D.C. Ups Ante for Wards 7, 8 to Get Vaccine
COVID-19 Cases Reach 1,189,535 in D.C., Md. and Va.
As of Saturday morning, 49,243 people (June 18) have tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, in D.C. with 1,141 deaths; there have been 461,697 cases in Maryland with 9,490 deaths; and in Virginia there have been 678,595 cases with 11,343 deaths. You can read last week’s updates here.
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser on Saturday added more incentives for residents east of the Anacostia to get a COVID-19 vaccination, including a year of free groceries, a year of free Metro or even a car. More than 70% of D.C.’s adult population has received at least one COVID-19 vaccination and 58.5% are fully vaccinated, according to D.C. Health data as of last Monday. But the numbers of fully vaccinated people was only 26% in Ward 7 and 20% in Ward 8. To change that, residents 18 or older who get either their first dose or only dose of vaccine at Anacostia High School, the R.I.S.E Demonstration Center or Ron Brown High School between now and July 17 with be entered into a drawing to win a 2021 Ford Escape Sport SE Hybrid or a 2021 Jeep Wrangler Sahara Unlimited (one winner each week), $10,000 worth of groceries (two winners each week) or a year of free Metro bus and rain (multiple winners weekly). On Thursday, Bowser had announced any resident 12 and older who got vaccinated at one of those three locations during the same period would get a $51 Visa gift card. Adults who got vaccinated at Anacostia High School on Saturday were entered into a drawing to win two roundtrip American Airlines tickets to anywhere the airline flies. “Your chances of winning are very, very good,” Bowser said, standing outside Kramer Middle School on Saturday. “We know the devastating impact that COVID has had on African Americans. We know that 80% of the people that are still getting COVID are African American and we know that 90% of the people who have died from COVID in our city are African American. This should not be the case.” On Saturday, Bowser and Dr. Anthony Fauci participated in another Community Corps Day of Action in Southeast. They visited with volunteers who have been knocking on doors to encourage people to get vaccinated. Fauci said the 90% effectiveness of the COVID shots is better than most other vaccines available for various illnesses. “Getting vaccinated, you can stop the chain of transmission of the virus and that’s exactly what we want to do,” he said. “We want to be dead-ends for the virus. When the virus comes to us, sorry, stop signs, you’re not getting infected — and that’s what vaccines do.” Before visiting Kramer Middle School, they toured the clinic at Anacostia High, just a block away. There, they surprised people who had just gotten their first shots, as well as volunteers, as they got a briefing on what the situation was in this part of the city
D.C. is offering new perks to entice residents to get a COVID-19 vaccine. Today through July 17, residents 12 and older who receive their first dose of the vaccine at Anacostia High School, 1601 16th St. SE between 9 a.m.-1 p.m. or 2-7 p.m.; the R.I.S.E. Demonstration Center, 2730 Martin Luther King Jr. Ave. SE from 9 a.m.-5 p.m.; or Ron Brown High School, 4800 Meade St. NE from 9 a.m.- p.m. locations will receive a $51 Visa gift card. While anyone can be vaccinated at the sites, only residents will qualify for the gift card. All three sites will provide Johnson & Johnson vaccines for people 18 and older. The two high schools will have the Pfizer vaccine for children between the ages of 12-17. Children must be accompanied by a legal guardian. Also, residents vaccinated at Anacostia High School today will be entered in a drawing for two round-trip American Airlines tickets for travel anywhere the airline travels. The tickets can be used for domestic or international flights. Other vaccine sites open in the city today include Arena Stage, 1101 Sixth St. SW, 8 a.m.-12 p.m. and 1-5 p.m.; Benning Stoddert Recreation Center, 100 Stoddert Place SE, 9 a.m.-1 p.m.; Eastern High School: 1700 East Capitol St. NE, 9 a.m.-1 p.m. and 2-7 p.m.; Ida B. Wells Middle School, 405 Sheridan St. NW, 9 a.m.-1 p.m. and 2-7 p.m.; Luke C. Moore High School, 1001 Monroe St. NE, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.; and the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, 801 Mt. Vernon Place NW, 9 a.m.-1 p.m. and 2-6:30 p.m. All the walkup sites will have J&J vaccines available for people 18 and older. Benning Stoddert Recreation Center, Eastern High School and Luke C. Moore High School will have Pfizer vaccines for children 12 and older.
State and federal eviction protections will soon expire in Maryland, and fair housing advocates say many tenants could lose their homes as courts work through eviction backlogs. Gov. Larry Hogan announced Tuesday that Maryland’s state of emergency will end July 1 and, after an additional 45-day grace period, the state’s eviction protections will also end. The announcement came as a Centers for Disease Control stay on certain evictions expires at the end of June. Both the state and CDC orders offered similar affirmative defense protections for tenants, who could use pandemic-related income loss as a means of temporarily averting an eviction. Evictions have moved forward at a slow pace throughout the pandemic due to court closures and emergency protections but have picked up speed since courts began reopening. Once the CDC order expires, courts will begin processing landlords’ petitions for warrants of restitution for cases that were previously stayed. Attempts to codify and expand the state’s eviction order failed in the last days of the Maryland General Assembly’s 2021 legislative session. House Bill 1312, sponsored by Del. Jheanelle K. Wilkins, would have allowed tenants to raise an affirmative defense for several months after the end of a catastrophic health emergency, depending on how long that emergency lasted. That bill, along with a proposed increase to court fees to pay for the state’s new access to counsel initiative, failed to pass before the end of session. Local and state governments are setting up rental assistance programs with federal stimulus funding, but applying for and receiving that relief money takes time: Housing advocates and local leaders have petitioned Hogan to institute a full 90-120 day moratorium on evictions while local governments get the programs up and running, but no such order has been issued. Other state relief efforts for tenants and homeowners remain underway. On Tuesday, the Maryland Public Service Commission finalized $83 million in grants to electric and gas utilities as part of the state’s RELIEF Act in an effort to forgive customer debt racked up during the pandemic. An estimated 147,000 households are behind on rent in Maryland, according to the National Equity Atlas. Of those, 78% are people of color, 56% are unemployed and 71% make less than $50,000 per year. With the CDC’s eviction order set to expire at the end of June, the Public Justice Center and other legal and housing advocates are calling on the Maryland District Court to reconsider plans for working through delayed cases. In a letter Wednesday to District Court of Maryland Chief Judge John Morrissey, several groups warned that the courts’ plan could mean tenants are evicted in backdated cases despite paying their rent. When tenants have raised the CDC affirmative defense protections, according to the letter, the Maryland District Court has determined the amount due as of the date of a trial and has issued a “reserved judgement” until the expiration of the CDC order. After the order expires, landlords may submit a “petition for warrant of restitution” and affirm under oath that the rent hasn’t been paid. Advocates say the court’s plan will mean tenants with reserved judgements “may be facing eviction with little-or-no notice and no meaningful opportunity to dispute the landlord’s assertion that they still owe rent.” The warrants of restitution issued by the courts do not require proof that a landlord served the papers to a tenant. “And, in our collective experience, landlords do not serve a copy of the petition on the tenant in practice,” the letter said. “Tenants whose rent has been paid in the last nine months will have no notice that the landlord is moving forward with the judgment and warrant of restitution based on the landlord’s filing.” Before an eviction takes place, landlords who file any type of eviction case need to receive a judgement before filing a “petition for warrant of restitution.” If that petition is granted, the landlord can evict a tenant.
A Capitol Fourth will return for its 41st annual July 4 celebration, but the concert will be prerecorded again this year because of the pandemic. Like last year, the fireworks will be broadcast live, and this year crowds will return to the National Mall for fireworks to celebrate the nation’s 245th birthday. TV, film and Broadway star Vanessa Williams will host and perform during the show. The concert will also include performances by Jimmy Buffett, Cynthia Erivo, Gladys Knight, Jennifer Nettles, Alan Jackson, Pentatonix, Mickey Guyton, Ali Stroker, Jimmie Allen, Train, Laura Osnes and Auli’i Cravalho. The National Symphony Orchestra will perform John Williams’ Olympic Fanfare in tribute to Team USA, honoring the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic teams as they prepare for the Olympic Games in Tokyo. The concert will honor members of the military and their families for their contributions to the nation and their dedication to service during the show. PBS will air the show Sunday, July 4, from 8-9:30 p.m. The program can also be heard on NPR member stations nationwide and will be streaming on Facebook, YouTube and on PBS’ website.
Montgomery County will continue Montgomery Parks’ Open Streets program, which closed streets to vehicular traffic so residents have more space to walk and bike, through the summer. The Montgomery County Council unanimously voted Tuesday to extend the program days after the county’s transportation department announced plans to extend its Shared Streets program. The Shared Streets initiative relates to streeteries for outdoor dining and the expansion of businesses onto the street. The Open Streets program creates recreational spaces that are blocked off to traffic. The resolution extends the program through the summer, but Councilmember Andrew Friedson, who proposed the resolution, said the council will have to revisit how the program affects traffic patterns and business access in specific downtowns to determine where the program could remain permanently in effect. The council will also work with transportation experts and the National Park Service, which controls how parkways such as Sligo and Little Falls.The popularity of outdoor dining and curbside pickup options contributed to the vote to extend the program, he said.
Virginia will receive $30.6 million from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to address health inequities created or worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic. The money will be used to help rectify health inequities among people at higher risk, including minority groups and people in rural communities, a Virginia Department of Health spokesperson said. Some of the priorities include: outreach about facts regarding testing, contact tracing and vaccination; maintenance and further development of the Equity at a Glance and Equity in Action dashboards; more personnel and training in the state’s local health districts, and mini grants targeted toward rural jurisdictions. The two-year grant includes $27.3 million for the state and $3.3 million for the Virginia Beach Department of Public Health. “We know COVID-19 has had an uneven impact on communities,” said State Health Commissioner Dr. M. Norman Oliver in a press release Tuesday. “Throughout this pandemic we have worked hard to apply resources evenly and equitably. These additional funds are allowing us to enhance those efforts, particularly in those areas where disparities in COVID-19 testing, cases and deaths, and vaccination rates continue to exist.”
The Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development on Wednesday awarded $10 million in grants to 65 live entertainment venues and promoters affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. “As we continue to move forward in our recovery, I am proud to announce more support for these entertainment businesses and venues as part of our Maryland Strong Economic Recovery Initiative,” Gov. Larry Hogan said in a press release. “These awards protect jobs and preserve important cultural institutions in Maryland communities ready to get back to normal.” The money for live venues that closed or canceled events and performances is in addition to $30 million awarded earlier this year to music and entertainment venues. Awards ranged from $1,235 to $247,039. In Montgomery County, venues that received grants include Strathmore, the Olney Theatre, The Fillmore and Adventure Theatre ($247,039 each), Imagination Stage ($232,216) and Round House Theatre ($139,330). In Prince George’s County, the venues included Athletic Republic ($247,039) and the Bowie Baysox ($132,907). The Merriweather Post Pavilion, Royal Farms Arena and the Maryland Renaissance Festival also receive grants. The full list is online.
Maryland will end its 15-month-long COVID-19 state of emergency on July 1. Gov. Larry Hogan made the announcement Tuesday, saying the state will no longer require masks or face coverings in any setting, but businesses may continue to set their own policies. “With all of this amazing progress, and thanks in large part to the hard work, sacrifices and the vigilance of the people of Maryland, we have finally reached the light at the end of that long tunnel,” Hogan said during a press conference. The state will have a 45-day grace period through Aug. 15 for Marylanders and agencies to transition. The eviction moratorium will be extended through that date, residents have until then to renew their driver’s licenses and vehicle tags, and health officials will have that time to transition away from emergency services. Hogan specified that the state will not require masks in schools, camps or childcare facilities. When asked whether local school districts could impose their own mask requirement, Hogan said he didn’t know if they had the authority to do so. “I would hope that they would follow the science and follow the direction of all the state agencies who have really looked at this pretty carefully,” Hogan said. This announcement came as the state has administered more than 6.5 million COVID-19 vaccinations, with more than 72% of Marylanders 18 or older having received at least one dose. The state’s seven-day positivity rate is 0.82%, down from just less than 6% in January. Hogan said that positivity rate is lower than 43 other states. COVID-19 hospitalizations in the state were at 194 Tuesday, which Hogan said is the lowest level since March 2020, when the state of emergency was first declared. While the governor said ending the state of emergency is an important step in the recovery, he warned that those who have not gotten vaccinated will still be at risk. “At this point, there’s simply no excuse for not getting vaccinated,” he said. “The vaccines are safe, they’re effective and they’re readily available anywhere.” The state is partnering with the Baltimore Orioles this Father’s Day weekend to hold vaccination clinics at Camden Yards. People who get vaccinated there will receive two free lower-level tickets. Hogan said the state is midway through its vaccination lottery promotion, where the state randomly selects a vaccinated resident to receive a $40,000 prize each day. One vaccinated resident will claim a grand prize of $400,000 on July 4, the final drawing. Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam said he will let the commonwealth’s state of emergency expire at the end of the month, but will keep some protections in place. D.C.’s state of emergency currently extends to July 25 and officials have not indicated that they will lift it any sooner.
The National Park Service announced Tuesday it will host the annual Independence Day fireworks celebration on the National Mall. The 17-minute fireworks display will start at 9:09 p.m. and launch from both sides of the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool. NPS said consistent with CDC guidelines, people who are not fully vaccinated must wear masks indoors and in crowded outdoor spaces. Masks are required for everyone on all forms of public transportation. All the memorials, except the Washington Monument, will be open. “This year’s display not only celebrates the 245th anniversary of American independence, but also marks an important step forward as the city emerges from the pandemic,” Jeff Reinbold, superintendent of National Mall and Memorial Parks, said in a press release. President Joe Biden will host nearly 1,000 medical workers, first responders, essential workers and military members on the South Lawn of the White House. In March, Biden had promised Americans could gather in small groups in their backyard for the Fourth, but that was before the vaccination drive really ramped up. D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser in a press release Tuesday said the city is ready to invite out-of-town visitors for the Fourth of July. “D.C. is open and ready to welcome back visitors to celebrate the way we came together as a city and as a nation this year. We have shown once again that when we come together, there is nothing we can’t do,” Bowser said. She thanked Biden and those who worked urgently to get the vaccine out to Americans “so that we could save lives, get our country open and celebrate together once again.” So far, the Barracks Row and Palisades Fourth of July Parades are scheduled to go on. It isn’t clear what form the Capitol Fourth concert on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol put on by PBS will take, especially with a fence still surrounding the grounds. NPS encouraged people to watch fireworks from numerous locations including the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial and Netherlands Carillon; Columbia Island/Lyndon Baines Johnson Memorial Grove; Gravelly Point, just north of Reagan National Airport; and Washington Sailing Marina at Daingerfield Island.
Montgomery County officials will meet Thursday to discuss plans for phasing out the county’s COVID-19 mass vaccination site at Montgomery College’s Germantown campus as they pivot to more pop-up vaccine opportunities amid slowing demand. The county still has vaccine appointments scheduled through June 19 at the Germantown site, and officials suggested there would likely be some appointments scheduled after that. Earl Stoddard, director of the county’s office of emergency management and homeland security, told members of the Montgomery County Council on Tuesday that officials would meet Thursday to “see what the drawdown will look like based on the volume over the last two weeks.” Last week, officials said they were still administering about 3,000 vaccinations a day at all of the county’s sites, including the Germantown site, but demand for the large-scale site is waning as thousands of the people most eager for shots have already been vaccinated. Earlier this month, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced a gradual phase-out of most of the dozen mass vaccination sites across the state, including the site at Six Flags America in neighboring Prince George’s County, which was the first large-scale vaccination site to open in the state. Because it is a joint county-state operation, Montgomery County can set its own closing date for the Germantown site, which opened in March. The plans come as the county is shifting to more community-based and pop-up sites to better target areas of the county where vaccination rates are lagging amid an overall high rate of vaccination in the county. “We are assessing our demand rates and where we should go and target our vaccine strategies,” said Dr. James Bridgers, the county’s deputy health officer. Overall, about 65% of all county residents have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose and 63% of residents are fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Of the 12-and-older population that is currently eligible for vaccine, more than 74% are fully vaccinated. However, data and maps Bridgers presented indicated several concentrated areas, particularly along the eastern edge of the county near the border with Prince George’s, where vaccine rates severely lag. According to Bridgers’ map, parts of Silver Spring, along the eastern edge of the county, as well as Montgomery Village and Gaithersburg, in the central part, have struggled to get above 30% of their residents with at least one dose. “Plainly put, this is an area of the county that there’s a need,” Bridgers said. The county is now working with the Maryland Department of Health and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to deploy mobile vaccination units to those areas where vaccination rates lag. Across the county, there are also racial and ethnic gaps in terms of the pace of vaccinations, although Stoddard noted that, more recently, the county has seen “a huge reduction in hesitancy” among the county’s Latino population. He said that “the last remaining big gap that we have” is among the county’s younger Black and African American population.
Tens of millions of dollars in state funding was allocated to utility companies in Maryland to help customers who fell behind on their bills during the pandemic. On Tuesday, the Maryland Public Service Commission allocated $83 million through the RELIEF Act that Gov. Larry Hogan signed earlier this year. Companies will begin reaching out to customers who qualify, with plans to start using the funds as bill credits in the coming months. “This assistance builds on the many programs available to support our customers,” said Derrick Dickens, senior vice president and chief customer officer for Pepco Holdings, in a press release. “We urge our customers to take advantage of the extended payment arrangements and energy assistance programs we are offering to help them meet their energy needs.” Funding will be distributed based on three categories in sequential order. The first is people who have received state energy assistance over the past four years at the front of the line followed by customers who have medical need certificates to file with their utility and finally customers with the oldest past due balances. Utility companies have to report back to the state by Oct. 1 to explain how the funding was used with a report listing customer accounts and dollar figures.
D.C. reached a major milestone Monday with 70% of adults having received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose. “Monday just in: +1.32M doses reported administered over yesterday’s total. Congratulations to New York State and Washington DC which just hit the milestone of 70% of adults with at least one dose!” Cyrus Shahpar, the White House’s COVID-19 data director, tweeted. “Nationally we are at 64.5% of adults with at least one dose.” President Joe Biden has set a 70% goal for the nation by July 4. Maryland reached 70% on Memorial Day. Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of Brown University’s School of Public Health, tweeted that Virginia is poised to hit the milestone this week, too.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan on Saturday signed a declaration extending Maryland’s state of emergency. Michael Ricci, a spokesman for Hogan, said there isn’t an “exact timeline” for when the governor plans to lift it, but discussions are underway on how to wind down the several dozen provisions that are tied to the order, from activation of the National Guard to exemptions for expired driver’s licenses.
Gaithersburg-based Novavax, which faced delays in developing a coronavirus vaccine, said Monday that its two-shot regiment was 90% effective at preventing people from falling ill. The company conducted a 30,000-person trial. Vaccinated people were completely protected against severe and even moderate cases of illness. There were no cases of hospitalization or death among people who received the vaccine. The shots also may be the most tolerable yet tested. Side effects included fatigue, headaches and muscle pain, but reactions tended to be less frequent than those triggered by some already authorized vaccines. However, the vaccine may not begin to have a large impact on the pandemic until late summer or fall. Stanley C. Erck, Novavax’s CEO, said the company will apply for regulatory clearance from a half-dozen countries in the third quarter, which begins in July. It has an inventory of tens of millions of doses and plans to scale up to manufacturing 100 million doses a month by the end of September. The company said it expects to hit its target of 150 million doses a month in the last three months of the year. Novavax still needs to file for emergency authorization in the U.S. The data, which was presented in a news release, will be examined by regulators at the Food and Drug Administration and by an external committee of vaccine advisers. Erck said the U.S. process may take longer than elsewhere in the world, and he anticipated the vaccine will have its biggest initial impact globally, through the World Health Organization’s Covax initiative. “A lot of our vaccine is going to be targeted in the early stages for Covax … and so a lot of those doses are going to get into the low- and middle-income countries first, which is a good thing,” Erck said. Novavax has pledged 1.1 billion doses to Covax. The Novavax vaccine was one of six candidates the U.S. government made a huge bet on, investing $1.6 billion to pay for research and development and preorder 110 million doses.
Montgomery County will resume charging late fees for unpaid parking tickets on Aug. 1 after postponing the fees in March 2020. The Montgomery County Department of Transportation said in a press release that late fees associated with parking tickets given between Jan. 1, 2020, and June 30, 2021, will be waived if the ticket is paid by Aug. 1. However, if a payment or a court request has not been made by Aug. 1, a penalty phase will begin 15 days after on Aug. 15 with a $25 fee. Another late fee will be issued 45 days later. Court proceedings to dispute parking tickets restarted on June 1. MCDOT will mail notices to the owners of vehicles with balances for citations issued between Jan. 1, 2020 and June 30, 2021, in early July. Vehicle owners who have outstanding parking tickets can check their parking ticket information or pay online. People with outstanding tickets can also visit one of the parking sales stores in Bethesda or Silver Spring to pay their ticket in person. Regular hours of 7:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday through Friday resume on June 15.
The Arlington Public Library will reopen its Central Library and Aurora Hills and Columbia Pike branch libraries on July 6. Operating days and hours, and the level of services that will be available will be announced closer to reopening. “We look forward to seeing you back,” library officials said in a press release, thanking the public for its “continued support and patience during these past 15 months.” The Cherrydale and Glencarlyn branches will reopen in the fall as staffing increases. The Plaza branch will remain closed for a previously planned expansion and renovation. While the Shirlington and Westover branches have been open at reduced capacities for several months, the Arlington library system significantly trails many libraries across the DMV in its efforts to reopen. In neighboring Fairfax County, libraries have been open since last summer, although they did close for a period during a spike in COVID cases over the winter. In Arlington, the Center for Local History and The Shop, a maker space, both at the Central Library, meeting rooms and public computers remain closed until “staffing allows.” Storytime for young children “will resume branch-wide once staffing increases.” The Shed, a seasonal garden-tool-lending facility at Central Library, remains closed this year with plans to reopen in 2022. Returned materials will no longer be quarantined, but because of staffing shortages may not immediately show up as returned in a patron’s account once dropped off.
After more than a year of virtual meetings, the Arlington County Board members returned in-person on Saturday. The board’s June 12 meeting was the first held in-person since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.. The public was allowed in the board room for the meeting without masks if they had been vaccinated. Board members took public comment on public-hearing items both in person and online. “We know some members of the community may feel more comfortable participating ‘virtually,’ and we’ve heard from quite a few who enjoy the convenience of having the option of being part of our meetings without having to physically attend in person,” Chairman Matt de Ferranti said. “We are happy to be offering both options for our June meetings.” The board’s recessed meeting will be held at 3 p.m. on Tuesday, June 15, for board reports and 6:30 p.m. for public items. Those meetings also will be open to the public, with the same protocols in place. As in some other areas of governance during the pandemic, Arlington has lagged behind a number of neighboring jurisdictions in returning to meeting in person. During the more than a year that board meetings were held “virtually,” most County Board members participated from their homes. An exception was Takis Karantonis, who usually was in his office at the Ellen M. Bozman Government Center. County Manager Mark Schwartz also took part in meetings from his office.
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Editor-in-Chief Mark Heckathorn is a journalist, movie buff and foodie. He oversees DC on Heels editorial operations as well as strategic planning and staff development. Reach him with story ideas or suggestions at dcoheditor (at) gmail (dot) com.