Coronavirus update: Trump announces immigration restrictions; Va. hits pause on field hospitals

A medical worker prepares to test a young man for COVID-19 at a Children’s National Hospital drive-through (drive-in) coronavirus testing site at Trinity University, Thursday, April 16, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

The latest

  • President Donald Trump announced what he described as a “temporary suspension of immigration” in an effort to limit competition for jobs. He plans to sign the order Wednesday.
  • The Senate passed a nearly $500 billion coronavirus aid package.
  • If you’ve recovered from COVID-19, Inova Health is looking for you to take part in a study.
  • Barbershops and salons in Maryland can offer services to certain essential workers under several specific guidelines.
  • The total of COVID-19 deaths in D.C., Maryland and Virginia went over 1,000, according to statistics released Tuesday.
  • Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan told Fox News Tuesday morning that his decision to buy 500,000 COVID-19 tests from South Korea was what the president “wanted us to do,” even though the president criticized him for it Monday.

The symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, coughing and shortness of breath. Health officials say that if you have these symptoms, you should call your doctor. Do not just show up. Medical facilities need to get ready for you. If you don’t have a doctor and you live in D.C. or the nearby Maryland suburbs, D.C.’s mayor recommends calling the Testing Triage Center at 855-363-0333 or Mary’s Center at 844-796-2797. If you live in Virginia, call 211.

CDC director says a second wave of coronavirus is likely this winter

Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told The Washington Post the second wave of the coronavirus could be worse than the current one.

The situation is alarming because the coronavirus could become more widespread at the same time flu season begins, Redfield said.

Washington Post Reporter Lena Sun, who wrote the story, said Redfield indicated nation’s hospitals could be facing a “double whammy” this winter.

“If you think about how overwhelmed hospitals are now with the coronavirus, not enough PPE for the health care workers, not enough ventilators earlier, and then you think about the wave of hospitalizations that normally take place with the flu, if we have a bad flu season, it’s a double whammy,” Sun told WTOP’s Dimitri Sotis.

Redfield told the Post government officials locally and nationally need to be actively preparing for the second wave.

Trump announces green card restrictions

President Donald Trump announced what he described as a “temporary suspension of immigration into the United States” on Tuesday. But he said the executive order he plans to sign as soon as Wednesday would apply only to those seeking permanent residency and not temporary workers.

Trump said he would be placing a 60-day pause on the issuance of green cards in an effort to limit competition for jobs. But he said there would be “certain exemptions” included in the order, which staff were still crafting.

Read the story from The Associated Press.

Senate passes aid package

A nearly $500 billion coronavirus aid package flew through the Senate on Tuesday after Congress and the White House reached a deal to replenish a small business payroll fund and provided new money for hospitals and testing. It now goes to the House.

Read the full story.

Virginia hits pause on plans for 3 field hospitals

Gov. Ralph Northam’s office said plans to convert three convention centers across Virginia into field hospitals as part of the state’s coronavirus response have been put on hold, The Associated Press reported.

Northam’s spokeswoman said recent trends suggest that Virginia has sufficient hospital bed capacity to deal with the pandemic. The three locations of the hospitals that had been selected earlier this month were the Dulles Expo Center in Northern Virginia, and convention centers in Hampton Roads and Richmond.

The sites could still be a possibility if things change, but work to build them out has not begun.

Recovered from COVID-19? Inova Health wants you

Inova Health systems is looking for people who have recovered from COVID-19 and want to donate blood plasma for a study on whether the protection that has built up in your plasma can help current patients recover.

They’re looking for people who are 18 or older, who aren’t pregnant, who have a documented diagnosis of COVID-19, and have been recovered and symptom-free for at least 14 days.

If you want to sign up, email, or call them at 703-776-4899.

Md. gives guidance on barbershops, salons for essential workers

Though barbershops and salons in Maryland remain generally closed, the governor’s Office of Legal Counsel offered guidance Monday on conditions that need to be met for those businesses to perform services for essential workers.

Among them: The essential worker has to prove to the barber/salon that their employer has grooming standards that need to be met, and services are only by appointment with just one customer in the shop at a time.

“It is generally assumed that this enforcement recommendation will be used for military personnel, first responders and other essential workers required to maintain certain, well-documented grooming standards as part of their profession, or where ungroomed hair could pose a safety risk,” the guidance reads.

Read the full interpretive guidance here.

More Coronavirus News

DC, Md., Va. deaths top 1,000

D.C., Maryland, and Virginia region marked a grim milestone Tuesday with the number of coronavirus deaths reaching more than 1,000.

The number of newly reported deaths from the virus being reported across all three jurisdictions increased by 99 on Tuesday, the highest daily regionwide increase since the pandemic began.

All told, 1,020 deaths attributed to COVID-19 have been recorded across the three jurisdictions.

Maryland, in particular, saw a spike in the number of deaths attributed to the virus, recording 68 new deaths as of Tuesday, according to the data. That’s the highest daily increase in coronavirus-related deaths in Maryland. Overall, Maryland has recorded a total of 584 coronavirus deaths.

Another 68 deaths in the state are listed as “probable” coronavirus deaths but have yet to be confirmed by a lab test.

Of the 43 new deaths whose ages are known, 36 were age 70 or above.

The number of deaths in Virginia increased by 24 confirmed and probable deaths, for a total of 324. That includes seven additional fatalities in Fairfax County, for a total of 66. More than 100 people have died from the coronavirus across Northern Virginia.

Virginia also recorded its third death of a person in their 30s, the youngest by far among Tuesday’s death toll, with the most new deaths occurring among the state’s residents in their 80s.

In D.C., there were seven more deaths reported for a total of 112. All seven were black.

Overall, there have been 26,921 recorded coronavirus cases in D.C., Maryland and Virginia.

Hogan: Md. did what Trump ‘told us to do’

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan on Tuesday morning said President Donald Trump may have “got confused” during Monday’s White House press briefing, in which the president said Hogan didn’t need to buy 500,000 COVID-19 tests from South Korea.

“The president has said that the states really are on the front lines and need to go out there and get this testing done,” Hogan said on Fox News. “That’s exactly what we’ve tried to do.”

Trump has repeatedly said that states are on their own as far as getting testing and supplies, saying at a briefing last month that the federal government is “not a delivery clerk.”

On Monday, Trump said, “The governor of Maryland could have called Mike Pence, could have saved a lot of money … I don’t think he needed to go to South Korea. I think he needed to get a little knowledge.”

Trump referenced a phone call between the federal coronavirus task force and the nation’s governors, suggesting Hogan “didn’t know about the federal laboratories” in his state.

Hogan, the chairman of the National Governors Association, said Tuesday he’s “not really sure” what the president meant, saying that Trump wasn’t on that call. Hogan said he thanked and praised Vice President Mike Pence for the task force’s actions.

“It was a completely positive call,” Hogan said, adding that the federal government provided a list of federal labs in the state of Maryland that could be used to run coronavirus tests.

“The list that they gave us was mostly federal labs, which we’ve been attempting to use for more than a month now. So we got a commitment yesterday from the vice president and from the president that we can now use federal labs, which is terrific. But the president was not on the call, and somehow, I think he got confused in the press conference. I’m really not sure what he was upset about. We did what he told us to do. Which was go out and get our testing.”

As far as lifting safety restrictions in Maryland, Hogan said he has been working on a reopening plan for the past several weeks and will announce more details about it later this week.

But he was proud of the effects his orders on social distancing and business closings have had on Maryland’s numbers, and said, like D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam have, that any decisions will be based on the numbers.

On ABC’s “The View” later Tuesday morning, Hogan also reacted sharply to Trump’s Monday night tweet claiming he would sign an executive order suspending all immigration into the U.S.

“You know, I try not to pay any attention to the tweets from the president,” Hogan said. “Apparently, he was tweeting about me last night as well. And I didn’t get a chance to read any of those either. But I mean, it’s not really a policy and he hasn’t — I don’t think — rolled out any kind of a proposal. It’s just, I think, distractions from what’s really going on.”

He added, “My wife is a first-generation immigrant from South Korea and just helped us, through those relationships, acquire half a million tests from the folks there in South Korea that’s going to help save the lives of people in our state. And that’s what we’re really focused on here. And we have some terrific people from all around the world that are working in our hospitals and our health care system that are saving people’s lives, and we appreciate it.”

Hogan was also asked about the protests in Annapolis by people who wanted the state to lift safety restrictions. He said he wasn’t there, because he was at BWI Marshall Airport welcoming the shipment of test kits from South Korea.

“I understand people’s frustrations,” Hogan said. “I understand people want to get out of the house, they want to get back to work. I understand that they’re hurting. That part I get — I’m frustrated. You know, I feel like protesting myself, frankly.”

Trump’s own administration last Thursday set out a list of criteria that states should take into account before they consider lifting restrictions, but the next day, Trump sent a series of tweets calling for people in several states to “liberate” their states from such restrictions.

“It doesn’t make any sense, the mixed messaging we’re getting out of the president,” Hogan said, pointing out that the administration guidelines called for a decreasing number of cases for 14 days before any action should be taken, and that that hasn’t happened in any of the states Trump wanted people to “liberate.”

“So, he basically was encouraging people to violate his own federal policy,” Hogan said. “So I don’t think it was helpful.”

Later on Tuesday, Hogan took to Twitter himself to release a letter thanking Trump for the use of the laboratory capacity, saying it “can be key to our utilizing the 500,000 tests” from South Korea.
“I am writing today to personally thank you and the Vice President and to request guidance on how we can immediately proceed on this important federal-state collaboration.”

Bowser: ‘We’re flattening the curve’ in DC

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser told WTOP on Tuesday morning that the social distancing measures and closures of nonessential businesses in the District have worked to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

“We are flattening the curve,” Bowser told WTOP’s Bruce Alan, adding, “Because of people staying at home, businesses and D.C. residents sacrificing, we have a lower level of infection today than our model suggested that we would.”

She said that her administration, including D.C. public health officials, still sees a peak of cases coming in mid-May, with a peak in hospitalizations coming a few weeks after that, and a peak in deaths later still.

That said, the mayor said any decision on lifting safety restrictions, the subject of protests in a few states including Maryland over the weekend, would be made by looking at the data.

She called the framework for making such decisions laid out by the White House’s coronavirus task force “a good one.”

Bowser added, “We need to see two weeks of declining infection and hospitalizations, and that will tell us that we are on the other end of this virus. So, our public health emergency remains in place until May 15. We will continue to follow what we’re seeing on the ground in terms of infection.”

Bowser said any decisions would also be made with the help of a team inside and outside government.

“We will assemble a team inside the government, industry experts as well, to help inform our decision-making about how to safely turn back on our economy. We know people are suffering and we want to get back to work and save lives.”

The District was classified as a territory, not a state, in the first iteration of federal aid to states and localities, and that cost D.C. about $700 million in assistance — roughly the same amount it actually got.

Bowser said she had been assured that would be rectified in the legislation moving through Congress this week.

“I am assured by the Congress that they want to get it done in the fourth CARES package,” the mayor said. “What they’re working on this week could have a technical amendment that addresses the District, and I hope that leaders in the House and the Senate, as well as the White House, can make those technical adjustments.

“The District has never been treated like a territory because we’re not a territory. We pay federal taxes, unlike the territories. For funding formulas, we’re always treated as a state, and we need to be treated as a state,” Bowser said.”

WTOP’s Abigail Constantino, Alejandro Alvarez and Matt Small contributed to this report.

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