Coronavirus update: ‘We’re behind the 8-ball,’ Hogan says; DC stay-home order now in effect

A sign about the coronavirus is displayed over Route 50 in Davidsonville, Md., Monday, March 30, 2020. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

The latest

  • The mayor of Ocean City, Maryland, has declared a restriction on short-term accommodations for hotels and rentals.
  • Sites have now been identified to establish field hospitals in Northern Virginia to accommodate an expected surge in hospitalizations due to COVID-19, according to a briefing Tuesday for the Prince William County Board of Supervisors.
  • From Tuesday’s federal briefing: The White House projects 100,000 to 240,000 deaths in the U.S. from the coronavirus pandemic if social distancing is maintained.
  • Maryland announced that three drive-through COVID-19 testing sites will open in vehicle emissions testing facilities, which have all been closed since the public health crisis began.
  • Police in D.C. and Maryland explained how they will enforce their stay-at-home orders.
  • Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan told CNN that his stay-at-home order was “one of the last tools in our arsenal” against the spread of COVID-19.
  • Stay-at-home orders in Maryland, Virginia and D.C. have gone into effect.
  • A spokesman for Hogan said the three COVID-19-related deaths in the state were two people in their 80s with underlying medical conditions in Howard and Carroll counties, and a Prince George’s County resident in his 40s with no such conditions.
  • Dorchester County, Maryland, announced its first case of COVID-19 on Tuesday, leaving Allegany County as the state’s only remaining jurisdiction without a confirmed case.
  • D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said police are driving around the District, breaking up large gatherings, including pickup basketball games. She added that information on positive coronavirus testing would begin to be broken down by age, sex and ward starting Wednesday morning.
  • The Maryland State Police clarified they aren’t pulling people over strictly to ask whether their travel is essential, but will ask in the course of their other duties, such as crash response and traffic stops. They added that documentation of the purpose of your travel is not required, but could help resolve questions from officers.
  • A lawsuit claims that D.C. is failing to take basic public health steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in its jails.
  • Nearly 50 inmates in a Northern Virginia jail are being monitored after an inmate tested positive for the coronavirus.
  • A member of the Prince George’s County, Maryland, fire department has tested positive for the coronavirus and is self-quarantining. Seven other members of the department are in self-quarantine, a department spokeswoman said.
  • Loudoun County Public Schools in Virginia and other D.C.-area schools are rolling out details of their distance learning plans. Find out what schools in the region are doing.
  • As of Tuesday, the area has had more than 3,400 cases of the coronavirus: Virginia has had 1,250 cases with 27 deaths; Maryland, 1,660 cases and 18 deaths; and D.C. 495 cases and nine deaths.

White House projects 100K to 240K U.S. deaths from virus

The White House on Tuesday projected 100,000 to 240,000 deaths in the U.S. from the coronavirus pandemic if current social distancing guidelines are maintained.

President Donald Trump called on Americans to brace themselves for a “rough two-week period” but predicted the country would soon see a “light at the end of the tunnel” of the global catastrophe that has killed more than 3,500 Americans and infected 170,000 more.

Read the full story from The Associated Press here.

Ocean City restricts short-term hotel, rental accommodations

Ocean City, Maryland, Mayor Rick Meehan ordered the restriction of short-term accommodations for hotels and rentals to essential lodgers only through April 30. This applies to, among others, hotels, motels, condo-hotels, rental properties, HOAs, Airbnb and VRBO style lodging and other overnight accommodations.

“This is incredibly difficult time for everyone, but the only way we can stop the spread of this virus is to work together. Visitors should NOT visit Ocean City at this time, but are encouraged to reschedule or plan for future visits when this health crisis passes,” Meehan said in a statement.

Under the declaration, these accommodations can only accept new reservations for essential lodgers, which include health care workers, first responders, law enforcement, National Guard members, journalists, and others responding to the COVID-19 crisis. Full-time residents of Ocean City unable to live in their primary home are also exempt.

Field hospital sites identified in Northern Va.

The latest forecasts project a potential peak of hospitalizations in Virginia over the next two months or so.

Sites have now been identified to establish field hospitals in Northern Virginia to accommodate an expected surge in hospitalizations due to COVID-19.

Though the first phases of the plans call for adding beds in existing hospitals or on hospital campuses, the third phase would establish new treatment facilities at the National Conference Center in Loudoun County, the Dulles Expo Center in Fairfax County, and at George Mason University in the City of Fairfax, according to a briefing Tuesday for the Prince William County Board of Supervisors.

The National Conference Center could hold some 1,000 beds, while the other two facilities would start with at least 500 beds.

Though the facilities have been identified, they would still require significant staffing, supplies and administration efforts.

Testing, personal protective equipment and ventilator supplies also remain an overall challenge nationwide.

“We would have the same challenges in the alternate care facilities,” Prince William County Executive Christopher Martino said Tuesday afternoon.

Read the full story here.

More Coronavirus News

Suit claims D.C. failing to prevent virus spread in jails; 50 inmates monitored in Virginia after one tests positive

A lawsuit claims D.C. is failing to take basic public health steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in its jails, despite five inmates testing positive for the coronavirus.

The American Civil Liberties Union of the District of Columbia and D.C.’s Public Defender Service claim jailed residents are being instructed to use their own bar of soap and water to clean their cells to prevent the spread of the virus. Read more about the lawsuit here.

In Northern Virginia, nearly 50 inmates are being monitored after an inmate tested positive for coronavirus.

The Fairfax County Sheriff’s Office said that the patient is in his 20s tested positive for COVID-19 and is being isolated.

A high-risk task force visited the jail and concluded after an investigation that four individuals who had been in close contact with the inmate should also be isolated. Another 44 inmates living in the same unit as the inmate who tested positive are being monitored for symptoms and fever.

Read the story from The Associated Press here.

Gov. Hogan: ‘We’re behind the 8-ball’

In a trio of media appearances on Tuesday, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said his stay-home order, and those of D.C. and Virginia, were going to save lives, but that the state was still facing critical shortages.

“If we have this spike of demand in our hospitals, we’re not going to have enough” in terms of testing and protective equipment, Hogan said on NBC’s Meet the Press. He reiterated his view that Maryland was a couple of weeks behind New York, a national hot spot, in terms of predicted spikes in cases.

On the BBC, Hogan said of the federal government’s response, “I think they’re making some attempts to catch up, but there’s been some mistakes that have been made.”

The feds are reaching out to the governors, Hogan said, but “there’s no question we’re behind the 8-ball, and we’ve got some important work to get done. I don’t want to point fingers about what hasn’t been done or who made which mistakes, but we’ve got to work together somehow, because we’re all in this together, not just in America but around the world.”

Tuesday morning on CNN, Hogan called the stay-at-home order he issued on Monday “one of the last tools in our arsenal” to try to stop the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

Noting that the number of cases in the region has “more than quadrupled in just a couple of days,” Hogan said the order, which was followed later in the day by similar ones from Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam and D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, was “necessary to further get people off the streets so we can continue to save thousands of lives.”

The order prohibits Marylanders from leaving their homes, with exceptions, such as medical appointments, exercise and work for those who are in essential occupations. You can find out what’s banned and what’s allowed under the Maryland, Virginia and D.C. orders.

The order carries a penalty of up to a year in prison and a $5,000 fine. Hogan said state and local police have done about 5,000 compliance checks “to disperse crowds and make sure people are leaving and breaking up situations where they’re out endangering themselves and their fellow neighbors.”

He said of the penalties, “a lot of it is just to ensure compliance,” adding that only two arrests have been made under his executive orders, “where people just refused to comply.”

Speaking on “Meet the Press,” Hogan added that the order was statewide because the virus was statewide: “We’ve now got outbreaks in all but one county … it’s not just the counties surrounding Washington. This is not restricted just to our urban areas and suburban areas.”

Hogan, a Republican, and Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, published an op-ed piece in The Washington Post in which they said, “The coronavirus doesn’t distinguish between red states and blue states, and neither can we.”

They asked the federal government for several changes in their response, including more aggressive use of the Defense Production Act to produce and distribute supplies such as masks, gowns and gloves for health care workers, more flexibility for governors to spend coronavirus relief money, and other steps.

The CNN host played a recording of Gov. Steve Bullock, of Montana, telling President Donald Trump on Monday that “we are one day away” from not being able to test for the virus. Trump responded, “We’ve tested more than any nation in the world … I haven’t heard about testing being a problem.”

Asked to respond, Hogan said, “There’s no question that the federal government and all of the states believe that we need more testing, and this is something that we’re talking about on a daily basis with the administration and with all of our fellow governors.”

He added, “There’s no question this is a pinch-point,” referring to testing and personal protective equipment. “Everybody knows we don’t have enough of these things. … Without tests, we really are flying blind” about hot spots and mortality rates, and equipment such as ventilators “are becoming … certainly as important as the testing.”

Hogan said the federal government had an important role to play in coordinating the distribution of equipment, and that the Federal Emergency Management Agency “has started to really step up on coordination” and is distributing equipment to states.

“It’s just not enough,” he added.

“The president says the states are on their own,” Hogan said, “[that] they should go out and get these things, and we are trying to get them,” but the federal government and other states are also doing that.

He hoped the feds will take the lead on “making sure we’re not competing against each other for these limited resources.”

In the end, Hogan said, “It doesn’t matter who’s supposed to be doing these things; we’ve all got to get together and get them done. Because it’s going to save lives.”

Asked about the projections by Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Debbie Birx, two members of the president’s coronavirus task force, that 200,000 American are likely to die from the virus, Hogan said the numbers were “just hard to fathom,” but that the two doctors “are the ones who are telling us the truth about the numbers.”

Noting that the number is twice as many Americans as were killed in the Vietnam and Korean wars combined, Hogan said, “It’s just devastating, and that’s why we’re taking these seemingly unprecedented and seemingly drastic actions that are disrupting people’s lives — we’re trying to stop that from happening.”

Watch the full interview on the governor’s YouTube page.

Drive-through testing at 3 Md. DOT sites

The Maryland Department of Health announced Tuesday that drive-through COVID-19 testing will be conducted starting Wednesday at three vehicle emissions testing sites.

The three sites are in Glen Burnie, in Anne Arundel County; Waldorf, in Charles County, and Bel Air in Harford County. The Glen Burnie and Waldorf sites will be open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Mondays, Wednesday and Fridays; the Bel Air site will be open from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.

Those getting tested need an order from their doctor and to make an appointment online. Only people who are symptomatic and in high-risk groups will be approved for testing.

“We are focused on testing people who really need it and by using these sites, we can allow them to be tested away from busy emergency rooms, urgent care centers and physicians’ offices,” Deputy Secretary of Public Health Fran Phillips said in the statement. “People with no symptoms or who are mildly ill do not need testing. Most people who get this virus can recover at home with rest, fluids and over-the-counter fever reducers.”

The Glen Burnie and Waldorf sites are run by the state Department of Health and will use an appointment process operated by CRISP, Maryland’s health information system. The Bel Air site is run by the University of Maryland Upper Chesapeake Health, and will use the existing scheduling process, under which the physician schedules appointments on a hotline.

All vehicle emissions testing sites have been closed since the public health emergency began, and Hogan has supported the idea of holding testing at the sites, but has always said such a plan would have to wait until the state had enough testing kits and laboratory capacity to have a meaningful impact.

“These sites are for residents who are symptomatic and in high-risk categories for developing serious illness,” Hogan said in the statement. “Like every other state in the nation, we simply do not have enough testing supplies. We need to use our resources wisely.”

D.C. Mayor Bowser: ‘Stay at home’

At a briefing on Tuesday morning, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said police would break up large gatherings of people in the District.

She said that her stay-at-home order, which went into effect at midnight, demonstrated “no real difference” from the direction they’ve already given residents: “Stay home.”

She played for reporters a recording of the script officers will be driving around D.C. reciting to large gatherings of people:

“The point is not to arrest anybody,” Bowser said, “the point is to stay at home.”

The mayor added that she is not aware of any nonessential businesses that have defied her order last week directing them to close, but said the city can revoke business licenses if necessary.

On Monday, D.C. began what Bowser called “high volume” testing for first responders in D.C., including D.C. Fire and EMS, police officers and members of the Department of Corrections. Overall, about 80 first responders were tested.

Tuesday’s test results identified five additional positive cases of COVID-19 among members of D.C. Fire and EMS, bringing the department’s total cases to 19; four more cases were identified among D.C. police who were tested, bringing the total to 13. Over 300 members of both departments are quarantined.

In D.C.’s Department of Corrections, a staff member tested positive, while 103 are quarantined. Six DC Jail inmates tested positive, with 88 quarantined.

Bowser added that she and other District officials will give a briefing later this week on when the “expected surge” in cases is likely to come, and how the District is preparing.

Bowser said the District is building its own stockpile of personal protective equipment and medical supplies for local medical providers.

“What the District is doing is, obviously, procuring for our needs, for our medical needs and for our first responders and front-line workers,” Bowser said. “We’re … creating a stockpile that we can support our medical providers, and we’re working at searching the entire globe to find those items.”

Assistant City Administrator Jay Melder said about 70% of the District’s stockpile of medical supplies will be delivered to providers Tuesday and Wednesday. The supplies will go to primary care providers, long-term care facilities and home health aides, among others.

Melder said the District is continuing to seek assistance from the federal government, including FEMA and the Department of Health and Human Services, to access equipment from the national strategic stockpile.

“We will continue to do everything we can to make sure that our health providers and our first responders, our central employees, are well equipped for the mission,” he said.

Food assistance and donation information in Virginia

Gov. Ralph Northam’s office released a list of food pantries in the state for people who need food assistance. He also said residents can call 211.

Arlington County is looking for donations of unused and unopened containers of essential personal protective equipment (PPE), cleaning supplies and certain foods to help essential employees and nonprofit and community organizations responding to COVID-19 operations.

The county will have a drive-through donation site on Friday, April 3 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Central Library parking lot on 10th Street North.

Arlington County said the donation activity conforms to the stay-at-home order in place in Virginia. Donors who come by car will be asked to stay in their vehicles until they reach the loading zone. There will be a separate line for those who come on foot or by bike.

Only the requested items below will be accepted:

  • Nitrile or vinyl examination gloves
  • N95 or KN95 masks
  • Surgical masks
  • Protective surgical gowns
  • Homemade masks 
  • Cleaning products and supplies
  • Nonperishable food items, especially heart-healthy items low in sodium or sugar

Gov. Northam: No age group is immune 

In announcing a stay-at-home order for Virginia on Monday, Northam said that he acted in part because “some of our beaches and other recreational areas were literally packed” over the weekend.

“Everyone who is gathering in a crowd is putting themselves and others at risk,” Northam said.

He also said 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.”

“What we’re seeing now is the result of how people interacted two or three weeks ago,” Northam said. “What we will see a few weeks from now will be determined by how people behave today and in the following days.”

WTOP’s Teta Alim, Max Smith, Michelle Basch Neal Augenstein, Jack Moore and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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