Coronavirus update: Beach Drive in Rock Creek Park closed to traffic; Prince George’s Co. orders shoppers to wear masks

The latest

  • Sections of Beach Drive in Rock Creek Park in D.C. are closed to vehicle traffic through April 30 to allow for recreational use. Montgomery County, Maryland, will open up two more parkways for weekend recreational use.
  • Prince George’s County, Maryland, is ordering shoppers in “grocery stores, pharmacies and large chain retail establishments” to wear protective masks.
  • A new U.Va. model projects that if restrictions were to be lifted when Gov. Ralph Northam’s current executive order expires on June 10, a surge in coronavirus cases would hit this summer.
  • The latest area coronavirus deaths include two inmates — one each in D.C. and Maryland.
  • D.C. now officially has 1,955 confirmed cases; Maryland, 8,936 cases; and Virginia, 5,747 cases.

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. Don’t 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.


Prince George’s mask order takes effect Wednesday

Prince George’s County, Maryland, which has seen the highest number of confirmed cases in the state, is ordering shoppers in “grocery stores, pharmacies and large chain retail establishments” to wear protective masks.

Affected retailers are also being ordered to promote social distancing both inside and outside their stores.

The order, which is effective Wednesday, also applies to those riding The Bus transit system.

County Executive Angela Alsobrooks formed a task force, as well, “to provide professional, technical and strategic assistance to the County in successfully combating this health emergency.”

Loudoun County schools promises seniors there will be a graduation ceremony

Loudoun County Public Schools in Virginia promised seniors that each high school with a graduating class will hold a graduation ceremony.

“You have our word,” school Superintendent Eric Williams said in a letter.

Williams did not specify a date for the in-person ceremony, saying that the school system is waiting for better information, and that it will happen when it is safe to do so.

As an initial step, each high school will hold a “virtual celebration” for the graduating class in June.

In a letter Monday, Williams also gave an update on learning guides that he said should arrive by April 20, the availability of language assistance services and how fee refunds will be issued.

Students and guardians with questions can call the Loudoun County Public Schools COVID-19 hotline at 571-252-6499.

Social distancing working in Va., Northam says

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam said new models of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the commonwealth developed by the University of Virginia show that social distancing efforts are working.

“We are slowing the spread of this virus,” Northam said in a news conference Monday. But he said the models also show “if we lift the stay at home [order] or social distancing, if we try to rush to get our lives back to normal, the number of cases will spike higher and earlier, and we can’t afford that.”

When asked whether he would extend his stay-at-home order through the summer or even into the fall based on the models, Northam replied: “There are no known answers as of today … Just as soon as we can get people’s lives back to normal, we will. But we also have to do it safely.”

He said later, “Right now, distancing is our best tool to fight this.”

The University of Virginia model projects that if restrictions were to be lifted when Northam’s current executive order expires on June 10, a surge in coronavirus cases would hit this summer.

Because models show the number of new cases holding steady for the next few weeks, Northam said he would extend an order closing some nonessential businesses, such as gyms and theaters. That order was set to expire next week. Northam also declined to provide a new date for when nonessential businesses could reopen but said an announcement would be coming later this week.

Northam also announced additional educational tools for teachers to continue virtual and online instruction. Last month, the governor ordered public schools in Virginia to stay closed for the remainder of the academic year. Among the tools are an online platform for teachers to hold virtual lessons and a daily broadcast of teacher-led classes on five Virginia Public Media stations.

Earlier Monday, President Donald Trump tweeted that the president — and not state governors — would make the decision about when ” to open up the states,” referring to reopening closed businesses and lifting social distancing measures.

Asked by a reporter to respond, Northam said he hoped the federal government would provide guidelines at the national level and that he would consult with epidemiologists and the business community but that, “We’ll be making those decisions as far as what’s best for Virginia, here in Virginia.”

Outbreak in another Va. nursing home

The Virginia Health Department official who was put in charge of a new statewide task force to stop the spread of COVID-19 in nursing homes said the team already responded to a newly identified outbreak at a long-term care facility over the weekend.

Dr. Laurie Forlano — the deputy health commissioner who was named by Northam last week to lead the task force — said the team provided extra tests and personal protective gear. She didn’t identify the facility.

In terms of responding to a new outbreak, “Staffing continues to be an issue,” Forlano said.

The state is looking at boosting staffing at the facilities with members of the Virginia Medical Reserve Corps. About 13,000 Virginians have signed up to volunteer for the outfit.

All told, of 97 outbreaks across the state being tracked by the Virginia Department of Health, more than half — 53 — are in long-term care facilities, Forlano said.

Of Virginia’s total 5,700 COVID-19 cases, 554 are long-term care facility residents or staff. Thirty-four of the state’s 149 deaths are tied to long-term facilities.

One of the worst coronavirus outbreaks in the country is at the Canterbury Rehabilitation and Healthcare Center in Richmond, where more than three dozen residents have died.

First inmates die in D.C., Maryland

The latest area coronavirus deaths include two inmates — one each in D.C. and Maryland.

During a briefing Monday morning, Mayor Muriel Bowser said the deceased at the D.C. Jail was 51-year-old Deon Crowell, who had been in custody since June 29, 2018. The inmate was diagnosed last Tuesday and was in isolation. Crowell was awaiting trial on charges of first-degree murder while armed and had his next hearing scheduled for May.

Many inmates who had been held for misdemeanors have been released to be able to perform isolation and social distancing with inmates, in order to mitigate the virus’s spread. Asked whether releases would continue, Bowser said, “I think that we have reviewed everyone who is eligible for earlier release, and based on our experience … that is our recommendation at this time.”

Maryland corrections officials said the victim there was a man in his 60s with underlying health issues. He was being held at Jessup Correctional Institution.

Overall, there have been 93 confirmed cases in Maryland’s corrections system and 52 confirmed cases in D.C.’s

Testing, grocery assistance available in D.C.

During a briefing Monday morning,Bowser also detailed the progress in getting residents tested. While there had been 300 tested per 1 million in mid-March, that increased as of Saturday to 18,300 per million.

“We still have more capacity at our drive-thru and walk-through site,” she said, referring to the United Medical Center site 1310 Southern Ave. SE. Call 855-363-0333 for an appointment.

Dr. Jenifer Smith, director of the Department of Forensic Sciences, said that the federal government has provided a number of small, quick-acting testing devices, and about a thousand kits that work with them. Bowser said it hasn’t yet been determined where they will be deployed.

Dr. LaQuandra Nesbitt, director of D.C.’s Department of Health, said there are currently 295 COVID-19 patients in the District needing acute care, with 94 in an intensive-care unit and 34 of those requiring ventilators.

Bowser also said Monday was the first day of new pickup sites at a rotating roster of D.C. public schools for families who need grocery items. The grocery distribution sites — which are being launched in partnership with Martha’s Table and DC Central Kitchen — are available to all families and are open Monday through Friday, from 12:30 to 2 p.m.

The pre-packed grocery bags, which include fresh produce and dry goods, are being distributed on a first come, first served basis.

Mondays Tuesdays Wednesdays Thursdays Fridays
Brookland Middle School
(Ward 5)
1150 Michigan Ave. NE
Kelly Miller Middle School
(Ward 7)
301 49th St. NE
Coolidge High School/Ida B. Wells Middle School
(Ward 4)
6315 Fifth St. NW
Anacostia High School
(Ward 8)
1601 16th St. SE
Ballou High School
(Ward 8)
3401 Fourth St. SE
Eastern Senior High School
(Ward 6)
1700 East Capitol St. NE
Stanton Elementary School
(Ward 8)
2701 Naylor Road SE
Woodson High School
(Ward 7)
540 55th St. NE
Kimball Elementary School
(Ward 7)
3375 Minnesota Ave. SE
Columbia Heights Education Campus
(Ward 1)
3101 16th St. NW

For more information, visit gethelp.dc.gov.

There’s also a hotline for people who don’t have access to groceries: 888-349-8323.

The latest local numbers

The latest numbers from D.C. Maryland and Virginia now put the total of confirmed COVID-19 cases at 16,638 and 463 deaths.

D.C. (1,955 cases and 52 deaths) recorded 80 new confirmed cases and two additional deaths over the previous 24 hours. They were a 53-year-old man and a 68-year-old man.

Maryland (8,936 cases and 262 deaths) saw an increase of 711 additional confirmed cases and 27 deaths over the previous 24 hours. This includes eight more deaths in Prince George’s County and six more in Montgomery County. Dorchester and St. Mary’s counties saw their first deaths as well.

Virginia (5,747 cases and 149 deaths) marked 473 new confirmed cases and eight additional deaths over the last 24 hours. Virginia’s Department of Health said Monday they were implementing “enhancements” to reporting, and that “the count of new cases on Sunday, April 12 may be underestimated.”

FedEx Field testing facility closed Monday due to weather

The COVID-19 testing site outside FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland, was closed Monday due to severe weather.

On Twitter, Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks said those who had appointments will be contacted by the Health Department for rescheduling later in the week. The testing site is tentatively set to be open Tuesdays through Fridays. To set up an appointment or for additional information, call 301-883-6627.


More Coronavirus News


Masks now mandatory for shoppers in Montgomery County

As of Monday, a new health order took effect in Montgomery County, Maryland, for shoppers at supermarkets, pharmacies and “large chain retail establishments.”

Protective masks are now mandatory, and stores must not only limit how many customers are inside at a given time, but they must also establish social distancing protocols for people outside, waiting in line.

Those advised not to wear masks include people with breathing problems and children younger than 2 years of age.

Those who violate the rule are subject to a $500 fine; subsequent violations could mean a fine of $750.

Rent help for Loudoun Co. tenants

Loudoun County, Virginia, has rolled out a rental-assistance program for lower-income workers who have been laid off, furloughed or had their hours reduced because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Direct payments will be made to landlords or property-management companies on behalf of residents who qualify. Eligibility is “based on household size for households earning up to 70% of the state median income ($60,332 for a family of 4),” according to a statement from the county.

Assistance may be provided for up to three months’ worth of rent.

County residents who were current in their rent payments as of March 30 but who now need help can call 703-777-0420.

DC closes Beach Drive in Rock Creek Park; Montgomery Parks opens up 2 more parkways on weekends;

Sections of Beach Drive in Rock Creek Park in D.C. are closed to vehicle traffic until April 30. The section of Beach Drive is normally closed on weekends, and the daily closure will provide more recreational space and cut down on higher demand for that space by making it available every day, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said.

Two more parkways in Montgomery County, Maryland, will be open to pedestrian and bike traffic on the weekends, starting at 9 a.m. on Fridays and running through 6 p.m. on Sundays.

  • In Bethesda: Little Falls Parkway, from Massachusetts Avenue to Arlington Road (1.3 miles).
  • In Kensington: Beach Drive, from Connecticut to Knowles avenues (2.7 miles).

This is in addition to the two sections of Sligo Creek Parkway that have been opened for exercise on weekends — between Old Carroll Avenue and Piney Branch Road (1.1 miles), and between Forest Glen Road and University Boulevard West (1.5 miles).

Those out and about are asked to maintain proper social-distancing guidelines — no gatherings larger than 10 people, and at least 6 feet of distance from others.

Parks officials also urge the public to avoid popular trails like the Capital Crescent and to instead “use some of the less popular trails in the county.” Find more information about those here.

WTOP’s Abigail Constantino contributed to this report.

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