandywine; June 11 at Frederick Douglass High School: 8000 Croom Road, Upper Marlboro and Bladensburg High School: 4200 57th Ave., Bladensburg; June 14 at Potomac High School: 5211 Boydell Ave., Oxon Hill; and June 15 at Friendly High School: 10000 Allentown Road., Fort Washington.
A labor shortage may make it difficult to visit Virginia’s theme parks as families try to plan “normal” summer activities with the lifting of pandemic-related restrictions. Kings Dominion in Doswell, Va., is closed Monday through Thursday for the first half of June. Its June hours of 11 a.m.-7 p.m. are shorter than previous years. At Busch Gardens Williamsburg and Water Country USA, the parks are open daily in June, but with shorter hours. In Bowie, Six Flags America is scheduled to be open 11 a.m.-7 p.m. all summer. The parks are raising pay for part-time seasonal workers, as part of their recruiting efforts. The labor shortage at theme parks is a national one, attractions and leisure industry analyst Dennis Speigel, the first general manager of Kings Dominion when it opened in 1975, told the Richmond Times-Dispatch. Fewer foreign students will be in the U.S. this summer because of a slow return of the State Department’s foreign worker program, Speigel said. Typically, most theme park employees are high school and college students. “Mothers have been holding back allowing their kids go out and work in positions,” because of the pandemic, Speigel said. He added the pay raises are unprecedented. At Kings Dominion, starting pay for part-time seasonal workers is $13 per hour, with lifeguard jobs starting at $15 per hour. The previous starting salary was $9.25, according to the Times-Dispatch. The Williamsburg theme parks are hiring for culinary jobs, ride operators and lifeguards, with positions staring from $13-$15.50 an hour. The parks also are offering a $200 signing bonus, according to their website.
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser joined mayors from 63 other U.S. cities in a challenge to vaccinate 70% of adult residents by the Fourth of July. The challenge, presented by the U.S. Conference of Mayors, urges leaders to boost vaccine efforts through June with the goal of partially vaccinating 70% of their populations by July 4, in line with the goal set by President Joe Biden at the beginning of May. Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and Chicago Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot are among the 64 mayors who have agreed to participate. Locally, College Park Mayor Patrick Wojahn, Frederick Mayor Michael O’Connor and Richmond Mayor Lavar Stoney have also signed on. Unlike other jurisdictions that linked reopening to reaching vaccination benchmarks, Bowser and D.C. Health have said that coronavirus case metrics guided their decision to lift nearly all pandemic restrictions last month. The new mayoral challenge is one of the first statistical vaccination goals set by Bowser. As of June 2, 53.2% of adult D.C. residents have been fully vaccinated, according to CDC data. According to D.C. Health data, which includes all residents over age 12, 40.4% of the population has been fully vaccinated, and 51.2% are partially vaccinated. Actual numbers could be higher, given that some residents traveled to other states for their vaccinations or got their vaccinations from the federal government. With demand now falling behind supply, D.C. has announced plans to close some of its walk-up sites in the coming weeks, and launched a new program that allows employers, faith organizations and community groups to request a vaccine clinic from D.C. Health. Bowser also led canvassing efforts on two separate Saturdays to reach residents who aren’t yet vaccinated, held several pop-up sites at churches and community centers, and started offering incentives to boost vaccine participation. In addition to city-run walk-up sites, residents can get vaccinated at several city pharmacies, clinics and healthcare providers.
Montgomery County will reopen two of its senior centers five days a week beginning June 14, while five others will reopen with limited hours. The Damascus Senior Center and Holiday Park Senior Center in Silver Spring will reopen from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. weekdays starting June 14. On June 15, the North Potomac and White Oak senior centers will open 9 a.m.-4 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The Wheaton Senior Center will open 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays beginning June 22 and the Schweinhaut Senior Center in Silver Spring will open 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturdays as of June 19. The Long Branch Senior Center will offer outdoor programming at its pool, weather permitting, from 9-11 a.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays starting June 15. Masks are still required inside county buildings. County Executive Marc Elrich said staffing remains an issue at both libraries and senior centers, especially as managers look to fill positions that were eliminated due to the pandemic. Many employees who could be rehired are vulnerable to severe cases of COVID-19 and may not want to return to work, Elrich said. That includes those who aren’t yet fully vaccinated yet. But Elrich said he didn’t want to rehire employees too soon and pay them for not doing any work. Others have been moved to handle jobs created by the pandemic. “We have people who are detailed to other jobs, some of those things with testing, and things like that … so it’s reassembling everybody, and figuring out what people are going to come back and what people are not going to come back,” he said.
The Loudoun County Public Library has resumed many of the services it suspended at the start of the pandemic. With Virginia relaxing many of its restrictions on indoor gatherings and 57.5% of the county’s population having received at least one dose of vaccine, LCPL announced all its branches would increase return to 100% capacity as of Tuesday. Operating hours are from 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Face coverings will not be required for fully-vaccinated individuals, but still encouraged and provided for unvaccinated people. Computer services, in-person browsing and materials checkout are available. Curbside pickup remains available during operating hours. Meeting and study rooms are open again and the Law Library is open from 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m. weekdays. LCPL’s summer reading program kicks off June 16.
Maryland will end enhanced federal unemployment benefits next month and require people getting unemployment checks to look for new jobs. After July 3, Marylanders will not be able to apply for programs including federal pandemic unemployment compensation, mixed earners unemployment compensation, pandemic emergency unemployment compensation and pandemic unemployment assistance, which was for gig workers and others who would not normally qualify for aid. Beginning July 4, the Maryland Department of Labor will again require applicants to search for a new job. Applicants must engage in three re-employment activities each week, such as attending a job fair, applying for jobs or completing a workshop at the American Job Center, to be eligible for benefits. Gov. Larry Hogan cited the widespread availability of vaccines and a tight labor market in a press release Tuesday as the reasons for his decision, which will affect about 15,000 people. He said the benefits, which add $300 a week, provided “important temporary relief” during the pandemic but are no longer necessary. The American Rescue Plan provides funding for the benefits through Sept. 6. But at least 24 other states, which also have Republican governors, are taking similar steps to end the programs early. “We have a critical problem where businesses across our state are trying to hire more people, but many are facing severe worker shortages,” Hogan said in the statement, noting that at least 70% of Maryland adults are now vaccinated. “We look forward to getting more Marylanders back to work.” Neither D.C. nor Virginia has moved to end the enhanced unemployment benefits. Hogan’s decision was sharply criticized by Democratic state lawmakers. Senate President Bill Ferguson (D-Baltimore City) said in a statement that the “rash and rushed decision will hurt Marylanders who have been hit the hardest during the pandemic, having lost jobs through no fault of their own. It feeds into a hard right-wing narrative that denies human dignity, puts profits over people and puts politics over sound economic research.” Ferguson urged the governor to reverse or delay his decision. Del. Dereck E. Davis (D-Prince George’s), who chairs the House Economic Matters Committee, said he understands that some people believe the enhanced benefits have led residents not to want to reenter the workforce. But Davis said it is “really unfortunate” that Hogan would end the benefits early, especially given how much difficulty some Marylanders had accessing them. Many residents said they waited for months to have their claims filled, waiting on the phone for hours, sending emails that went unanswered and responding to dozens of questions that resulted in error messages. “We made a commitment to the people of the state of Maryland,” Davis said. “They made plans accordingly. For the state to do an about-face … it is really unfortunate.” Hogan said that since March 2020, Maryland has paid out more than $12.3 billion in unemployment benefits to 730,759 recipients, resolving more than 97% of claims. The state alerted the federal government of its decision earlier Tuesday, as required by law.
With the DMV slowly recovering from the pandemic, Virginia reinstated a rule requiring people seeking unemployment benefits to actively search for work. In March of last year, Gov. Ralph Northam temporarily waived the requirement due to the pandemic. Under a change that took effect Sunday, Virginians seeking unemployment benefits are required to make at least two job searches per week and report those job contacts when filing their weekly claim for continued benefits. “You will not get your benefits for the week that you do not report two job searches,” said Joyce Fogg, a spokesperson for the Virginia Employment Commission. In order to receive benefits, claimants must be able and available for work. The U.S. Department of Labor defines “able” as being physically and mentally able to perform work, and “available” as ready and willing to accept suitable work. Anyone who is offered suitable employment and turns it down may also see their benefits discontinued. “All of these things were required prior to the pandemic,” Fogg said. “It’s time for that to be back in place. We have employers contacting us daily who cannot find employees.” Fogg said there are about 500,000 open positions currently on Virginia Workforce Connection, a website that lists job openings across the state. Nearly three weeks ago, when Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan lifted restrictions on businesses, he directed the Maryland Department of Labor to work with the federal government to reinstate the work-search requirements for unemployment. Maryland had also suspended the job-search requirement due to the pandemic.
A majority of the D.C. Council wants the upper part of Beach Drive through Rock Creek Park to remain open to walkers, runners and cyclists, and closed to most vehicles. The council voted 9-4 Tuesday to ask the National Park Service to keep the road closed permanently to most through traffic. D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton wrote a letter last week requesting the same and the Montgomery County Council is expected to vote on a similar resolution June 15. All nine Montgomery councilmembers support the measure. It is unclear if pressure from elected officials will prompt NPS to act. The decision is solely up to NPS. Last year, an NPS spokesperson said the road will return to vehicular traffic when the public emergency ends. D.C.’s coronavirus emergency is slated to end July 25, although Mayor Muriel Bowser can request 15-day extensions after that. In May, an NPS spokesperson said they “recognize that temporarily limiting vehicle access to Beach Drive has provided value to many people. We are taking steps to evaluate how to best manage Beach Drive in the future and need to consider factors such as accessibility, the effects of traffic diversion and impacts to park resources.” The 4.3-mile upper section of Beach Drive goes from Broad Branch Road to the Maryland border. Some sections are currently open to traffic to allow access to parking at picnic areas, but most of it is closed to vehicles. Since the 1980s, this portion was closed to traffic on weekends for recreational purposes. But during the pandemic, with outdoor space limited and a need for six feet of social distancing, NPS closed the section in April 2020, and it has remained that way during the pandemic. At issue is whether the park’s main roadway should be for recreation or commuting. Before the pandemic, more than 30,000 cars used the stretch of road on a daily basis. D.C. Department of Transportation officials said during a hearing that it could ensure alternative routes to Beach Drive were sufficiently able to absorb the increase in traffic should NPS close Beach Drive. Dog walkers, joggers, cyclists, rollerbladers and more have spilled onto Beach Drive during the pandemic, and many are now calling for it to be permanently closed. A petition from the People’s Alliance for Rock Creek and the Washington Area Bicyclist Association has garnered more than 4,000 signatures to keep the road closed. Last August and September, volunteers counted nearly 29,000 users, including 17,000 cyclists, 5,000 runners and 5,000 walkers, during 56 hours over 12 days. The Rock Creek Conservancy also supports the idea, saying it would reduce runoff, create less noise and in turn disturb less wildlife. A competing petition to return the road to vehicles on weekdays has more than 700 signatures. The petition says trails should be added so both cyclists and drivers can use the route simultaneously. But closure advocates with PARC say the road is narrow and there isn’t enough room for that without “destroying the character of the park.” Council’s vote on Tuesday was nearly as contentious. Several lawmakers spoke in favor of the resolution, but also wanted a more thorough study of traffic impacts. Councilmembers Janeese Lewis George, Kenyan McDuffie and Trayon White, along with Chairman Phil Mendelson, voted against asking NPS for the permanent closure of Beach Drive to traffic.
After months of free parking, D.C. fully restarts parking enforcement today. The D.C. Department of Public Works resumes enforcement of expired parking meters, residential parking permits, vehicle tags, rush hour parking and other violations. It will also start ticketing and towing vehicles that are in no-parking zones and abandoned vehicles with flat tires or expired registration. Officers will also enforce rules regarding the registration of out-of-state automobiles, as well as no-parking rules on designated street-sweeping routes. Beginning in July, DPW will boot vehicles with two or more tickets that are more than 60 days old. While DPW largely gave drivers a pass on many violations during the pandemic, it never stopped ticketing for safety violations like blocking crosswalks, fire hydrants or bike lanes. School zone parking enforcement restarted on March 15. But as D.C. resumes some of its pre-pandemic patterns, city officials decided to fully resume enforcement of all violations. “We know we can expect to see more activity on our roads and sidewalks, and these enforcement mechanisms are one way we can make our transportation network more efficient, restart important government services and help protect residents and visitors as they move around D.C.,” Mayor Muriel Bowser said in a press release. D.C. is also launching a ticket amnesty program that will waive late fees on tickets. Fines associated with most tickets double after 30 days. The four-month program applies to parking, red light, speed and stop sign camera tickets, as well as minor moving violations. It runs from June 1-Sept. 30 and all tickets issued before the end of the program will be eligible. DPW tow and storage fees will not be waived. Starting today, people with tickets who are facing financial hardship should contact the D.C. Central Collection Unit for settlement options. Any ticket included in a settlement plan is not eligible for adjudication. “We recognize that there’s more inequality and some of that enforcement can be regressive in nature,” City Administrator Kevin Donahue said in February. “So when we turn it on, we have to look at our policies about how we do forgiveness and how we do payment plans so that someone who has not been impacted by the pandemic should be paying their tickets — they should be paying for meters — but someone who has been [impacted], we have to probably change how we approach some of our policies and allow some forgiveness there.” D.C. used to offer ticket amnesty programs on a regular basis, but they were discontinued in 2012. “In addition to getting many drivers in compliance with their ticket obligations, the amnesty program will help District residents pay their outstanding tickets so they can obtain a REAL ID credential and obtain assistance if they face financial hardship due to the pandemic,” said Deputy Mayor for Operations and Infrastructure Lucinda Babers. Also beginning today, households with multiple vehicles will pay more to park them on residential streets. The first vehicle will cost $50 a year, up from the previous $35. A second vehicle will cost $75, a third $100 and every vehicle thereafter will cost $150. An exemption exists for one resident per household 65 years or older; they will pay a $35 annual RPP fee for the first vehicle registered at a legal mailing address. The fee for each subsequent vehicle registered at a legal mailing address is the same. After a long period during which the Department of Motor Vehicles extended expired tags and stickers because of the pandemic, valid registration and inspection stickers must be displayed starting today to avoid tickets and penalties. You can only renew registration online or by mail. Vehicle inspection is available on a first-come, first-service basis. All expired D.C. driver’s licenses and ID cards must be renewed before July 1.
Maryland reached a new milestone in the race to vaccinate residents against COVID-19. As of Monday, more than 70% of adults have gotten at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine, Gov. Larry Hogan said in a press release. The state reported more than 6.1 million doses with more than 88% of seniors vaccinated. “This is a big deal,” he said. “President Biden set a goal of getting 70% of adults in the country vaccinated by the Fourth of July. Here in Maryland, we said we wanted to get 70% of adults vaccinated by Memorial Day, and that’s exactly what we have done. It was an ambitious goal, but once again, our healthcare heroes have risen to the occasion, as have the millions of Marylanders stepping up to get the vaccine.” White House Chief of Staff Ronald Klain and COVID-19 Data Director Cyrus Shahpar congratulated the state on the achievement. To get vaccinated, go online or call 1-855-MD-GOVAX (1-855-634-6829).
The District of Columbia State Athletic Association is teaming up teaming up with D.C. Health to hold a special clinic to vaccinate student athletes, coaches and game officials from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. and 2-7 p.m. this Saturday at Eastern High School. Students between the ages of 14-15 must have a parent or guardian with them to receive a vaccine. The Pfizer vaccine is currently the only available option for children between 12-17. Anyone younger than 18 must have a parent or guardian sign a consent form before receiving the vaccine. The COVID-19 vaccine is not required to attend D.C. Public Schools this fall, although all childhood vaccinations must be up to date to attend, the school district said.
Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport continues to rebound from the pandemic, but the road to recovery could be long. The trade group Airlines for America reported that total commercial flights scheduled out of the airport in July will be down 37% from the same month in pre-pandemic year 2019. That is an ongoing improvement from the depths of the COVID crisis, but the decline remains among the worst in the nation. The trade group puts out airport information on a statewide basis, and counts Reagan National — although geographically in Virginia — as the lone airport in D.C. At the bottom with Reagan National are New York (slated to be down 37% in total flights), Rhode Island (down 35%) and Vermont and Alaska (both down 32%). But the total flights doesn’t necessarily correlate with the number of passengers who fly or the amount of revenue they bring the airlines. The number of flights scheduled at Virginia airports, which includes Washington Dulles International but not Reagan National, is projected to be down 19% from July 2019, while in Maryland, the drop was projected to be 29%. On the other hand, summer travel to areas in the West that combine cooler temperatures with fewer public-health restrictions is ready to boom. The number of flights expected in Montana and Wyoming in July are projected to be up 25% and 20%, respectively, with Idaho not far behind at 15%. South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, Maine and Mississippi – each of which offers either cooler summer temperatures, beach access, fewer COVID restrictions or some combination — also are expected to see more flights this July than in July 2019. Florida is expected to be unchanged from July 2019. Recent public-health improvements are most helpful to airlines that target leisure travelers. Allegiant, Spirit and Frontier anticipate having more seats available to fliers in July than they did the summer before the pandemic. Meanwhile, Delta and United will have about 30% fewer seats. Nationally, air travel is making a comeback; recent figures show the percentage of travelers passing through Transportation Security Administration checkpoints down about one-third from two years ago, but some of that is due to a lack of business travel and international travel, which are likely to take longer to rebound than domestic leisure travel. Airfares being paid by those traveling in mid-May were down about 24% from May 2019, according to Airlines for America, but that is as much about the lack of business travelers as any other factor.
A small COVID-19 outbreak was reported at Ashland Elementary School in Prince William County by the Virginia Department of Health. The outbreak, which involved six cases, was first included on the state health department’s weekly outbreak tracker on Friday. VDH defines an outbreak as two or more confirmed positive cases that are related and can be traced to the same setting. In an email Saturday to the Ashland school community, principal Andy Jacks said the outbreak was related to cases that were reported several weeks ago and occurred before then. The outbreak was reported to the health department on May 4. “All individuals involved have completed isolation or quarantine and have returned to the school building,” he said. Several other outbreaks have been reported to the health department at Prince William County Public Schools since schools began reopening for in-person learning, but all are now closed and none resulted in more than nine positive cases. PWCS has provided a https://www.pwcs.edu/cms/One.aspx?portalId=340225&pageId=44011535 public dashboard since last fall with updates on positive cases involving staff and students, both in-person and virtual. Cases reported through the dashboard peaked at 899 in January. In April, they were down to 331, and May’s cases to date are just 157.