Coronavirus update: Dozens more dead in DC region, PG Co. requiring residents to wear face masks in stores

The latest

  • The D.C. Department of Corrections confirmed four more cases of COVID-19 among people incarcerated in D.C. jails
  • Thirty-five people died of the coronavirus in Maryland on Friday, health officials said, bringing the state’s death toll to 206 — with Prince George’s County, Montgomery County and the Baltimore area home to over half
  • Though the D.C. area now has nearly 15,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19, a gradual ramp-up of commercial testing and the clearing of laboratory backlogs make it difficult to determine current infection trends from total number of cases alone
  • The National Institutes of Health is beginning research into the presence of antibodies to shed light on how widespread the disease could be, amid concern about asymptomatic carriers
  • D.C.’s seafood markets at The Wharf in SW reopens with new procedures in place
  • Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam said he won’t mandate mask-wearing for shoppers like Maryland and D.C. have, holding firm on his position that wearing a mask in public is a suggestion
  • Transportation and Security Administration employees at Dulles International Airport started a food pantry in support of airport workers enduring lay offs, less hours

Executive order requires Prince George’s County residents to wear face covering while shopping

Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks signed an executive order requiring residents to wear a face covering when visiting grocery stores, pharmacies or other large retail businesses as well as while riding the county’s bus system, according to a Saturday news release.

Alsobrooks’ executive order will take effect on Wednesday, April 15. It also requires stores to promote social distancing protocols inside and outside of their establishments.

“These steps will be critical to help us flatten the curve and prevent the spread of COVID-19,” said Earnest Carter, the county’s health officer, in a news release.

“We know there are people with the virus who are walking around and showing no symptoms, and these actions will prevent them from spreading it to others. Consider it an act of love.”

D.C. will extend Beach Drive closures, block traffic in Fort DuPont Park and Anacostia parks to encourage exercise

Beach Drive in Rock Creek Park is already closed to car traffic on weekends, but starting Monday, the road will remain closed through April 30 to encourage “essential” exercise

In addition, two major parks in Southeast D.C. will have some roads blocked to vehicle traffic for the same reason.

Mayor Muriel Bowser sent out a news release around 8 p.m. on Saturday to make the announcement. The closures of the roads in the Anacostia parks will run for 12 hours each day, starting at 8 a.m.

During the District’s stay-at-home order, exercise is considered “essential.” Residents are reminded to stay six feet apart from each other. Park police will monitor activities in all of the District’s parks.

DC Department of corrections announces new COVID-19 cases in jail

Four more cases of COVID-19 among inmates in D.C. jails have been confirmed, the D.C. Department of Corrections said Saturday. This brings the total numbers of confirmed cases of infection of people in custody in D.C. to 42.

D.C. DOC also said that nine individuals who tested positive for the virus have since recovered and have been returned to general population.

The American Civil Liberties Union and the Public Defender Service against the D.C. Department of Corrections have brought forward a lawsuit against the department alleging that they did not do enough to protect inmates and guards when confirmed cases began appearing in the region.

NIH study’s focus on antibodies used to measure the extent of undetected transmission

The National Institutes of Health announced that it will look at antibodies to help understand just how far the coronavirus has subtly spread through the population.

In a “serosurvey” analyzing the blood samples of up to 10,000 volunteers, NIH said the presence of SARS-CoV-2 antibodies serve as a sign that the body had encountered the disease and developed a response to it.

“An antibody test is looking back into the immune system’s history with a rearview mirror,” Dr. Matthew J. Memoli, the principal investigator of the study, said in a news release. “By analyzing an individual’s blood, we can determine if that person has encountered SARS-CoV-2 previously.”

NIH said the molecular tests that are commonly done by inserting a cotton swab into someone’s nose can identify a current infection, but they can’t tell whether a person was previously infected with COVID-19 and recovered.

A positive test for the SARS-CoV-2 antibodies confirms that they already had the disease.

“This study will give us a clearer picture of the true magnitude of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States by telling us how many people in different communities have been infected without knowing it, because they had a very mild, undocumented illness or did not access testing while they were sick,” according to Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, director for the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

“These crucial data will help us measure the impact of our public health efforts and guide our COVID-19 response moving forward.”

Healthy volunteers over the age of 18 from anywhere in the U.S. can participate, and will be asked to consent to enrollment over phone.

People with a confirmed history of coronavirus or current symptoms consistent with COVID-19 are not eligible to participate.

People interested in joining this study should contact clinicalstudiesunit@nih.gov. For more information, visit ClinicalTrials.gov using identifier NCT04334954.

Hogan: Congress must provide financial aid directly to states

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan called upon Congress to include $500 billion in aid to state economies in its current round of federally-funded assistance.

Hogan, who is chairman of the National Governors Association, issued a joint statement with vice chair and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Saturday morning, saying “We must be allowed to use any state stabilization funds for replacement of lost revenue, and these funds should not be tied to only COVID-19 related expenses.”

The governors asked Congress to amend their initial CARES Act, which was passed on March 27, to account for shortfalls in state budgets impacted by the pandemic. There is currently no funding dedicated to state operations in the CARES Act.

If Congress cannot provide the recommended $500 billion in assistance, the statement warns that “states will have to confront the prospect of significant reductions to critically important services all across this country, hampering public health, the economic recovery, and — in turn — our collective effort to get people back to work.”

DC seafood market reopens with new guidelines

D.C. officials announced Friday that the Municipal Fish Market at The Wharf along the SW portion of the waterfront can reopen as long as it enforces new safety protocols.

The new requirements include social distancing as well as additional staffing and protective equipment for the market’s vendors.

The Wharf had been closed by order of the mayor’s office for nearly a week after large crowds formed last weekend.

All open air markets in D.C. are now expected to submit a plan to the mayor’s office for how they are going to better implement social distancing protocols to keep vendors and customers safe.

A full list of restaurants and markets in the Wharf area that are open for takeout and delivery, closed or have modified their schedules can be found online.

Northam still not requiring Virginians wear masks in public

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam said he won’t make masks mandatory to go out in public for the time being, despite similar orders from officials in neighboring D.C. and parts of Maryland.

“To date, we have not made that mandatory. It’s just a strong suggestion and encouragement,” said Northam, before repeating his thanks for mask-wearing Virginians.

He suggests using a bandanna and a rubber band to make a homemade mask for those that want to.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that people wear a mask when going out into public more than a week ago.


More Coronavirus News


Richmond-area nursing home reports 40 coronavirus deaths

Officials from the Canterbury Rehabilitation & Healthcare Center said during a Friday news conference that the facility suffered another COVID-19 related death, bringing the center’s total to 40.

The long-term care facility, located in Henrico County just outside of Richmond, currently makes up about 30% of Virginia’s deaths due to coronavirus.

The long-term care facility has been dealing with over 100 cases of coronavirus since the disease began its community spread there last month.

Maryland publishes most current data on racial makeup of COVID-19 cases

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan released a racial breakdown of the state’s known coronavirus infections and deaths this week, suggesting Maryland’s African-American community is being disproportionately harmed amid the pandemic.

African-Americans were the most affected group, constituting 2,064 of the Maryland’s cases and making up 37% of the state’s Thursday total of 5,529.

Whites were the second largest group affected coming in at 1,540 cases, or 28%, of Maryland’s total cases as of Thursday.

WTOP’s Zeke Hartner contributed to this report.

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