Coronavirus: 2nd death in DC; cases surge throughout region with more testing

The latest

  • Three more members of DC Fire and EMS test positive
  • President Trump said in his Sunday briefing that FEMA will send hospital ships to Los Angeles and New York to provide support for the fight against the coronavirus. The ships will be used to treat patients who are not affected by the virus, and therefore allow hospitals to focus on the most vulnerable patients. He’s also activating the National Guard to assist in Washington, California and New York.
  • U.S. stock futures fell sharply when trading for the new week began Sunday night. A 5% drop in S&P 500 triggered a halt to trading as congress was unable to move forward in negotiations for a federal relief package.
  • Democrats in congress asked Republicans to come back to the negotiating table Sunday as talks over a $1.4 trillion rescue package stalled. Democrats argued the package was overweighted in favor of corporations without allowing enough relief for workers and healthcare providers.
  • D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser confirms the District’s second death Sunday, a 65-year-old woman with underlying health conditions.
  • The International Olympic Committee is considering postponing the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
  • Maryland, Virginia and D.C. have more than 550 cases as of Sunday morning, with Montgomery and Prince George’s counties in Maryland, and Arlington, Virginia, among areas with the most cases.
  • Maryland saw their third death, while Virginia saw their 6th from the virus Sunday. With D.C. confirming its first death on Saturday, the pandemic has claimed seven lives in the region.
  • In Falls Church, Virginia, administrators at The Kensington, a senior living community, reported a second resident had tested positive.
  • D.C. announced that two more emergency workers, in this case firefighters, tested positive, bringing the total to six.
  • National Mall officials are closing some roads near the Tidal Basin to prevent large crowds from gathering at the cherry blossoms.
  • Metrobus has cut all but 20 lines for the rest of the weekend, due to what it said is a lack of available workers.

D.C.

Three more members of DC Fire and EMS have tested positive

Three more members of DC Fire and EMS have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, bringing the total number of first responders of DC Fire to 7.

DC Fire said both firefighters are at home and their conditions are improving. DC Health and DC Fires Infectious Control Group is working to determine if either firefighter had potentially exposed any other members.

Traffic control measures in place to curb visits to cherry blossoms; DC leaders call for temporary closing of Tidal Basin.

To halt the spread of the coronavirus, traffic control measures will continue around the Tidal Basin in order to discourage mass visitation of the area’s cherry blossoms.

From 7 a.m. – 8 p.m. Sunday, the following roads will be closed:

  • The Memorial Bridge
  • Lincoln Memorial Circle
  • Potomac River Freeway (all exits to Ohio Drive and Independence Avenue)
  • Rock Creek Parkway/Potomac Parkway Drive (between Virginia Avenue and Independence SW)
  • Independence Avenue between Ohio Drive and 14th Street SW
  • 23rd Street between Constitution Avenue and Lincoln Memorial Circle
  • Henry Bacon Drive between Constitution Avenue NW and Independence Avenue SW
  • 17th Street between Constitution Avenue NW and Independence Avenue SW
  • 15th Street between Constitution Avenue NW and Independence Avenue SW
  • Maine Avenue between Independence and 12th Street SW
  • All exits to East Potomac Park and West Potomac Park

In addition, Parking Lots A, B, and C on Ohio Drive South and East Potomac Park between the East Potomac Golf Course and Hains Port are closed. Additional closures will continue should excessive visitation continues.

The National Park Service urged people against visiting the Tidal Basin in order to help flatten the curve and help prevent the spread of COVID-19. But social distancing has not been possible due to high-visitor volume.

Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner James Harnett and D.C. Council member Charles Allen are asking the Park Service to close the Tidal Basin temporarily.

In a letter Sunday, Harnett and Allen said that it was “concerning to see hundreds of people walking should-to-shoulder while exploring the Cherry Blossoms” on Friday and Saturday, despite public health recommendations from the D.C. department of health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In addition to closing the Tidal Basin, they also ask the Park Service to monitor overcrowding issues, close footpaths and parking lots.

D.C. reports 2nd COVID-19-related death

The D.C. Department of Health announced a second death due to COVID-19. The patient was a 65-year-old woman who had underlying health conditions. She died Saturday night.

Mayor Muriel Bowser said in a statement that she was saddened by the news and that the city is in a “critical phase of this health crisis.”

Bowser will hold a briefing Monday at 11 a.m.

Metrobus halts service on all but 20 routes for the weekend

Metro announced Saturday afternoon it would shut down bus service for the weekend on all but 20 lines.

The bus system, which normally operates 325 routes and completes 400,000 trips per day, began the shutdown at 5 p.m. Saturday, making the announcement just hours before closings would take effect.

The changes amounts to cutting the number of routes run by the sixth-busiest bus agency in the country by almost 95%, but WMATA said it hopes to run more services during the week.

The shutdown expands closures announced by Metro on Friday.

Metrobus drivers are also permitted to bypass stops in order to maintain safe social distancing aboard the bus.

In a statement released Friday, WMATA General Manager Paul J. Wiedefeld said that despite Metrobus workers dealing with the same pressures as everyone else is due to the coronavirus, “Our workforce is showing up out of a sense of duty to the community and a responsibility to the nation.”

“Space on Metro is a resource that needs to be reserved for essential travel, including the first responders, doctors and nurses working to keep us all safe,” Wiedefeld continued. “They are responding to the call out of concern for you, please stay home out of concern for them.”


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The statement added that Metro’s Operations division has reported availability challenges due to operators choosing to decline overtime opportunities to focus on family obligations, absences associated with high-risk groups and scheduling restrictions necessary to support workforce redundancy strategies.

The transit system has suffered an 85% drop in rail ridership year-over-year, prompting the significant changes to its bus and rail schedules.


Maryland

Gov. Larry Hogan knocks federal response and neglected social distancing on Meet the Press

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan criticized the federal response to the coronavirus pandemic as well as the lack of seriousness that social distancing is being treated with during an appearance on Meet the Press Sunday morning.

“We’ve pushed for action and we are getting some progress,” Hogan said in reference to requests for aid he made to the president and vice president as the chair of the National Governor’s Association.

“Now it’s not nearly enough, it’s not fast enough talking, we’re way behind the curve, but we’re trying to figure out what we can do to move forward.”

Hogan went on to say that, while there were failures and certain actions that should have been taken sooner, he wasn’t sitting idly by waiting for federal assistance.

He mentioned that the state had ordered personal protective equipment, or PPEs, such as masks, respirators and tests on the open market as well as has been working to get them produced in-state.

The governor also had some strong remarks for those who have ignored guidance to socially distance themselves, which was set off by crowds gathering at the cherry blossoms in D.C. on Saturday.

“Social distancing is not being enforced and it’s a little crazy to see the kind of crowds at the cherry blossoms,” Hogan said. “People have to listen…you are endangering not only yourself but your fellow citizens by not listening to these warnings.”

Hogan said that the virus doesn’t only affect older people and cited how over 40% of Maryland’s positive cases of COVID-19 were from the 18-54 age group.

He acknowledged that the pandemic is very disconcerting and peoples’ lives are disrupted, but it will take all levels of the government and the citizens as well to curb address the coronavirus.

“Everyone one of our citizens is a part of this and we can’t stop it without them cooperating,” Hogan said.

“Nobody knows where the end of this is or when the spikes are gonna happen, but progress is gonna be if we can somehow bend this curve down we can start to stop that spike so we don’t overload the healthcare system”

National emergency declared at 2 area military bases

The U.S. Army’s commanding general for the National Capital Region announced Saturday night that they had declared a public health emergency at Fort Meade, Maryland, and Fort Belvoir, Virginia.

According to a news release, the public health emergency allows authorities to better protect personnel and families by testing service members and limiting access to military installations.

The declaration will expire after 30 days unless it is renewed.

“Ensuring the health and safety of our soldiers, families and civilians is one of my greatest responsibilities,” said Maj. Gen. Omar J. Jones IV, commanding general of the National Capital Region said in a statement.

“We will continue to work with individual installations to make certain each post has capabilities to protect our people and mitigate the spread of the virus,” Jones said.


Virginia

Gov. Ralph Northam announces 67 new positive cases of coronavirus, bringing state’s total to 219

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam revealed that the state’s total number of positive COVID-19 cases jumped to 219 after 67 more people were confirmed to have contracted the coronavirus Sunday morning.

State health officials said the increase in positive cases came as private testing has become increasingly available.

“Make no mistake: we’re still in the early stages of that curve rising,” Northam said. “How high and how quickly those numbers rise is up to you and me and every single Virginian.”

Northam said that COVID-19 will affect residents’ daily lives for months and that people should begin adjusting to that reality, while recognizing that the uncertainty of the timeline will make people anxious.

He announced that the Virginia Department of Emergency Management, or VDEM, had made a shipment of personal protective equipment, or PPEs, such gloves, gowns, facemasks and respirators to emergency medical services, health districts and hospitals.

The governor called upon businesses to do their part to address the need for PPEs before crediting Home Depot for delivering the necessary items to VDEM.

“Our message has been clear: It is time to step up,” Northam said. “Now, Virginia needs your expertise in manufacturing, logistics and in the supply chain.”

Brian Moran, Virginia’s secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security, followed Northam to say that there have been no positive cases among prisoners in state and local prisons and jails.

Sick prisoners who presented symptoms did not meet Virginia Health Department guidelines to warrant testing for COVID-19.

Moran discussed how relief for inmates who are over 60 years old and at-risk of developing the coronavirus has been debated, but that without somewhere for them to go, it is not an option.

“The home plan for health care to be provided to that particular individual is paramount,” Moran said. “It would be immoral, it would be uncaring to release someone without a proper healthcare plan in place.”

Other measures that have been taken to prevent COVID-19’s spread into state prisons has been suspending visitation, as well as suspending transfers from local jails to prisons.

2nd COVID-19 case in Fairfax County assisted-living facility

Another resident of The Kensington, a senior living community in the City of Falls Church, has tested positive for the coronavirus, the Fairfax County Health Department announced on Sunday.

On Thursday, the county’s health department said that a resident, a man, had symptoms on March 14, and tests came back positive for the virus on March 16.

The health department, the facility and the city are collaborating on the investigation and taking action to prevent further spread, a statement said.

WTOP’s Abigail Constantino and Sandra Salathe contributed to this report.

Matthew Delaney

Matt Delaney is a digital web writer/editor who joined WTOP in 2020.

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