Coronavirus update: DC positive cases jump to 183; nonessential businesses to close Wednesday

Cyclists ride past the Tidal Basin in Washington, D.C., on March 20, 2020. (WTOP/Dan Friedell)

The latest

  • Congress and the White House have agreed on a $2 trillion coronavirus relief bill.
  • D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser ordered more nonessential businesses to close starting 10 p.m. Wednesday.
  • Metro is closing more than a dozen stations for an indefinite period beginning Thursday morning, in an effort to limit Metro’s staffing and cleaning requirements amid the coronavirus outbreak. Read more.
  • President Donald Trump said Tuesday he is hoping the United States will be reopened by Easter.
  • The Maryland Department of Health says a fourth COVID-19 patient in the state has died. The patient was a Prince George’s County man in his 60s, who suffered from underlying health conditions, the department said in a brief statement.
  • An elementary school staff member in Montgomery County, Maryland, and a teacher in Prince George’s County have tested positive for COVID-19, according to officials in both counties.
  • An Arlington County, Virginia, firefighter tested positive.

Positive cases rise across the region

The number of positive COVID-19 cases continue to rise —  there were 822 cases as of Tuesday night.

D.C. reported 183 positive case on Tuesday, up 46 from 137 on Monday. It is largest single-day increase in the District to date. Of the new cases, over 50% included patients younger than 40 years old.

Maryland has 349 cases, the most in the region. Of those, more than 100 cases — 30% of the state’s total number of cases — are in Montgomery County.

There are 290 cases in Virginia, including a member of the Arlington County Fire Department.

Nationwide, there are more than 44,000 positive cases, and some 544 deaths have been recorded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

President Trump hopes to see economy reopen by Easter

President Donald Trump said Tuesday during a briefing with the coronavirus task force that he is hoping the U.S. will be reopened by Easter as he weighs how to relax nationwide social-distancing guidelines to put some workers back on the job during the outbreak, while contradicting the warnings of public health officials on the direction of the crisis.

Trump’s comments came even as White House officials urged people who have left New York City amid the outbreak to self-quarantine for 14 days after their departure, owing to the widespread rate of infection in the metro area.

Metro to close over a dozen more stations starting Thursday

Metro is closing more than a dozen stations for an indefinite period beginning Thursday morning.

Trains will pass through the stations in D.C., Maryland and Virginia without stopping, but trains will serve the stations that are open. Find out which stations and station entrances are closing.

See how local transit agencies are adjusting their schedules and services during the coronavirus outbreak.

D.C.

Mayor orders nonessential businesses to close

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said she is ordering nonessential business in the District to close starting on Wednesday at 10 p.m. The order will remain in effect until April 24, 2020, or until it is extended, rescinded or amended by another order.

The order applies to salons, barbershops, tattoo parlors, tanning salons and other services not related to emergency response, Bowser said during a news conference Tuesday morning.

A number of retailers will also be considered nonessential and ordered to close, Bowser said later in the day during a telephone town hall with senior citizens. Clothing stores, furniture stores and bicycle shops will all be considered nonessential, Bowser said.

Grocery stores, pharmacies and big-box retailers like Walmart and Target, will be deemed essential and will stay open. Liquor stores can also stay open.

Read the D.C. mayor’s order and find out which businesses are deemed essential and nonessential.

Under previous orders from D.C.’s Health Department, restaurants and bars have been forced to close dine-in services, offering takeout and delivery only. In addition, gyms, theaters, cafeterias and night clubs were also previously ordered closed until April 27, under an order to limit large gatherings.

Bowser announced Sunday that the National Guard and D.C. police would block roads near the National Mall and Tidal Basin in an attempt to limit large crowds visiting the cherry blossoms.

Bowser still has not issued a shelter-in-place order, arguing that limiting the number of places people can go is enough, at least for now.

“We have shut down, virtually, economic activity in our region,” she said Tuesday. “That is how we’ll flatten the curve.”

The steps Bowser previewed are similar to measures announced earlier this week by the leaders of Maryland and Virginia.

In Maryland, Gov. Larry Hogan ordered all nonessential businesses in the state to close Monday evening. (Grocery stores, big-box retailers and many other businesses are considered essential.)

In Virginia, Gov. Ralph Northam ordered all recreational and entertainment businesses to close. Other nonessential stores can remain open but only with 10 or fewer patrons inside, per the governor’s order. Grocery stores, health services and businesses in the supply chain can stay open.

President Donald Trump has signaled his displeasure with the economic impact of long-term closures, and suggested the White House guidelines on limiting gatherings could be lifted as soon as next week.

“We can’t have the cure be worse than the problem,” Trump said at a briefing Monday.

Responding to a reporter’s question Tuesday about Trump’s comments, Bowser said, “We will continue to follow what we see on the ground in D.C.,” and work in coordination with Maryland and Virginia.

“It is alarming to hear the president say that, without medical and health guidance, that he would put restarting the economy ahead of saving lives.”

She added, “It would be premature to go back to normal before we see a blunting of the curve in the United States.”

D.C. officials also announced a new grant program for small businesses and nonprofits is now taking applications. The grants, which run up to $25,000, help cover workers’ wages and benefits as well as rent and operating expenses for businesses and nonprofits.

‘Distance learning is not a vacation’

D.C. Public Schools buildings remain closed until April 27, although “distance learning” began Tuesday. Teachers and administrators have prepared special packets as well as online activities, including video chats, to continue teaching.

“Distance learning is not a vacation,” said Deputy Mayor Paul Kihn. “We expect that teaching and learning will continue.”

A new fund, the D.C. Education Equity Fund, has raised $1 million to provide internet access and devices to students without resources.

In Virginia, Northam also announced all K-12 schools would stay closed through the remainder of the school year.

National Arboretum closed to visitors

The National Arboretum, a springtime hot spot in the District, will close to visitors “in a continued effort to mitigate the spread of coronavirus,” the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced Tuesday.

The closure, which covers all areas of the arboretum, including the grounds and outdoor collections, goes into effect Tuesday. The visitor center and museum were closed earlier this month.

The D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation is reminding residents that city parks, facilities, playgrounds and other gated facilities, such as sports fields, are closed and won’t reopen until April 27.

In Virginia, Northam on Monday ordered public access to recreational facilities in the state closed. While parks and amenities, such as visitor centers, picnic areas, playgrounds and restrooms are closed, trails remain open for people to use, but social distancing recommendations are in effect.

D.C.’s Funk Parade canceled

Jeffery Tribble, the executive director of The MusicianShip, the educational nonprofit that organizes the Funk Parade, said in a statement on Tuesday that while the parade was set for May 9 and the public health emergency is set to expire on April 27, “it is difficult for us to continue planning for, and pouring resources into, our annual festival, which may be cancelled due to continuing public health concerns.


More Coronavirus News


MARYLAND

4th COVID-19 patient in Maryland dies

The Maryland Department of Health says a fourth COVID-19 patient in the state has died. The patient was a Prince George’s County man in his 60s, who suffered from underlying health conditions, the department said in a brief statement.

This is the second Prince George’s County resident to die from the illness. A Baltimore County man in his 60s and a Montgomery County woman in her 40s diagnosed with coronavirus have also died, according to the health department. All four patients had underlying health conditions.

A total of 13 people have died of the illness in D.C., Maryland and Virginia. Two of the deaths involved D.C patients. Another seven patients in Virginia have died, including, most recently, a man in his 70s in Virginia Beach.

Elementary school staff members in Montgomery, Prince George’s Co. test positive

An elementary school staff member in Montgomery County, Maryland, and a teacher in Prince George’s County have tested positive for COVID-19, according to officials in both counties.

The Prince George’s County case involves a teacher at Templeton Elementary School, according to the school system. “I know that you join me in extending well-wishes and prayers for the employee’s recovery,” school CEO Monica Goldson said in a statement.

No other information was provided about the person’s condition.

The Montgomery County patient, a staff member at Whetstone Elementary School in Montgomery Village, is the first MCPS employee to test positive for the virus, according to Dr. Travis Gayles, the county’s health officer.

In a statement, the school system said no students or other staff members are at risk of exposure because the person did not develop any coronavirus symptoms until after the final day at school.

Earlier this month, Hogan ordered all public schools to close between March 16 through March 27. A decision about whether schools will reopen next week is expected this week.

Annapolis mayor self-isolating after potential exposure

Annapolis Mayor Gavin Buckley says he is “restricting his own personal movements” after possibly being exposed to a person who is now being tested for COVID-19.

Buckley alerted City Council members and the heads of city departments Tuesday morning and announced the move via a news release.

It will take about five days for the other person’s test results. Buckley has no symptoms and has not, himself, been tested for coronavirus. He said he was alerted to the potential exposure late Monday afternoon.

Buckley’s public appearances will be canceled for the remainder of the week.

“I am working from home, continuing to do city business through telework and virtual meetings,” Buckley said.

VIRGINIA

Virginia Gov. Northam on deciding when to reopen: ‘We have to use science’

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam disagreed with Trump’s desire to lift health guidelines on social distancing by Easter very soon in an effort to alleviate the economic slump that the coronavirus has prompted.

“I think we have to use science,” Northam said at a news conference with health officials on Tuesday. “We have to use data; we have to use consultation with folks like I have behind me. While it would be nice to say that this will be behind us in two to three weeks, that’s not what the data tells us.” He also said, “The sooner we can get this health crisis behind us, the sooner our economy can recover.”

Northam said the number of cases in the U.S. and in Virginia, which have skyrocketed in recent days, will continue to rise.

“Our numbers are going to keep going up,” he said. “Our deaths are going to keep going up. We have nowhere come close to hitting the peak of that curve.” He said social distancing is helping to slow the spread of the virus, thus keeping the affected numbers of people within the capacity of health systems.

He also said, “This will be our new normal for a while. As I’ve said, for months, not weeks. But it will not be forever. We will get through this.”

Northam reiterated that his restrictions on restaurants and retail and service businesses go into effect at 11:59 p.m. Tuesday.

He added that businesses who have questions about the restrictions can email business@virginia.gov for more information.

Arlington County firefighter tests positive for COVID-19

Arlington County said Tuesday that a member of the fire department has tested positive for COVID-19. The patient is managing the illness at home, and county’s health division is investigating any potential exposures with people who came in contact with the patient.

In D.C. eight members of Fire and EMS, including an assistant fire chief, have tested positive, as well as two D.C. police officers.

Northam said the Virginia government has received personal protective equipment such as masks from the national stockpile and has started to distribute them to health departments and health providers. They’ve also been in contact with non-medical industries such as coal and tobacco companies that may have spares, have placed an order from overseas, and have “promising leads” from other companies about converting facilities.

WTOP’s Abigail Constantino, Max Smith and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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