Area Catholics Must Return to Sunday Mass
COVID-19 Cases Reach 1,191,057 in D.C., Md. and Va.
As of Saturday morning, 49,305 people (June 25) have tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, in D.C. with 1,141 deaths; there have been 462,078 cases in Maryland with 9,517 deaths; and in Virginia there have been 679,680 cases with 11,392 deaths. You can read last week’s updates here.
Area Catholics are being asked to return to churches this weekend after more than a year away. Area bishops announced the dispensation from in-person weekly obligation is lifted as of this weekend. The joint statement was issued by Washington Cardinal Wilton Gregory, Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore, Bishop Michael Burbidge of Arlington, as well as the bishops from Richmond and, Wheeling-Charleston, W.V., and the apostolic administrator of Wilmington, Del. When masses were suspended in March 2020, most had never in their lifetimes known a time when churches closed their doors or had the obligation to attend weekly services lifted. Churches accommodated their parishioners by livestreaming Masses. Under normal circumstances, Catholics are required to attend Sunday Mass as part of practicing their faith. They said it is time for the Catholics to return to full, in-person participation, “due to the decline in the number of new cases of COVID-19 and the return to some sense of normalcy in the region.” However, the letter did provide a few exceptions. “This obligation does not apply to those who are ill; those who have reason to believe that they were recently exposed to the coronavirus, another serious or contagious illness; those who are confined to their home, a hospital or nursing facility; or those with serious underlying health conditions.” Both the Washington Archdiocese and the Diocese of Arlington have guidelines for the public celebrations of Mass on their websites. The Diocese of Arlington said churches can now celebrate Mass and other liturgies at full capacity and with no social distancing limitations. Fully vaccinated individuals no longer need to wear masks. Those who are unvaccinated are encouraged to wear masks for the time being. No one will be asked about their vaccination status and no one will be restricted from entering a church or inhibited in any way for not wearing a mask. Singing by full choirs and parishioners, which was suspended during the pandemic, may now be resumed. It is up the pastor’s discretion to continue livestream Masses for the benefit of the homebound.
As the Prince William Health District closes its community vaccination site inside the former Gander Mountain store in Woodbridge, the district recently launched a mobile clinic. “The tide is shifting,” said health district epidemiologist Andrea Young. “We’ve reached a point in our community where we’ve reached those people who are going to approach the mass vaccination clinic.” Saturday was the last day of operation for the Gander Mountain site, although the health district’s clinic at the Manassas Mall will continue. As of Thursday, the Gander Mountain clinic had administered 150,398 vaccinations. Prince William County’s seven-day average of new COVID-19 cases was 2.6 as of Friday, according to the Virginia Department of Health. As of Friday, 255,220 county residents had received at least one dose of the vaccine and 220,562 were fully vaccinated. Of the county’s population, 46.9% of all residents and 59.4% of all adults are fully vaccinated. Brian Misner, the county’s emergency management coordinator, told the county supervisors on Tuesday that the Gander Mountain facility was down to about 500 doses a day. County Executive Chris Martino said the county did not renew the lease for the building for July. The mobile clinic will be at three locations a day on Tuesdays and Thursdays at least through July. Sean Johnson, the health district’s community outreach director, said officials hope to offer 25 vaccinations per location or 75 per day. Young said other providers are offering appointments, so the clinic will allow walk-ups. “Anybody can walk up as long as vaccine supply lasts and weather permits.” The clinic consists of a mobile trailer and two tents typically used for special vaccination events where it stays in one place per day. Thursday was the first time the trailer traveled throughout the county, and it stopped in the Manassas area. Next week, it will be in the Woodbridge area. Young said the sites for the mobile clinic are selected using health equity and vaccination rate data. She said it would help reach people who may not be able to travel to the mass vaccination sites for a variety of reasons. Johnson noted that one of next week’s locations would be the Woodbridge Mobile Home Park. He said some residents there might only have one member of the family who drives and are unable to reach clinics. “For them to get to a clinic is almost impossible, so we’re going to bring the clinic to them.” The health district doesn’t just show up at locations. Johnson said the clinic involves legwork ahead of time to canvass neighborhoods and businesses. Once it arrives, officials go back to those businesses to let them know employees can get the shot. Taking an early look at the first day of operation, Young said getting into neighborhoods seemed most effective at bringing people out. “There have been a number of people who have shown up with flyers or are literally waiting for us when we got here because they knew we were coming,” she said. “So it seems to be a good strategy with the canvassing before the event.” At the end of the day, Johnson said the health district will review how the operation went and make any necessary adjustments to locations and timing. “Although we have data we could go off of,” he said, “we want to make sure we’re at the right place at the right time.” This coming Tuesday, June 29, the mobile clinic will be Woodbridge Mobile Home Park, 13145 Minnieville Road, from 8:30-10 a.m.; Global Foods Market, 13813 Foulger Square, from 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m.; and BriteStars Pediatric Dentistry, 13900 Noblewood Plaza, from 1:30-3 p.m.
D.C. made a number of improvements to Stay DC, the city’s rent and utility assistance program, in an effort to get through a substantial backlog of applications. Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development John Falcicchio said during a D.C. Council conference call Friday that the program gives landlords “the ability to handle multiple applications, and really helps housing providers who have multiple units.” Earlier in week, the city made a change to allow residents “to get into the portal and really see more clearly where their application is in the process, and to understand where it is in terms of status,” he said. Falcicchio said 3,430 applications have been paid so far. At-Large council member Elissa Silverman asked whether he found that number concerning. “Because we have an estimate of at least tens of thousands of households who are in rent arrears and would qualify,” Silverman said. “And we’re here in June — we’ve got to get this money out the door by September, [and] we only have 3,430 approved.” Falcicchio said about 22,000 applications were in process and interest remains high. Silverman said the council is hearing from landlords and tenants who can’t get through the process. Information on applying can be found online or by calling 833-4-STAYDC (833-478-2932) from 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday through Friday.
One northbound lane of Tysons Boulevard will be closed again this summer for community recreation as the region recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic. The closure will begin July 6 and will give pedestrians and bicyclists access to a half-mile stretch of road from Westbranch Drive to the pedestrian entrance of Lillian Court at Tysons Galleria (right before International Drive), connecting with bike lanes on both Park Run and Westpark drives. Residents also will have access to community amenities such as nearby Capital Bikeshare stations and a park at the corner of Westbranch Drive and Tysons Boulevard. County officials have said how long the closure will last. In spring 2020, the Fairfax Alliance for Better Bicycling, Tysons Partnership and others asked the Fairfax County Department of Transportation and Virginia Department of Transportation to close the lane to support active transportation during the pandemic. With the new, temporary traffic pattern, motorists should slow down and be on the lookout for pedestrians and bicyclists, and watch for cars, pedestrians and bicyclists turning into businesses or residences. Due to the lane closure, Fairfax Connector Routes 494 and 495 will not serve stops Nos. 6364 and 6365 along Tysons Boulevard. For stop No. 6364 (Tysons Boulevard/Westbranch Drive), passengers should use stop No. 6362 (Tysons Boulevard/Galleria Drive) as an alternate. For stop No. 6365 (Tysons Boulevard/Park Run Boulevard), passengers should use stop No. 2442 (International Drive/Greensboro Drive) as an alternate.
D.C. is trying to get more teens vaccinated against COVID-19 amid disparities in rates across the city’s eight wards and that could mean more free money or even tuition. The RISE Demonstration Center, Ron Brown High School and Anacostia High School vaccine sites east of the Anacostia River are offering $51 Visa gift cards as part of the city’s push. “How are we measuring whether $51 is an effective incentive?” At-Large D.C. Council member Silverman asked during a conference call Friday with city officials. She added that Ohio held a lottery for students to get free tuition at Ohio State University. “One incentive would be paying for college. Is that being considered? I know we have one state university, but the biggest thing we hear from our young people is their concern they can’t pay for college. So it seems like being a part of the lottery would be a good incentive for that. We’re encouraging our kids to get vaccinated,” she said. Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development John Falcicchio said the city is looking at additional incentives aimed at its younger population. “We’re considering options as we get closer to the start of school about incentives made specifically to appeal to our young people,” he said. “That’s something that’s an active conversation. We certainly are looking at Ohio and other states that have had sort of tuition or scholarship-based incentives and seeing what they’ve learned thus far.” D.C. Health’s Patrick Ashley said the numbers are “double or almost double” at sites with incentives to get vaccinated. And he said the outlook is positive. “I was at Anacostia before they opened on Saturday, and there was 20 people waiting at the doors. … Talking to them, they were there because it was $51 being given out,” Ashley said. “And so that’s a good sign. … It just takes a little bit sometimes to push people over the edge. And that’s what we’re hoping to do.” Ashley said more data on D.C.’s overall vaccination rates will be available next week. Friday’s call and the conversation around incentives came after data from the city’s Office of the Deputy Mayor for Education revealed at least 60% of kids ages 12-15 in Wards 2 and 3 have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. But in Wards 7 and 8, less than 10% of kids in the same age group have received at least one shot. The disparity has some officials concerned about this fall’s return to school and the possibility of outbreaks as the more easily transmissible delta variant spreads.
Montgomery County’s mass vaccination site at Montgomery College’s Germantown campus will close on July 2. County Executive Marc Elrich announced the closure during a weekly COVID-19 press conference, citing greater access to vaccines at other sites around the county. “It wasn’t very long ago that Montgomery County residents were traveling hours to get the vaccine, and the establishment of this site was a game-changer for our vaccination efforts,” Elrich said. “I know that at the time, in some cases … our residents were getting enormous portions of the vaccine given out at the other mass vaccination sites.” Those who have received one dose from the Montgomery College site will have their follow-up shot at the county’s Upcounty Regional Services Center, which begins operations on July 6. That site will offer both Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. The site opened in late March and, at its peak, was administering 3,000 doses a day. About 100 doses were being administered each day as of June 17. County Health Officer Dr. Travis Gayles said that while the county is backing off its larger-scale vaccination sites, it will still be making an effort to get vaccines to residents in areas that are lagging behind the rest of the county. “We are continuing to use data to identify ZIP codes and locations where we have seen lower uptake and we will double down on our efforts … to get that number even higher,” Gayles said. He added the continued push to get residents vaccinated was particularly important with the threat of COVID-19 variants entering the community. “I just want to say to those who haven’t been vaccinated for whatever reason: Please consider doing so. There are multiple, ample opportunities for you to get vaccinated,” he said. “Vaccination will keep you safe; it will keep your family safe, and it will ultimately help drive down the community transmission numbers even lower than they are right now.”
Unemployed workers in Maryland are suing Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, over his decision to end federal pandemic unemployment benefits on July 3. Congress authorized the benefits, which includes an extra $300 per week for people who are jobless, until early September. The Unemployed Workers Union, an advocacy group in Baltimore, filed the class-action lawsuit Thursday in Baltimore City Circuit Court against Hogan and Maryland Labor Secretary Tiffany Robinson. The group wants a judge to stop Hogan from ending the benefits before they are set to expire. Alec Summerfield, an attorney representing the six workers who are suing, said eliminating the extra help will make it extraordinarily difficult for people to survive. “People’s cars are being repossessed. People’s houses are being foreclosed upon,” he said. “This $300, for many, is the only way for people to put food on the table.” The unemployed workers also want a judge to require the Maryland Department of Labor to process unemployment insurance claims in a timely manner — people filing claims have experienced long delays in receiving their benefits, leading lawmakers to introduce several bills intended to address inefficiencies in the system. The plaintiffs also want the state to provide benefits to people who filed claims but have not received any assistance. Earlier this month, Hogan said ending the payments will help businesses across the state that are facing severe worker shortages. “While these federal programs provided important temporary relief, vaccines and jobs are now in good supply,” he said in a press release. “We look forward to getting more Marylanders back to work.” But Summerfield said Hogan is trying to force people into low-paying jobs. “You’re not getting the economy back going by taking away the small purchasing power and this lifeline people do have,” he said. “That’s not getting the economy going, that’s trying to pay people less.” At least two dozen other states have announced plans to end the federal payments authorized by the American Rescue Plan early. D.C. and Virginia have kept the extra aid. Maryland also plans to reinstate the requirements for unemployment assistance that it waived at the beginning of the pandemic. People applying for aid will need to show they are trying to find employment. The state has distributed more than $12 billion in unemployment benefits to more than 730,000 people since March 2020, according to Hogan’s office. The state said earlier this month it had resolved more than 97% of unemployment claims. But people applying for assistance say the process for filing claims is riddled with delays.
The Library of Congress will reopen the doors of its Thomas Jefferson Building to the public on July 15, but visitors will need timed entry passes. Free passes will be available between 10 a.m.-4 p.m. on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Final entry will be at 3 p.m. The passes will only be good for a limited timeframe. Visitors will be able to walk through the building and exhibits that have been set up. “We are thrilled to welcome visitors back to the iconic Jefferson Building in July,” said Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden in a press release. “We hope that by introducing a free but ticketed experience, we can safely and responsibly begin to share the library’s great treasures with the American people once again.” The passes, which can be reserved online, will be available for reservation on a rolling 30-day basis. Each person can reserve up to six passes and each visitor must have a printed or digital pass on a mobile device to enter. Visitors will be asked to maintain social distancing measures and wear a mask inside. Visitors who require assistance under the Americans with Disabilities Act must submit a request at least five business days ahead of their visit by contacting ADA@loc.gov or calling 202-707-6024. The library will also host five Summer Movies on the Lawn on Thursday nights beginning July 8 and running through Aug. 5.
The Biden administration on Thursday extended the nationwide ban on evictions for a month to help millions of tenants unable to make rent payments during the pandemic, but said this is the last time it plans to do so. Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, extended the evictions moratorium from June 30 until July 31. The CDC said “this is intended to be the final extension of the moratorium.” A Biden administration official said the last month would be used for an “all hands on deck” multiagency campaign to prevent a wave of evictions. One of the reasons the moratorium was put in place was to prevent further spread of COVID-19 by people put out on the streets and into shelters. By the end of March, 6.4 million American households were behind on their rent, according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development. As of June 7, roughly 3.2 million people in the U.S. said they faced eviction in the next two months, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey. The announcement was accompanied by a flurry of administration activity. The Treasury Department issued new guidance encouraging states and local governments to streamline distribution of the nearly $47 billion in available emergency rental assistance funding. And Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta released an open letter to state courts encouraging them to pursue alternatives that would protect both tenants and landlords. Gupta’s letter states that “eviction filings are expected to overwhelm courts across the country,” unless additional steps are taken. The White House had acknowledged Wednesday that the emergency pandemic protection, which had been extended before, would have to end at some point. The trick is devising the right sort of off-ramp to make the transition without major social upheaval. Gupta’s letter to state courts encourages them to do everything possible to prevent or delay evictions. “Losing one’s home can have catastrophic economic and psychological effects,” she wrote. “The entire legal community, including the Department of Justice, the bar and the judiciary, has an obligation to do what it can to ensure that each and every individual has meaningful and equal access to justice before facing such consequences.” That includes giving tenants as much time as possible and making sure both tenants and landlords are aware of any emergency relief funds that may be available. Earlier this week, dozens of members of Congress wrote to President Joe Biden and Walensky, calling for the moratorium to be not only extended but also strengthened. The letter called for an unspecified extension to allow the emergency rental assistance included in the American Rescue Plan to get into the hands of tenants. Signers also echoed many housing advocates by calling for the moratorium’s protections to be made automatic, requiring no special steps from the tenant to gain its protections. But landlords, who opposed the moratorium and challenged it in court, were against any extension. They have argued the focus should be on speeding up the distribution of rental assistance. There are at least six prominent lawsuits challenging the authority of the CDC ban. So far, three judges have sided with the ban and three have ruled against, with all cases currently going through appeals. The U.S. District Court in Washington struck down the moratorium in May. That judge agreed to stay the case after the Justice Department filed an emergency appeal. The landlords in the case have filed a request to vacate the stay with the Supreme Court. Others welcomed the moratorium extension but said the Biden administration needs to think about more long-term solutions, including expanding the federal government’s housing voucher program for low-income tenants. Even before the pandemic, there were 24 million people who would have benefited from the program but couldn’t get help — many of those people of color.
Virginia lawmakers will return to Richmond on Aug. 2 for a special session to allocate more than $4.3 billion in federal coronavirus relief funding. Gov. Ralph Northam issued a proclamation Wednesday summoning the General Assembly to return. Lawmakers will also fill judicial vacancies during the special session, in addition to distributing federal funds. “With more Virginians getting vaccinated every day, we are turning the corner and building back stronger,” Northam said in a press release. “Thanks to the American Rescue Plan, we have a unique opportunity to fund public schools, support small businesses, achieve universal broadband access and make generational investments in our shared future. I look forward to working with legislators to get it done.” In May, Northam and other Democratic lawmakers issued a joint statement outlining their shared priorities for the incoming federal dollars. “This is one of the largest economic recovery efforts ever,” the May statement said. “This new law funds cities and counties separately with about $2.7 billion in new funds, for a total of nearly $7 billion coming into Virginia state and local governments.” During the special session, Northam and his Democratic colleagues plan to shore up public health services, boost affordable housing, help Virginians pay their utilities, fund an economic recovery program, invest in the commonwealth’s tourism, fund the Unemployment Trust Fund, modernize public school buildings and accelerate universal broadband access.
COVID-19 vaccination rates among D.C. teens vary across the city’s eight wards, which has some officials concerned about this fall’s return to classrooms and the possibility of outbreaks as the more easily transmissible delta variant spreads. Data from the city’s Office of the Deputy Mayor for Education show at least 60% of children 12-15 in Wards 2 and 3 have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. In Wards 7 and 8, however, less than 10% of kids in the same age group have received at least one dose. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine received emergency use authorization for children 12 and older more than a month ago. The discrepancy highlights a lack of vaccine uptake in the city’s lower-income neighborhoods. Last weekend, Mayor Muriel Bowser and Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, went door to door in Ward 8 to encourage residents to get vaccinated. Although D.C. recently surpassed 70% of adults receiving at least one dose and has offered incentives ranging from Visa gift cards to cars, more localized outreach campaigns to target the city’s youth are necessary, officials said. The newly released data is troublesome for students as they plan to return to school in the fall. In May, D.C. Public Schools said it will welcome all students back to classrooms for in-person learning five days week, while also promising a “limited virtual offering” for those who aren’t ready to return. DCPS also said it doesn’t anticipate requiring vaccination for students. But D.C. Health guidelines call for unvaccinated people who are exposed to the coronavirus to quarantine, meaning students in wards with lower vaccination rates may be more likely to miss school. To decrease the likelihood of that scenario, lawmakers are calling on D.C. Health and the mayor’s office to increase accessibility, saying the city should offer the vaccine at popular summer destinations, such as pools and recreation centers. D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson agreed. He called the data concerning, noting the city needs to do more to increase uptake. “This is a national issue as well as a local issue,” Mendelson said. “And it may be that there are some celebrities who would be particularly appealing to younger folks as a strategy. What the government needs to do is look at ways to minimize cost. [The city needs to] look at other ways that we can get the vaccine as easily as possible, that is with a minimal cost — in time, transportation, effort — in every way, minimal cost.” While D.C.’s coronavirus dashboard shows a nominal difference in vaccination rates by race — 31.6% of white residents, 24.9% of Black residents and 33.1% of Asian or Pacific Islander residents are fully vaccinated — the differences are stark among kids 12-15. More than 3,200 white teenagers 12-15 have been fully vaccinated while only 1,564 for Black kids and 295 Asian or Pacific Islanders. Council member Christina Henderson tweeted that pediatricians will be key in improving those figures, hoping to have doctors communicate the benefits to kids and parents.
After more than a year of limited service by appointment, the D.C. Department of Motor Vehicles will return to its regular walk-in policy next month. Appointments made through July 17 will be honored, but won’t be offered after that date, Mayor Muriel Bowser’s office said in a press release. DMV service centers and adjudication services will return to normal beginning July 20 and July 19, respectively. The city resumed parking enforcement this month, sending residents rushing to renew their driver’s licenses and vehicle registrations ahead of a July 1 deadline. With appointments in short supply, city officials pushed the renewal deadline to Sept. 9. To accommodate demand, the DMV is holding extended weekend hours for the 95 M St. SW location station from 8:15 a.m.-4 p.m. and the inspection from 6 a.m.-2 p.m. on June 27 and July 3, 11 and 18. Residents will still need to make appointments for road tests for commercial and noncommercial driver licenses. Meanwhile, many other services can be completed online, including license renewal for people who already have a REAL ID.
Nearly 150 pharmacies in Virginia will expand hours through July 4 hoping to give out more COVID-19 vaccines. The Virginia Department of Health said in a press release Monday that Albertsons (Safeway), CVS, Rite Aid and Walgreens pharmacies, as well as independent pharmacies, will have expanded hours on certain days, especially Friday evenings, to make it easier for people to get vaccinated if they can’t make it in during regular pharmacy hours. VDH said the move would create a total of approximately 2,235 additional pharmacy hours statewide through July 4. The expansion is part of the National Vaccine Month of Action, an effort led by the White House, VDH said. “Pharmacies have been critical to helping us vaccinate our community,” said Dr. Stephanie Wheawhill, director of the Division of Pharmacy Services. “They are Virginia’s trusted messengers who assist people in making informed decisions about COVID-19 vaccinations.” Anyone 12 or older can find vaccination clinics at vaccinate.virginia.gov or by calling 877-VAX-IN-VA (877-829-4682, TTY users call 7-1-1). Pharmacies are included through the link to vaccines.gov. At least 70% of Virginia adults have had at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine.
Outdoor athletic fields on the National Mall will reopen July 8. The National Park Service made the announcement Tuesday. To use one of the 12 mixed-use or 12 softball fields when they reopen, a reservation must be made online at Recreation.gov. The website opens on June 23 at approximately 4 a.m. and people will be able to reserve one-hour slots for $20. The fields had been closed for the past 15 months due to the pandemic. During that time, there have been upgrades to several of the fields, including new turf and grass. Overall, NPS said it spent $666,000 upgrading the fields. Tournaments and other large-scale sporting events will still need separate permits to conduct a special event in park areas. People wanting a permit for these activities should contact the Division of Permits Management at 202-245-4715 or NAMA_Permits@nps.gov and submit an “Application for a Permit to Conduct a Demonstration or Special Event in Park Areas,” which is NPS Form 10-941. Overall, NPS maintains 35 athletic fields on 30 acres in East and West Potomac Parks for softball, volleyball, rugby and cricket. The National Mall itself is open for more casual forms of recreation. The reservation website replaces the lottery and permit system that was used pre-COVID-19.
Inova Health System is requiring all employees to receive a COVID-19 vaccine by Sept. 1, making the Falls Church-based nonprofit the latest in the DMV to issue such a mandate. Inova, which has 18,000 employees, notified staff last week of the requirement. All Inova employees, including part-time workers and contractors, will be required to be immunized against the virus in order to work on any of its campuses. “We believe this is a necessary step in prioritizing team member and patient safety, which align with our core values,” said an Inova spokesperson. “We are committed to answering questions and educating team members about the safety, efficacy and benefits of the COVID-19 vaccine.” Inova’s decision comes a couple weeks after several hospitals and health systems in D.C. and Maryland implemented similar requirements. Virginia’s vaccine policy supports and encourages vaccinations for healthcare providers and employees, which are still voluntary and not mandatory, a spokesperson with the Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association said. But the VHHC board is expected to consider updating the policy at its meeting in July. As of June 9, all of the D.C. Hospital Association’s 14 member hospitals committed to mandate vaccinations for their employees, including MedStar Health facilities, George Washington University Hospital and Children’s National Hospital. Each will roll out its own process for tracking, timelines and compliance. In Maryland, larger health systems including Johns Hopkins Medicine and the University of Maryland Medical System issued similar requirements. Most, if not all, other Northern Virginia health systems do not currently require staff to receive a COVID vaccine. Virginia Hospital Center in Arlington has not formalized a requirement. HCA Healthcare, which owns Reston Hospital Center, StoneSprings Hospital Center in Dulles and Dominion Hospital in Falls Church, also does not require but highly encourages its employees get one of the authorized vaccines.
As Virginia passed the 70% target for adults 18 and older to have at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine over the weekend, four Northern Virginia jurisdictions also reached the benchmark. According to the Virginia Department of Health’s vaccine dashboard, 81.2% of Fairfax City adults have received at least one dose while 72.5% are fully vaccinated. In Loudoun County, 75.4% of adults have gotten at least one shot and 66.7% are fully vaccinated. Fairfax County reports 73.1% of adults have received at last one dose and 64.2% are fully vaccinated. And 70.0% of Manassas City residents have had at least one shot with 59.6% fully vaccinated. The data does not include doses administered by the federal government, which now number more than 423,000 and likely include more Northern Virginia residents. Virginia is the 16th state to meet the goal set by President Joe Biden in early May according to the CDC data. To date, more than 8.85 million doses of vaccine have been administered in Virginia and more than 4.21 million individuals, or 60.3% of the population 18 and older, are fully vaccinated. Gov. Ralph Northam and state public health officials celebrated Virginia’s vaccination milestone Monday morning at Hope Pharmacy, a small, minority- and woman-owned pharmacy in Richmond. “Thanks to the millions of Virginians who have rolled up their sleeves to get vaccinated, the virus is in retreat, our economy is growing and we are closer to putting this pandemic behind us,” Northam said. All COVID-19 metrics in Virginia are at their lowest levels since the first few weeks of the pandemic in March 2020. The state ended all COVID-19 restrictions on May 28, and the state of emergency that Northam declared on March 12, 2020 is set to expire June 30. Despite the progress, health officials encouraged those who are not vaccinated to do so. Approval of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for children 12-15 has made more than 400,000 additional Virginians eligible to be vaccinated, and about 30% of individuals in that age group have received the vaccine so far, officials said. “Virginia’s remarkable progress is a testament to the commitment, coordination and leadership of our local health districts, community-based organizations, faith leaders, National Guard members and so many others,” said Dr. Danny Avula, the state’s vaccination coordinator. “While there is still work to do in addressing vaccine hesitancy, I remain confident that we can keep this momentum going and defeat this virus.”
Prince George’s County children 12-18 years old can register for a variety of safe and fun activities this summer through the Alsobrooks Summer Passport Experience. It offers programs are centered on what the county calls the “3 E’s: Education, Experience/Entertainment and Entrepreneurship.” Announcing the program in Hillcrest Heights on Monday, County Executive Angela Alsobrooks said many children in the county have suffered during the pandemic. “They’ve been isolated from their friends, they’ve been inside, they’ve been really unable to engage in the way that young people should be able to engage and it means that in some instances our young people have made choices are to be involved in things we don’t want them involved in,” Alsobrooks said. She said the program is open to around 1,300 young people. “We’re going to be working with the trades to teach a skill to many of our older teenagers who are going to be entering the workforce soon,” Alsobrooks said. Education programs include “Cybersecurity and Drone Camp” and “Into to CPR and First-Aid.” Entrepreneurship offerings include “What It Takes to Own Your Own Retail Store” and “Careers in Plumbing 101.” Entertainment offerings include white water rafting, a bike rodeo and a three-on-three basketball tournament. Kids can choose two options from each category, subject to availability. The full list of programs is available online. Registration costs $20 and includes a passport, T-shirt and bracelet. Kids who have not been vaccinated can get one when they pick up program materials at the Sports & Learning Complex in Landover on June 28. Registration ends Friday at 5 p.m.
Tourism is recovering in D.C. and the city is seeing demand for meetings and future convention bookings. Destination DC, the city’s tourism agency, said it expects a full recovery for business travel to D.C. by late 2022 or early 2023. Leisure travelers have already begun to return to the city. While that is good news, it can’t undo losses caused by the pandemic. In 2019, D.C. had 24.6 million total visitors, 22.8 million of them domestic, up 4.1%. International visitors in 2019 totaled 1.8 million, down 7.9%. In 2020, domestic tourists fell to about 7 million and the there were hardly any international tourists. The forecast is better. Destination DC estimates domestic visitation could rise to between 14-15 million this year and to 19 million by 2022. But overseas visitation is not expected to fully recover to pre-pandemic levels until 2025. From March 2020 through March 2021, tourism spending was down 68% and the city lost $477 million in tax revenue. The city also lost more than 42,000 jobs in the leisure and hospitality industry at the pandemic’s height, although many of those jobs are returning. Ongoing U.S. travel bans on several European countries have held back expectations of a international recovery. A recent WalletHub study on how European travel bans will affect all 50 states and D.C. forecasts the city’s economy will take a 6.4% hit to GDP. That is second only to Nevada, where the economic impact is expected to be close to 10%. The report also notes that only 28 states will see a significant economic impact of 1% or more from the lack of European travelers to the U.S. Many that won’t are in the Midwest or other states that aren’t typically popular destinations for international travelers. In a typical year, international travelers make up just 7% of D.C. tourists, but they account for 27% of tourism spending. D.C. wants those international visitors back but is focusing on domestic tourism recovery. This week, Destination DC will launch a $2.5 million advertising campaign to jumpstart future travel to the city. The Recovery Advertising Campaign will primarily target potential leisure travelers within a four-hour drive to the city. It will also include targeted advertising nationwide for Americans showing intent to travel.
Maryland and Virginia set new milestones in the coronavirus pandemic over the weekend. Maryland reported no new COVID-19 deaths for the first time since 2020 and Virginia officially hit 70% of adults with at least one vaccine dose, marking major steps in the states’ fights to control the virus. Gov. Larry Hogan made the announcement Sunday morning that it was the first time since Oct. 18, 2020 there were no new coronavirus-related deaths. White House COVID-19 Data Director Cyrus Shahpar tweeted Sunday that Virginia officially became the 16th state to reach 70% of adults with at least one vaccine dose, including 351,000 newly vaccinated people. In a press release, Maryland also touted upbeat trends in several other metrics. The number of new confirmed cases fell to 42 — the first time since March 23, 2020 that Maryland reported less than 50 new cases. Hospitalizations have also plummeted to 150, their lowest level since March 27, 2020 and down 88% since mid-April as the number of adults with at least one dose reaches 73% or 6.6 million residents. The state’s positivity rate also declined 88% since mid-April to a record-low of 0.72%. Meanwhile, case rates fell to 1.12 per 100,000, the lowest level since March 26, 2020 and down 95% since mid-April.
Even though more people are getting vaccinated and starting to travel again, it was an ugly first quarter of the year at the DMV’s two commercial airports. The 1.2 million passengers traveling through Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport from Jan. 1-March 31 was down from 4.5 million during the first quarter of 2019 (the last pre-pandemic year). At Washington Dulles International Airport, passenger activity of 1.9 million for the first three months of 2021 was down from 5.1 million during the same period in 2019. Data from the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority confirms that Dulles is seeing a better recovery than National. In March, Dulles recorded 784,592 passengers, down about 40% from March 2019. But at Reagan National, the passenger count of 588,035 for the month was down more than 70% from March 2019. Reagan National has been hard-hit because of its reliance on business travel and the fact that it largely does not have connecting traffic. Attempting to compare March 2021 to March 2020 would be an exercise in futility; normal travel patterns were the norm the first part of March 2020, but traffic plummeted to nearly nothing once the first wave of the pandemic took hold. Travel totals in April 2020 ended up being a rock-bottom 75,000 at Reagan National and just less than 100,000 at Dulles, the worst month of the entire pandemic. United Airlines remained the dominant carrier at Dulles for the first quarter of 2021, while American retained its top billing at Reagan National. At the region’s third commercial airport, Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport run by the Maryland state government, an emphasis on domestic leisure passengers has allowed the airport to outperform Dulles and Reagan National. BWI recorded 1,264,415 passengers in March, not yet back to normal but still tops in the region, with dominant carrier Southwest responsible for 926,930 of those travelers.