Carryout only for DC restaurants; US told to limit social gatherings

The latest

  • Loudoun County Public Schools in Virginia has extended its closure until at least April 10. The school previously announced that it will close through March 20. For a complete list of school closures, go to WTOP’s Closings and Delays page.
  • Starting 10 p.m. Monday, all bars and restaurants in the District will be carryout only, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser announced Monday. In addition to restaurants, the D.C. Health Department said movie theaters, health clubs, spas, massage parlors and other large businesses also need to close.
  • The Catholic Diocese of Arlington is suspending the public celebration of its masses until further notice.
  • D.C., Maryland and Virginia recorded dozens of new coronavirus cases over the weekend and Monday, bringing the regionwide total to more than 100.
  • The Trump administration is calling on the American public to avoid gatherings — even in their own homes — of 10 people or more, and to avoid travel that isn’t necessary. These measures are recommendations by the White House coronavirus task force.
  • Effective 5 p.m. Monday, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan has ordered all restaurants, bars, movie theaters and gyms in the state to close.
  • A Metro Transit Police officer based out of a station near the Franconia-Springfield Metro in Virginia has tested positive for coronavirus.
  • The White House announced Monday that its annual Easter Egg Roll had been canceled.

DC restaurants, bars switch to carryout only; gyms, theaters to shutter

As of 10 p.m. Monday, restaurants will only serve carryout or delivery, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser announced at a news conference Monday afternoon. There will be no dining in or drinking.

Gyms, theaters and massage businesses will also be closed under a new order from the D.C. Health Department. Bars will be allowed to serve on a grab-and-go-only basis.

Grocery stores will remain open, said Chris Rodriguez, the director of D.C.’s Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency. He made the assurance during Monday’s news conference on food security during the District’s pandemic response.

“Grocery stores will remain open throughout the duration of this event. People do not need to panic about not being able to buy toilet paper or paper towels,” Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez encouraged residents to not hoard or panic buy, and said empty shelves were more an indication of increased demand and not lack of supply.

“Our message to residents is simply this. Do your part and resist the temptation to buy more than what you need,” Rodriguez said.

New federal guidelines: Limit social gatherings

President Donald Trump is calling on the American public to avoid gatherings — even in their own homes — of 10 people or more, and to avoid unnecessary travel and social visits.

The measures recommended by the White House coronavirus task force also include working and schooling from home when possible, and avoiding eating and drinking at bars and restaurants.

The new guidelines intensify recommendations released by the CDC over the weekend to limit public gatherings to fewer than 50 people.

“We’ve made the decision to further toughen the guidelines and blunt the infection now — we’d much rather be ahead of the curve than behind it,” Trump said.

The new measures announced from the White House on Monday afternoon are guidelines and not an official order, but members of the task force urged the public to heed them.

“When you’re dealing with an emerging infectious diseases outbreak, you are always behind where you think you are,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top infectious diseases specialist in the federal government.

He said the new guidelines are not an overreaction. “It’s a reaction that we feel is commensurate with what is actually going on in reality,” he said.

The guidelines “will fail” if people don’t follow them, Fauci added.

The new guidelines to avoid gatherings and travel are in effect for the next 15 days, after which officials will evaluate their impact.

Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, said curtailing many aspects of public life is necessary to keep the virus from spreading, because the virus can be spread before infected people show any symptoms, and some people are entirely asymptomatic but able to continue spreading the virus.

“If you are sick — no matter who you are — please stay home,” Birx said. “If someone in your household is diagnosed with this virus, the entire household should quarantine in the house.”

Read full coverage on the White House update here.


More Coronavirus News


Virginia’s 2nd coronavirus-related death

The second death related to COVID-19 in Virginia was a man in his 70s, the state’s health department said Monday. The cause of death was respiratory failure.

The patient was located in the Newport News area. “It is a sad day in our community as we learn that a local resident has died from COVID-19,” said Peninsula Health Department Acting Director Dr. Steve Julian.

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam said that he is deeply saddened to hear about the latest death.

“It’s important that we all look out for each other during this difficult time for our commonwealth and our country,” Northam said in a statement.

This is the second death in the Newport News area from COVID-19. Virginia reported its first coronavirus-related death of COVID-19 on Saturday. The first victim was a man also in his 70s.

The health department said both men got the virus from an unknown source.

In Prince William County, Virginia, County Executive Chris Martino signed a declaration of a local state of emergency that took effect Monday at noon. The declaration is in response to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines to limit crowds of people to 50 or fewer, and to allow the county to mobilize and prioritize resources, handle procurement issues, as well as assign and coordinate response activities to help promote and enforce social distancing.

“It is important to note that this declaration is not because we’ve seen a dramatic increase in the number of confirmed cases in Prince William County,” Martino said in a statement.

Local universities reporting positive cases

A student living on-campus at American University tested positive for coronavirus, the school said in a statement Monday.

“The student is receiving support and medical care, and remains in self-isolation per public health guidance, and we wish them a quick recovery,” said Dr. David Reitman, medical director of the school’s Student Health Center.

The student had traveled within the U.S. and came back to campus before the end of spring break. The student is isolated in an on-campus room with a private bathroom, away from other members of the school community, and food and personal items are being delivered to the student.

“The D.C. Department of Health has completed their investigation and determined that there were no close contacts on the campus. The student’s previous room, nearby public areas, and common areas around the student’s self-isolation room have been thoroughly cleaned and disinfected according to public health guidance,” Reitman said.

Also in D.C., Howard University announced Monday that a guest who attended the school’s Charter Day Dinner on March 7 has tested positive for COVID-19. Those who attended that dinner are being asked to monitor their health and report to their doctor if they start to show flu-like symptoms. The patient is self-isolating.

The university will launch remote instruction and will close residence halls on Sunday, March 22. Students who left for spring break should not return to campus. Commencement and all-class reunions are also canceled.

Hogan orders all Maryland bars, restaurants closed

All restaurants, bars, movie theaters and gyms across Maryland will close indefinitely starting at 5 p.m. Monday, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced in a move to lower infection rates as the state reported its 37th infection.

Social, community, religious or sports events drawing more than 50 people are also now banned on the heels of a CDC recommendation to limit mass gatherings of that size or larger for at least eight weeks.

“We have never faced anything like this before,” Hogan said Monday during a news conference in Annapolis. “This is going to be much harder, take much longer and be much worse than almost anyone is currently understanding.”

“And, unfortunately, far too many people have continued to ignore those warnings and are crowding into bars and restaurants, willingly putting the health and safety of others in grave danger,” he added.

Under the executive order, local authorities, the Maryland State Police and the National Guard — if necessary — will enforce the governor’s orders on bars, restaurants and social gatherings.
“We’re no longer asking for people’s cooperation,” Hogan said, adding, “We’re not fooling around anymore.”

Services and businesses considered essential, such as grocery stores, pharmacies, gas stations and banks, will remain open.

The order still allows drive-thru, carryout and food delivery services to continue.

Hogan announced a number of other steps Monday, including expanding the capacity of the medical system, by adding 6,000 hospital beds in the state. There are currently about 9,000 hospital beds for acute care.

Another Hogan executive order prohibits utilities, including electric, gas, water, phone and cable companies, from shutting off any residential service and charging any late fees during the duration of the state of emergency in Maryland. In addition, the order prohibits all evictions during the state of emergency.

“While these measures may seem extreme, if we do not take them now, it could be too late,” Hogan said. “I will make whatever decisions and take whatever actions are necessary to save the lives of thousands of Marylanders, and to protect our way of life itself.”

Shortage of test kits persists

As of Monday morning, the Maryland Department reported a total of 37 cases of COVID-19.

Earlier guidance from the CDC on who should be tested for the virus limited the number of tests that were performed. While there is no longer strict criteria determining who gets tested, facilities across Maryland are experiencing a “logjam” in testing, because of a shortage of testing kits and the chemicals used in the testing process, said Fran Phillips, the deputy secretary for public health services.

“We hope our governor can work with federal officials to clear up that logjam,” Phillips said. “That’s a logjam that every hospital in the state is experiencing and every commercial lab.”

Even as testing capacity has expanded, Phillips said you should carefully consider whether you should seek testing from your doctor.

If you have flu-like symptoms — a cough, difficulty breathing and a fever — Phillips said you need to stay home. It might not be COVID-19, but those are symptoms of a serious illness.

If your fever goes up or if you have increased difficulty breathing or chest pain, then you should call your doctor or 911 if it’s severe enough.

“Not everyone needs to be tested,” Phillips said. “So, until such time as we have adequate testing resources, it’s up to all of us to take care of ourselves, monitor our symptoms, and if we start to feel that we’re in trouble, call your doctor or call 911.”

Metro Transit Police officer tests positive for COVID-19

A Metro Transit Police officer who lives in Prince George’s County, Maryland, but who was based out of a station near the Franconia-Springfield Metro in Virginia, has tested positive for the new coronavirus, according to an internal Metro memo.

Metro is closing that police facility with instructions for police staff to work elsewhere, and the officer is now in home isolation.
Seven police union members have been recommended to go into self-quarantine and monitor for any symptoms because the officer attended a union meeting last Wednesday.

According to the Metro memo, the agency was informed Monday morning about the positive test.

It is not clear exactly where the officer patrolled before he tested positive or what his condition is.

The officer was last on patrol Tuesday, Metro spokesman Dan Stessel said in an email.

He is described as relatively young, and he reported not feeling well last week.

Metro is “assisting health authorities in identifying whether any other individuals may have been exposed to COVID-19,” the internal memo said.

Meanwhile, Metro officials are indicating they will continue scaling back service this week.

“I would be surprised if you didn’t see more service reductions,” Stessel told WTOP. “Ridership on the system has plummeted. That is a good thing, because it means more people are staying home.”

Under Phase 3 of its pandemic response plan announced last week, trains are running every 12 minutes on each line, and buses are running on a Saturday schedule.

Among the options for further reduced service is what’s known as “lifeline service” for only the most essential service, Stessel said.

“We want to reduce the risk to our employees, and that means limiting the number of employees and reducing service and taking prudent responsible steps,” Stessel said.

He added, “If Metro were to take additional steps, the reason that we’d be doing so is that ridership levels have fallen to such a degree that the risk to our employees” can’t be justified.

Health official: ‘Social distancing is our medicine against this virus’

Prince George’s County County Executive Angela Alsobrooks declared a state of emergency, closing all government buildings to the public and beginning tiered telework for county workers.

She said there were 11 confirmed cases in the county. Health Officer Dr. Ernest Carter said that seven of the patients “have recovered or are doing well.”

“We know that more cases will come,” Alsobrooks said.

She also announced the creation of three pop-up food pantries for people who need food assistance; she said the details would be announced later.

Senior Nutrition Program sites are closed; Family Services will deliver meals to senior citizens.

Among other changes: All non-lawyer visits to the jail are canceled, and Prince George’s Circuit Court closed until April 6. Schools have already been closed through March 27.
Alsobrooks said county residents need to check on each other. “This can be a very isolating and lonely time. … Let’s look out for each other. Call and check in on your friends and neighbors, and those you care about.”

Carter spoke strongly about the need for social distancing, saying that although testing has been in the headlines recently, “Social distancing is our medicine against this virus. Not the test.”

“This virus is going to come at us fast and hard … It’s going to get worse,” Carter said.

Testing “is for public health officials like me,” Carter said. “Social distancing is going to help people save lives. … Getting tested is not going to make you better. Whether you know whether you have COVID-19 is not going to make any difference.”

He acknowledged the bluntness of his words, but added, “I can’t sleep at night because I know that if I don’t tell you things in the most forceful way possible, people are going to die. …”

“I’m not trying to scare you, but I am trying to scare you,” Carter said. “This is temporary; it’s not going to last forever. But it has to happen now.”

Public schools CEO Dr. Monica Goldson said that grab-and-go meal sites in the county were increasing from nine to 25. The free meals are open to any Prince George’s County resident — not only students. The meal packages consist of breakfast, lunch and a snack.

She added that last Friday, when schools were closed, each student was sent home with a package of assignments that don’t require the internet or other technology to complete. Later, kids will be able to get more assignments at the meal sites, she said.

How long will Maryland schools be closed?

Last week, state education officials ordered all public schools in Maryland to close for two weeks.

State Superintendent of Schools Karen Salmon indicated to reporters Monday that a longer closure is on the table, but no decisions have been made.

“We are actively looking at the modeling that shows where this is virus is going,” she said.

One of the reasons for the two-week closure was to give school officials and local school districts time to assess the situation.

With hundreds of thousands of students staying home from school, Salmon said the state had applied for permission from the federal government to provide three free meals a day to students — instead of the normal two meals a day.

A map of locations where students can pick up meals is available at MDSummerMeals.org.
Salmon said she anticipates serving about 100,000 meals over the next two weeks.

Maryland prep school advises student self-quarantine; DC children’s hospital reports 2 cases

Students of a Glenn Dale, Maryland, episcopal prep school are being advised to self-quarantine after two of its faculty members tested positive for COVID-19.

In a letter to parents, Holy Trinity Episcopal School said they were notified by health officials of two confirmed cases among their High School Prep staff. The school recommended its students to self-quarantine until March 25, which is 14 days after classes were last held. Its recommendation did not extend to parents.

“The health, safety and welfare of our students, families and community at-large is our highest priority and we are always prepared to take the necessary action to keep everyone safe during the COVID-19 pandemic,” head of school Mike Mullin said in a statement.

A recent episcopal conference in Kentucky has been cited as a possible place of exposure for several cases across the country after several who attended later fell ill — including the Rev. Tim Cole, rector at Christ Church Georgetown, who became D.C.’s first reported case on March 7.

Children’s National Hospital in D.C. also announced Monday that a doctor and a young patient at the hospital had both tested positive for coronavirus over the weekend.

A statement from the hospital said it informed staff at the hospital on Sunday that the doctor tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. The hospital said it is now reaching out to other staff members and families who may have been in contact with the doctor.

In addition, the hospital said, a patient being treated in the hospital emergency department also tested positive for the virus. The emergency department “followed all infection control protocols to protect other patients families and staff, and the child did not need to be admitted.”

Leaders of DC, Md., Va. call for more federal funding for drive-through test sites

The region’s leaders are calling on the Trump administration to expand federal funding for coronavirus testing in the D.C. area, saying they will commit to having at least one drive-through testing site in each of the area’s jurisdictions.

The request came in a letter to Trump signed by Hogan, Northam and Bower.

“The National Capital Region is home to over 6 million residents and the seat of the federal government, with hundreds of thousands of employees and contractors serving the Department of Defense and other mission essential agencies,” the letter stated.

“The health of the National Capital Region is a top priority for the continuity of our democratic government and critical to continuing federal government functions.”

In the letter, the three leaders said they are working with local health departments and emergency management agencies to identify proposed drive-through testing sites.

“Given our extensive planning efforts as a region, we are well-positioned to make the best possible use of federal support for this testing,” the letter stated. “We will each commit to host a drive-through testing site in our jurisdiction. ”

The White House has already announced several cities across the U.S. will receive federal funding for expanded testing, including Boston; New York City; Atlanta; Chicago; New Orleans; Dallas; Houston; Los Angeles; Santa Clara, California; and Seattle.

NBC4 reported that Holy Cross Hospital in Silver Spring opened triage tents to treat patients with symptoms of COVID-19.

White House cancels annual Easter Egg Roll

The White House Easter Egg roll has been canceled amid ongoing concerns of the spiraling coronavirus outbreak. First lady Melania Trump announced the cancellation in a statement Monday.

“The health and safety of all Americans must be the first priority, especially right now,” the first lady said in the statement.

“I deeply regret this cancellation, but we need to make difficult decisions in the short-term to ensure a healthy country for the long-term. During this time, I encourage everyone to listen to state and local officials, and follow CDC guidelines in order to help protect the health and well-being of everyone.”

The Easter Egg Roll, an annual tradition dating to 1878, was scheduled for April 13, the day after Easter. The annual event draws hundreds of children and their families to the White House lawn.

The cancellation follows the CDC guidance seeking to curb large gatherings.

The last time the Easter Egg Roll was canceled was in the early 1950s, when the White House underwent extensive renovations, according to WhiteHouseHistory.org.

WTOP’s Rick Massimo and Max Smith contributed to this report. 

This article was written by WTOP’s news partner InsideNoVa.com and republished with permission. Sign up for InsideNoVa.com’s free email subscription today.

 

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