- A Prince George’s County, Maryland, resident in his 60s, who had an underlying medical condition, has died from the coronavirus, Gov. Larry Hogan said. It’s Maryland’s first coronavirus-related death.
- President Trump signed a coronavirus relief package Wednesday night.
- Two D.C. Fire and EMS member has tested positive; 73 firefighters are being asked to quarantine.
- Among other new cases in the region: A U.S. Marshal at D.C. Superior Court and a George Washington University student.
- D.C. reported eight new cases Wednesday night, bringing the total positive cases in D.C. to 39.
- The White House coronavirus task force announced a series of new steps, including calling on hospitals nationwide to delay all elective procedures.
- Maryland has again recorded a jump in new coronavirus cases. There are now 85 cases in the state — an increase of 28 cases since Tuesday. Gov. Larry Hogan has warned the public the numbers will continue to rise as more people are tested.
- Virginia has also recorded 10 new cases, for a total of 77 cases.
- Hundreds of thousands of federal employees across the country are being told to telework
A look at new cases around the region
All told, there are more than 200 cases of coronavirus disease in D.C., Maryland and Virginia. We’re learning more about some of the recent cases.
Maryland reports first COVID-19 related death
On Wednesday, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced that a Prince George’s County man in his 60s who had an underlying medical condition is the first COVID-19 death in Maryland.
“As we pray for his loved ones, I ask that we continue to pray for each other, for our state, and for our nation as we face this crisis together,” Hogan said in a statement.
Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks said that the county is heartbroken over the news that one its residents lost his life to the coronavirus disease.
“This pandemic represents an unprecedented crisis for Prince George’s County,” said Alsobrooks, who also expressed that the county is confronting the outbreak head on and “working around the clock to protect the well being of our residents.”
Hogan will hold a news conference at 10 a.m. on Thursday to provide updates.
2 D.C. first responders test positive; 73 firefighters quarantined
Two members of the DC Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department have tested positive for coronavirus, according to a statement from Chief Gregory Dean.
DC Health was notified of the positive test Monday and is doing contact tracing of the patient, which includes contacting other fire and EMS personnel and other individuals who may have had contact with the patient. On Wednesday night, another member of the department was reported to have tested positive.
It’s unclear how many first responders were identified as being potentially exposed to the virus.
But the firefighters union, the D.C. Fire Fighters Association, confirmed to WTOP that at least 73 firefighters are being asked to quarantine due to coronavirus concerns from the first reported case. Six of the firefighters were asked to self-quarantine because of recent travel.
GWU student tests positive
A student at George Washington University has tested positive for coronavirus, the university confirmed Wednesday.
The student lives off campus, is doing well and has self-isolated off-campus, according to a statement from GW.
The university is working with DC Health to identify anyone on campus who may have been in contact with the patient. DC Health is directly notifying anyone who may have been exposed to the virus and providing instructions on monitoring for symptoms, a recommendation to self-quarantine and an assessment to determine if testing is needed.
Anyone not directly notified by DC Health is not identified to be at risk of developing symptoms as it relates to this particular case. However, GW advises anyone in the university community who is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms to call the Colonial Health Center at 202-994-5300 or their health care provider.
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US Marshal in DC Superior Court
A U.S. Marshal at D.C. Superior Court has tested positive for coronavirus — the first known case potentially affecting a jail population in the D.C. area.
The chief deputy U.S. Marshal for D.C. Superior Court said the man started feeling sick Friday and went to the doctor Saturday. The marshal just received his positive diagnosis.
The marshal was assigned to work in two D.C. courtrooms that see a lot of traffic — where dozens of defendants, including juveniles, cycle through for their arraignments. The marshal also had interactions in corresponding cell blocks.
The case potentially affects the U.S. Attorney’s Office for D.C., the Public Defender Service, the D.C. jail population and the public. However, no one the marshal knows he interacted with has exhibited symptoms, officials said.
A D.C. judge has reduced the number of courtrooms that will be operational in the Moultrie Courthouse. Operations that will go forward include adult arraignments; juvenile, neglect and abuse hearings; and emergency matters.
Largest owner of shopping malls in U.S. temporarily closing retail properties
Simon Property Group announced that it is closing all of its retail properties, including malls and outlets, in the U.S. until March 29.
“The health and safety of our shoppers, retailers and employees is of paramount importance and we are taking this step to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 in our communities,” said David Simon, chairman, CEO and president of Simon, in a statement.
The company owns several retail properties in Virginia and Maryland, including The Fashion Centre at Pentagon City and Potomac Mills in Virginia, and Arundel Mills and Clarksburg Premium Outlets in Maryland.
Changes for police and jails
In D.C., concerns over the coronavirus is changing how police operate.
In a news release, D.C. police said if you call for police services and you are experiencing symptoms of the flu or COVID-19, such as fever or shortness of breath, you should notify the police dispatcher. In addition, D.C. police will try to maintain social distance when interacting with the public and, when possible, will ask to speak with people who call police outside their homes.
The coronavirus response is also changing daily life for inmates at the region’s jails and prisons.
The Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services suspended visits to Maryland correctional facilities last week. The department said it’s offering free phone calls and video visitation for inmates. In-person visits have also been suspended in Virginia prisons and at the D.C. jail.
Visits have also been suspended at local jails, including Prince George’s County and Fairfax County.
In Prince George’s County, State’s Attorney Aisha Braveboy said her office is working with the county’s public defender office to review releasing some inmates.
“It is important that we take steps to ensure that the virus doesn’t spread among our jail population,” Braveboy said in a video statement posted on Twitter. “The jail is a place that could present a breeding ground and further prolong this crisis.”
Braveboy said authorities will consider releasing inmates for people charged with low-level offenses, nonviolent offenses and inmates with a short time left on their sentences. “Our goal is to safely and judiciously reduce the jail population,” she added.
Under an order issued by D.C. Superior Court Chief Judge Robert Morin, police and prosecutors in the District are given the authority to issue citations instead of detaining people before their first court appearance.
White House announces new steps
At a briefing Wednesday afternoon of the White House coronavirus task force, President Donald Trump invoked the sacrifices made on the home front during World War II in describing the effort needed to battle the novel coronavirus. Remembering people who worked around the clock in factories building ships and making munitions, he said, “Now it’s our time.”
Trump said he was activating the Defense Production Act “just in case we need it” to increase private-sector production of masks and ventilators.
Among other steps announced by the White House:
- The Department of Housing and Urban Development is suspending evictions and foreclosures until the end of April.
- The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is calling on hospitals nationwide limit non-essential medical procedures, including dental procedures.
- Defense Secretary Mark Esper said that the military is making two hospital ships and several temporary hospitals are getting ready to deploy. He also ordered up to 5 million N95 protective masks and up to 2,000 ventilators from the Pentagon’s strategic reserves to the Department of Health and Human Services.
Maryland records another jump in cases
Maryland has, for the second day in a row, recorded a jump in new COVID-19 cases. There are now 85 cases in the state, an increase of 28 cases since Tuesday. Of the total number of cases, 31 are in Montgomery County and 20 are in Prince George’s County.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan has warned the public he expects the number of cases to continue to rise as more people are tested and as the virus spreads through person-to-person transmission.
Virginia Gov. Northam gives update amid new cases
On Wednesday, Virginia health officials announced 10 new cases in the state, bringing the total number of cases in the commonwealth to 77. More than half of those cases — 39 cases — are in Northern Virginia.
Dr. Norm Oliver, with the Virginia Department of Health, said there are three separate COVID-19 outbreaks in Virginia, helping drive the increase in cases. An outbreak is defined as two more cases that can be traced to a common exposure, Oliver said.
One of the outbreaks are in James City County, north of Newport News, and the other two are in the Richmond area.
Speaking at the news conference, Gov. Ralph Northam said he hadn’t yet made the decision to activate the National Guard, but “it’s certainly an option that’s on the table.”
The National Guard’s been used in past disaster and crisis situations to perform tasks such as delivering food. During the coronavirus pandemic, Northam said he could foresee the National Guard helping ease hospital capacity, staffing and equipment needs.
“We have been in contact with the leadership of our National Guard to make sure that they’re ready, in the need that we do call them,” Northam said.
Virginia day cares to be held to 10-person limit
Duke Storen, commissioner of the Virginia Department of Social Services, said his office is releasing new guidance to child care providers across the state with measures they should take to follow the governor’s recent order calling for a 10-person limit inside businesses.
Storen said the guidance would apply the 10-person limit to child care classrooms, including teachers.
“We know that this will be a hardship for many childcare providers to change their model, but we know that they are up to the task,” Storen said.
He added the department will also ask child care providers to feed children in their individual classes and stagger outside recess to one classroom at a time. His office will also provide tips for programming that can be done that keeps kids 6 feet apart. Parents who are not essential personnel are urged to stay home with children to make available capacity in child care centers.
Federal employees teleworking
Hundreds of thousands of federal employees across the U.S. are being told to telework Wednesday. The Office of Management and Budget has directed agencies to maximize telework as much as possible.
“The government must immediately adjust operations and services to minimize face-to-face interactions, especially at those offices or sites where people may be gathering in close proximity or where highly vulnerable populations obtain services,” a memo from OMB reads.
MedStar postpones all elective procedures
MedStar Health is postponing all elective procedures and surgeries, starting Thursday, in response to the spread of the coronavirus.
The health system has seven hospitals in Maryland and three in the District.
“This decision was made after thoughtful consideration and planning, including how we best use our resources to meet the needs of our patients balanced against mitigating risk to our patients, associates and families,” Marianne Worley, the health care organization’s assistant vice president of public relations and communications, said in a release.
Medstar will make case-by-case decisions based on the circumstances of each patient, and will reach out to affected patients.
Need groceries? Several stores making adjustments
Starting March 18, Whole Foods Market has service hours for customers who are 60 years old or older. Those customers can shop an hour before opening to the general public. More information here.
Target is reducing hours and closing all stores by 9 p.m. daily. Also, vulnerable groups can start shopping earlier each Wednesday. More information here.
Safeway is modifying their hours and are asking customers to check their local Safeway for adjusted hours. Find your local Safeway here.
Starting Friday, Giant Food is reserving 6 a.m. to 7 a.m. for shoppers 60 and older and those with compromised immune systems.
Stop and Shop will also reserve a designated entrance for customers age 60 and up, beginning Thursday, from 6 a.m. to 7:30 a.m. The move is intended to provide those most at-risk a quieter shopping environment.
Montgomery County, Maryland, has compiled a list of grocery stores offering dedicated shopping hours for seniors and people at risk.
Fairfax County, Virginia, has developed a searchable map that includes all food distribution sites, including Fairfax County Public Schools, community meal distribution sites and food pantries.
Fairfax County Public School buses will also begin delivering grab-and-go meals along some of their bus routes. You can find out which bus routes, and also where food is being served to school children on the Fairfax County Public School’s website.
Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland has also put out at list of where students and parents can find grab-and-go meals. You can find it on the school system’s website.
Some health care providers are sharing concerns about whether the gesture will help prevent the spread of coronavirus. Bettina Fries, chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Stony Brook Medicine, told The Washington Post that her main concern is for the at-risk population, as many seniors who are showing symptoms likely will not be out.
Alysa Krain, an infectious disease doctor specializing in geriatric medicine, also told the news outlet that it’s a good idea but dangerous if crowd size and distance between shoppers isn’t monitored. She said that having friends and family go out to shop for seniors is still a safer option.
Arlington opens drive-thru testing collection site, opens COVID-19 call line
A coronavirus sample collection site opened Wednesday in Arlington County.
The center, at 1429 N. Quincy St., will be open weekdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and will collect samples from Arlington residents, patients of Virginia Hospital Center Medical Staff, and county government and public school employees.
In addition, the county opened a COVID-19 call line for residents who cannot find the information they need on the county’s website or through other resources. The number is 703-228-7999. It will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday.
WTOP’s Teta Alim, Abigail Constantino, Megan Cloherty, Liz Anderson, Melissa Howell, Rick Massimo and Thomas Robertson contributed to this report.