Coronavirus updates: DC announces 1st COVID-19 death; Maryland reports 2nd death

The latest

  • Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced that a second person has died from COVID-19. The patient was a Baltimore County man in his 60s who had underlying medical conditions.
  • Hogan is also calling on spring break travelers to self-quarantine for 14 days and avoid people over age 60.
  • Also in Maryland, a U.S. Navy civilian employee at the Naval Academy in Annapolis tested positive for the coronavirus, the academy said.
  • D.C. Public Schools will remain closed and students will participate in distance learning until April 27, extending the previously announced closure by nearly a month.
  • In addition, measures in D.C. banning large gatherings and prohibiting dine-in services at restaurants and bars will continue through most of April.
  • The D.C. Health Department confirms the first COVID-19 death in the District, a 59-year-old man with an underlying medical conditions.
  • The Trump administration has decided to push the federal income tax filing date to July 15 from April 15.
  • Gov. Ralph Northam gives an update on state’s coronavirus response efforts. Unemployment claims in the state spiked this week.
  • Fredericksburg City in Virginia extended its school closures until April 14. Staff should not report to work unless told by their supervisor. All buildings will be closed.
  • Maryland reports another jump in cases as testing ramps up. As of Friday morning, there are 149 COVID-19 cases in the state, including the first case of an infant contracting the disease.

DC

Schools, bars and restaurants to remain closed through most of April

In a news conference Friday, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser announced that all public schools, restaurants and bars would remain closed in the District for nearly all of April in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, significantly extending closures announced earlier this month.

D.C. Public Schools will remain closed through April 24, according to the mayor, with students set to return to the classroom on April 27 at the earliest. The announcement extends the closure of schools by nearly a month. DCPS was initially set to reopen March 31.

Bowser said she made the decision to extend the school closure in part to see if the strategy of social distancing was actually working to slow the spread of the virus.

“We would not have had enough time to see if those strategies were working” by April 1, Bowser said.

In addition, Bowser also said a ban on 50 people or more in the District and a ban on dine-in services at restaurant and bars would also be extended through most of April.

Large swathes of the District government would remain teleworking through April, Bowser said.

Paul Kihn, the District’s deputy mayor for education, said even with the extended closure, educational work will continue.

“The District will continue to work with schools to build upon and expand consistent methods for remote instruction of students,” he said, noting that distance learning is a new concept for many students and teachers in DCPS.

Kihn said D.C. education officials will seek a waiver from the federal Department of Education to cancel PARCC and DC Science Assessments for the 2019-2020 school year.

In addition, the District is working to find additional child care options for parents who work in the medical field and are supporting the fight against COVID-19.

“We want to ensure child care for the children of critical health care workers,” Kihn said.

The District is working to identify whether some child care centers that have recently closed might be willing to reopen to serve the children of those workers.


More Coronavirus News


DC records 1st coronavirus death; DC police officer tests positive

The news conference came the same day the District recorded its first coronavirus-related death.

A 59-year-old man who was hospitalized last week with coronavirus symptoms and later tested positive, died, the D.C. Department of Health announced Friday. The health department said he had other underlying medical conditions.

“It is with great sadness that we announce a tragic death and, on behalf of our residents, I share our love and condolences with the patient’s family and friends,” Bowser said in a statement.

The man did not report a history of recent travel but may have had contact with another positive case, according to Dr. LaQuandra Nesbitt, the director of D.C. Health.

Earlier this week, Maryland authorities announced that state’s first coronavirus-related death, a Prince George’s County man in his 60s. There have been two deaths in Virginia from the virus, both in James City County north of Newport News.

At the news conference Friday, Bowser said a member of the D.C. police force has also tested positive for the virus.

The patient is a detective who lives in Maryland, Bowser said. Health authorities are doing contact tracing to see who may have come in contact with the detective. She said more information would be forthcoming from D.C. police.

Earlier this week, it was announced three members of the D.C. Fire and EMS Service are among the positive COVID-19 cases in D.C. More than 140 firefighters who may have been exposed to the virus are being asked to self-quarantine.

More than 11,000 unemployment claims filed as closures extend

The closure of dine-in services at restaurants and bars in the District is already taking a toll.

As of Friday, a total of 11,844 workers in D.C. filed unemployment claims, according to Unique Morris-Hughes, the director of the D.C. Department of Employment Services. The District is waiving a requirement that workers be laid off for at least a week before filing their claims.

Bowser said the District’s bottom line is also being hit hard.

“When you talk about hotels and restaurants closing, they represent a lot of tax dollars that we won’t collect,” she said. “So while we are looking for ways to give relief to businesses and residents, we’re also looking at our own cash flow as a city and determining how we’re going to maintain our operations and provide relief.”

When asked by a reporter if her administration was taking steps to issue a “shelter in place” order similar to one issued in San Francisco, Bowser declined to say, instead focusing on the steps she has already taken.

“We have virtually shut down our thriving economy in Washington, D.C., so that we can blunt the curve and get back to regular business just as soon as possible,” Bowser said.

Law against stockpiling; D.C. issues cease-and-desist letter to store marking up cleaning wipes

D.C. has made it illegal for companies and individuals to stockpile products.

“We want to make sure that everyone has fair access to the essentials that they need during this crisis, things like hand sanitizer, disinfecting products,” said Ben Wiseman, with the Office of Consumer Protection at the D.C. Attorney General’s office.

Anyone caught hoarding is subject to a $5,000 penalty.

Wiseman said his office has set up a rapid response team that’s working with the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, and they have already issued a cease-and-desist letter to a store that was marking up the cost of cleaning wipes.

When the mayor issued a state of emergency last week, the order included making price gouging illegal. If you see price gouging in stores or online, you’re encouraged to call the consumer protection hotline at 202-442-9828 or email consumer.protection@dc.gov

American University reports 4 more positive cases; Georgetown University student tests positive

American University said Friday that four people from the university community tested positive for the coronavirus: three students and one alumnus.

Two of the students were tested through the student health center, live off-campus and recently returned from overseas. The third student currently lives outside of the D.C. area. The alumnus attended a university-sponsored event that took place off-campus.

All four are self-isolating in their homes.

Earlier this week, the university reported that a student living on-campus tested positive for coronavirus.

Georgetown announced Friday that a student living on campus tested positive for COVID-19. The student did not have roommates and had not been on campus since March 12. The student is receiving medical care at home.

Virginia

Fairfax County schools to announce plans for distance learning next week

Fairfax County Public Schools will plan to reopen to students on April 14. Monday, April 13 is scheduled as a teacher work day.

However, school Superintendent Scott Brabrand said during a live broadcast on Facebook on Friday that the “situation continues to evolve day by day.”

Plans for distance learning will be announced next week, which include details on how to distribute technology to students who need it.

In addition, the school system is working on how to support students with special needs during the school closure.

As for graduation Brabrand said he is committed to “to do everything we can to have a graduation exercise for our students.” He is also working with high school principals to delay the cancellation of proms “till as late as possible.”

During the closure, crews are cleaning the schools, including extra cleaning at Lynnbrook Elementary in Springfield, where a teacher was diagnosed with COVID-19.

Spike in unemployment claims in Virginia

The coronavirus pandemic is having an economic impact, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam said during a news conference Friday.

As of Thursday, some 30,000 Virginians had filed unemployment claims, said Megan Healy, the state’s chief workforce development adviser. Of those, about 16,000 were filed on Thursday, alone.

Healy said more and more state workers are coming into call centers to receive claims, and some of the DMV call centers are being repurposed to support the added volume.

She said the state’s top priority is to make sure those who have been sickened by the coronavirus are getting the help they need, but she understands many people are concerned about their ability to buy food or pay bills, and she encouraged people to apply for unemployment, even if they think they may not be eligible.

She encouraged Virginians to first try to make their claims online.

Virginia is not making applicants wait a week before filing their claims and is waiving the work search requirement, Healy said.

“The government has waived the waiting week and the work search requirement,” Healy said.

“Hopefully [those who apply] can start getting money with direct deposit [within the next week]. We want everyone to apply even if you think you can’t get it.”

Healy noted that eligibility for unemployment is constantly being reviewed, so even if you are deemed ineligible this week, it’s worth uploading your information.

“If you are denied this week,” Healy said. “We will keep the data, and we will go back and see if the eligibility changes.”

Virginia plans to expand testing at nursing homes

The Virginia Department of Health, which recently upped its testing capacity, is planning to expand testing at nursing homes and long-term facilities by relaxing criteria on who should get tested, said Dr. Norm Oliver, deputy commissioner for population health for the Virginia Department of Health.

Oliver said elderly people in nursing homes are among the most vulnerable to COVID-19.

The new testing guidelines are expected to be issued Friday.

So far, the state health lab and private labs have performed more than 2,000 tests in the state. The health department has the capacity to perform an additional 1,000 tests, Oliver said.

Even with the expanded testing capacity, health officials are not ready to roll out large-scale population testing, like what has been done in South Korea, for instance.

“We have to have some criteria to screen patients before testing, otherwise those 1,000 tests will be used up quite rapidly,” Norman said.

Northam: Continue social distancing

Northam continued a call for Virginia residents to continue social distancing, as state health official recorded another increase in positive COVID-19 cases.

“While we’re seeing an increased number of positive cases, we’ve doing everything possible to keep that curve as flat as possible,” Northam said, referring to limiting the number of new cases.

The Virginia Department of Health recorded a total of 114 positive COVID-19 results as of Friday morning — an increase of 20 cases since Thursday.

Northam said he’s hearing of business that aren’t abiding by an executive order he issued earlier this week limiting indoor gatherings to 10 people or fewer. Northam said local authorities have the power to enforce the limits on restaurants, fitness centers and theaters.

“And I fully expect them to use it when needed,” Northam said. “But many businesses and many people are doing the responsible thing.”

GMU student hospitalized; Virginia pastor tests positive

George Mason University announced Friday that a student who attended its Arlington campus has tested positive for the virus and is currently hospitalized.

The school said it learned of the diagnosis on the evening of March 19.

The student lived off campus and was believed to have last been on the Arlington campus on March 4, the school said.

George Mason has already canceled most in-person classes and is implementing distance learning for the rest of the semester.

The Arlington County Healthy Department is investigating whether anyone else within the school community should self-isolate or quarantine.

Overall, there have been 17 positive COVID-19 cases in Arlington County, according to Virginia Department of Health figures.

In the Bailey’s Crossroads area, Crossroads Baptist Church said in a Facebook post that its pastor Kenny Baldwin, has tested positive for coronavirus.

Maryland

Maryland reports 2nd death from COVID-19

On Friday night, Gov. Larry Hogan announced a second COVID-19 death in Maryland. The patient was a Baltimore County man in his 60s who had underlying medical conditions.

“This is a public health crisis like nothing we have ever faced before — we are all in this together, and we will get through this together,” Hogan said in a statement.

Hogan calls on spring breakers to self-quarantine

Hogan is calling on spring break travelers to self-quarantine for the next 14 days and to avoid people over the age of 60, who are more susceptible to developing serious health complications from the virus.

All Maryland public schools are closed, and the University of Maryland system announced Thursday that students would not return to campus for the rest of the semester.

“Even though students are not returning to campus, this should not in any way be treated as an extension of your spring break,” Hogan said in a statement. “If you ignore this recommendation, you are endangering yourself and the health of others.”

Hogan also continued calling on Marylanders to “avoid crowds at all costs,” including playgrounds, pavilions and anywhere where more than 10 people gather. “Please do not take this guidance lightly,” Hogan said in the statement.

Dozens of new cases in Maryland, including 1st infant in state

Maryland recorded another jump in coronavirus cases. As of Friday morning, there are 149 COVID-19 cases in the state, an increase of 42 cases since Thursday. Officials have said they expect dramatic increases in positive cases to continue as testing ramps up.

Among the new cases is the first infant in the state to test positive for COVID-19, as well as the first teen, the governor’s office said. Neither of those two patients have been hospitalized.

Overall, two-thirds of cases in Maryland are between the ages of 18 and 64.

All MVA branches to close

The Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration announced all branch locations across the state will close at 4:30 p.m. Friday and remain closed indefinitely.

Earlier this month, MVA locations had canceled all walk-ins, moving to an appointments-only basis. All previously scheduled appointments are now canceled.

Hogan issued an executive order earlier this month extending all drivers’ licenses, permits and registrations that are set to expire until after the state of emergency lifts.

Self-service kiosks remain open and the MVA is reminding Marylanders that many services are available online at mva.maryland.gov.

WTOP’s Teta Alim, Kristi King and Dan Friedell contributed to this report. 

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