Editor’s note: The stay-at-home order for Maryland started Monday, March 30 at 8 p.m. An earlier version of this story contained an inaccurate description relating to the partial reopening of Liberty University. The campus partially reopened and did not call students back.
- Following moves by the governors of Maryland and Virginia, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, Monday afternoon, also issued a “stay at home” order, directing residents to stay in their homes except for getting food and other essential household goods, obtaining medical care, traveling to perform “essential” work and a few other exceptions, including outside recreation.
- The stay-at-home orders go in effect in D.C. on Wednesday, April 1 at 12:01 a.m.; Maryland on Monday, March 30 at 8 p.m.; and in Virginia, the order is effective immediately.
- Coronavirus cases in D.C., Maryland, and Virginia hit more than 2,900 Monday — more than quadrupling over the past week.
- The Federal Emergency Management Agency has granted D.C. a major disaster declaration in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- A new screening site set up by the Maryland National Guard opens at FedEx Field in Prince George’s County. The new site is by appointment only.
- The organizers of D.C.’s LGBTQ pride celebration in June say the annual event will be postponed. A statement from the board of director of the Capital Pride Alliance says new dates for the event “if applicable” will be announced in the coming weeks.
DC joins Md., Va.: Bowser issues stay-at-home order
Following similar moves by the governors of Maryland and Virginia, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, Monday afternoon, also issued a “stay at home” order, directing residents to stay in their homes except for trips to get food and other essential household goods, seeking medical care, traveling to perform “essential” work and a few other exceptions, including outside recreation.
The stay-at-home order in D.C. goes in effect on Wednesday, April 1 at 12:01 a.m.
“Our message remains the same: stay home,” Bowser said in a statement. “Staying at home is the best way to flatten the curve and protect yourself, your family, and our entire community from COVID-19. Many people want to know how they can help right now, and for most people this is how — by staying home.”
Violation of the order is a misdemeanor and punishable by a $5,000 and 90 days in jail, Bowser’s office said.
The flurry of stay at home orders issued by the region’s leaders Monday usher in more severe restrictions on daily life in an attempt to slow the spread of the deadly coronavirus. The orders come amid a continuing dramatic spike in the number of coronavirus cases in the broader D.C. region — more than 2,900 as of Monday night. Positive cases increased by more than 1,000 over the weekend alone.
Northam: ‘I expect all Virginians to comply’
Earlier Monday, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam issued a stay-at-home order, directing Virginians to stay home except for getting food, supplies, medical care, to go to work and to get fresh air and exercise. Northam’s order follows a similar directive from Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan.
The governor’s order goes into effect immediately and lasts until June 10, although the governor could cancel it earlier. Violation of the order is a Class I misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail and a $2,500 fine.
Northam has already limited the operations of nonessential business and banned large public gatherings. He said “most Virginians” are adhering to social distancing guidelines. “But it is clear more people need to hear this basic message: Stay home,” Northam said at a news conference Monday afternoon.
Regarding enforcement of the order, Northam said: “This is not a time when we are looking to put people in jail, but it is a time when I expect all Virginians to comply.” He said that police will enforce the order “if we see people gathered any place in Virginia, especially in parks and beaches.”
As part of the governor’s order, public campgrounds are being closed to short-term visitors and state beaches are closed except for personal exercise and fishing.
“Some of our beaches and other recreational areas were literally packed” over the weekend, Northam said. “Everyone who is gathering in a crowd is putting themselves and others at risk.”
Asked by reporters why he was issuing an order days after saying it wasn’t necessary, Northam, a former Army doctor, said, “I guess it can get a bit personal sometimes.”
He recounted meeting “real heroes” among Virginia’s doctors and first responders. “I see that, and I see people congregating on the beach and completely ignoring what we’re doing … putting all of us, especially our health care providers, at risk.”
Before, social distancing and limiting travel outside “was a suggestion,” Northam said. “Today it’s an order.”
While trips to the grocery store are still allowed under the governor’s order, Northam pressed residents to put off trips when possible. “Don’t go to the store for just one thing — wait until you have a full list,” he said.
Restaurants are still open for takeout and delivery, and nonessential stores are still limited to having 10 or fewer patrons, according to Angela Navarro, Virginia’s deputy secretary of commerce and trade.
Northam added that almost half of COVID-19 patients in Virginia are under 50. “No age group is immune to this virus,” he said.
The governor added that, “We need to be patient with social distancing,” saying, “It will take time to show results.”
He added, “What we’re seeing now is the result of how people interacted two or three weeks ago. What we will see a few weeks from now will be determined by how people behave today and in the following days.”
Md. Gov. Larry Hogan: ‘We are no longer asking’
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced his state’s stay-at-home order earlier Monday, directing Maryland residents not to leave their homes unless it’s for an “essential” purpose, such as getting food or medicine or going to work at a job that’s been deemed essential.
“This is a public health crisis. We are no longer asking or suggesting that Marylanders stay at home. We are directing them to do so,” Hogan said at a Monday news conference.
The stay-at-home order goes into effect at 8 p.m. Monday, Hogan said. A wireless emergency alert was sent to cell phones of Maryland residents on Monday alerting them to the stay-at-home order, Hogan said.
Speaking at the news conference Monday, Hogan said; “No Maryland resident should be leaving their home unless it is for an essential job or for an essential reason, such as obtaining food or medicine, seeking medical attention or for other necessary purposes.”
The text of the governor’s order lays out the parameters of the directive. Among the essential activities listed in the order include traveling for work that has been deemed essential (which includes restaurant delivery and pickup) and traveling to care for a family member, friend or even pet at another household or location.
Also allowed is engaging in outdoor exercise activities, such as walking, hiking, running or biking. However, people exercising outdoors should maintain social distancing practices and, even outdoors, gatherings of 10 or more people are prohibited.
“People are not locked in their homes,” Hogan said at the news conference. “We’re just telling people that they need to stay in their homes except for essential and necessary things.”
He added: “You should be able to get outside for your own physical and mental well-being and go for a walk and take your dog for a walk. You should not be going out with a crowd of 100 people congregating in a park somewhere … If your plumbing is leaking all over your house and you have to go out and do something about fixing that — that’s probably a necessary function. But you shouldn’t be out shopping for new carpets or cabinets or, you know, buying furniture or clothing. You should be buying the necessary things you need to survive.”
Failure to comply with the order is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail or a $5,000 fine or both, Hogan said.
Earlier this month, Hogan ordered nonessential businesses to close and banned public gatherings of 10 people or more.
Speaking Monday, Hogan said even businesses that are deemed essential and that are remaining open “must also make every effort to scale down their operations in order to reduce the number of required staff to limit in-person interaction with customers as much as they are able to, and to institute telework for as much of the workforce as is practical.”
Hogan said he has already directed state and local law enforcement to step up enforcement of the ban on large gatherings. Last week, a Charles County man who hosted a bonfire for about 60 people was arrested after he refused to break up the party.
FEMA grants DC disaster declaration
The Federal Emergency Management Agency has granted D.C. a major disaster declaration in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Chris Rodriguez, the District’s director of homeland security and emergency management, said at a Monday briefing.
Mayor Muriel Bowser explained that the declaration increases the share of D.C.’s response expenses that they can request from the federal government in reimbursement. Rodriguez called it “a critical part” of the District’s efforts to respond to the health crisis.
Bowser also said that drive-thru and walk-up testing sites, for people whose doctors have prescribed a test, will be set up by the end of the week at the United Medical Center, and that registration information is coming.
Bowser also said a testing site for first responders — police officers, firefighters and correctional officers — will open Monday. First responders will be told when and where the testing is being done when they receive referrals from their doctors.
Kevin Donahue, the deputy mayor for public safety, gave the numbers for D.C. first responders and inmates:
- Fire and EMS: 14 members of the D.C. Fire and EMS Department have tested positive; 177 are self-quarantining.
- Police: six officers are positive; 161 are self-quarantining.
- Department of Corrections: one officer has tested positive and 71 are quarantining, while four D.C. Jail inmates have tested positive and 83 are quarantined.
The District has had 495 cases of COVID-19 with nine deaths as of Monday night. “We haven’t seen the peak of the spread of the infection” or of deaths, Bowser said, adding that five members of her staff are self-quarantining after having had close contact with George Valentine, the deputy director of Bowser’s Office of Legal Counsel, who died last week of the virus.
Rodriguez also said that residential street sweeping and sweeping-related ticket enforcement; rush-hour ticketing (from 7-9 a.m. and 4-6 p.m.); tickets for expired license plates and inspection stickers, and booting and towing related to parking enforcement are all suspended.
He said that restaurant pickup and drop-off zones are being set up in 20 locations across the District, and that parking enforcement is in effect for those zones.
Bowser also called on Jackie Reyes-Yanes, the director of her Office of Latino Affairs, to tell residents in English and Spanish that D.C. first responders will not ask about immigration status when they deal with a possible COVID-19 patient. She said that people with the symptoms — fever, cough and shortness of breath — should call their doctors, and if they don’t have one, to call Mary’s Center at 844-796-2797.
The mayor said the federal aid is not a substitute for the money D.C. was hoping to see from the federal government in the relief bill passed last week, which helps states and localities with the economic impacts of the public health emergency.
Coronavirus cases quadruple in region
The number of coronavirus cases in D.C., Maryland and Virginia continues to rise, hitting more than 2,900 Monday night. That’s an increase of more than 1,000 new cases since Friday.
The number of coronavirus cases in the region overall has more than quadrupled from this time a week ago when there were 650 cases.
Maryland has reported the highest number of coronavirus cases in the region — 1,413 as of Monday morning. Montgomery County and Prince George’s County have reported the highest number of cases in the state.
The National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, confirmed that as of Friday, March 27, 28 staff members tested positive for COVID-19. These cases are included in the Montgomery and Maryland state numbers.
Adding to the state’s total are dozens of new cases stemming form a COVID-19 outbreak in a nursing home in Mt. Airy, Maryland. More than half of the Carroll County nursing home’s residents — 67 people — tested positive for the virus, one has died and 11 others were hospitalized. In addition, staff members at the Pleasant View nursing home are experiencing coronavirus symptoms, authorities said.
During the news conference Monday, Hogan called Pleasant View outbreak potentially a “worst-case scenario” because of the sheer number of cases, but he said there are smaller outbreaks at senior centers and nursing home across the state.
On Monday, Virginia reported 130 more COVID-19 cases, bringing the state’s total to 1,020.
Of them, 225 cases are in the Fairfax County area; 86 in Arlington County; 61 in Loudoun County; and 87 in the Prince William County area
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D.C. on Monday recorded 94 new positive cases, bringing the city’s new total to 495.
The number of deaths across the region has also more than quadrupled — from 11 at this time last week to 49.
The rapid increase in the number of positive cases comes in part as more people are being tested. Overall, nearly 30,000 people in the region have been tested for the coronavirus, according to health department data — about 14,700 in Maryland; 12,000 in Virginia and some 3,700 in D.C.
FedEx Field testing site opens
In Prince George’s County, a new COVID-19 screening site set up by the National Guard opened Monday at FedEx Field. The screening site is by appointment only. It’s designed to alleviate the pressure on primary care doctors and hospitals as more people are expected to fall ill and seek testing.
People who are experiencing coronavirus symptoms need to call the Prince George’s County Health Department’s COVID-19 hotline at 301-883-6627 to first receive an initial telehealth screening. If callers meet CDC criteria, they’ll be assigned an appointment time to arrive at FedEx Field.
The screening site is open Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
The FedEx Field site is opening on schedule even after a member of the Maryland National Guard tested positive for COVID-19 last week.
“The Maryland National Guard took the appropriate steps to care for their personnel and we feel confident in moving forward with our partners to open the site,” a news release from Prince George’s County stated. “In addition, the site was cleaned over the weekend using industrial cleaning solutions.”
In addition, Hogan announced Monday that three Maryland motor vehicle emissions inspection stations have been repurposed as drive-thru testing sites and opened Monday.
The drive-thru test sites are at three VEIP locations in Glen Burnie, Waldorf and Bel Air.
“This is for at-risk people with symptoms of the disease, who will not be tested in emergency rooms or in crowded physicians’ offices,” said Dr. Fran Phillips, deputy secretary for public health services in Maryland. “The point of these test sites is to pull people away from those health care facilities to spare the emergency rooms and to allow for testing in an alternative site. This is not for everyone.”
WTOP’s Abigail Constantino, Dan Friedell and Megan Cloherty contributed to this report.