September has brought mixed results so far when it comes to how the region is handling the COVID-19 pandemic.
In Maryland, the seven-day positivity rate in coronavirus testing has been inching up.
According to state health officials, the state has a 3.7% positivity rate, up slightly from 3.6% a month ago.
Virginia health officials reported a 6.4% positivity rate in Northern Virginia, up from 5.6% a month ago.
It’s a different story in D.C., where the positivity rate has been dropping over the past month, going from 3.3% to 2.6%.
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Over the summer, the U.S. saw a rise in infections, deaths and hospitalizations, primarily in the South and West, that was blamed in part on Americans behaving heedlessly over Memorial Day and July Fourth.
Public health experts were concerned that the Labor Day weekend would lead to more outbreaks, saying that backyard parties, crowded bars and other gatherings may cause the coronavirus to come surging back.
We won’t know for a while whether that actually happened, according to Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, vice dean for public health practice and community engagement at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
“For Memorial Day, we saw it about a month afterwards, so that’s when we would really start to see something here,” Sharfstein said. “When getting exponential growth for four weeks, you can really start to see it in the numbers.”
The landscape has improved in recent weeks, with the numbers headed in the right direction in hard-hit states such as Florida, Arizona and Texas, but there are certain risk factors that could combine with potential Labor Day-related outbreaks: Children are going back to school, university campuses are seeing soaring case counts, college football is starting, more businesses are open, and flu season is around the corner.
A model by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington projected a worsening outbreak in the U.S. that will peak in early December at about 2,900 deaths per day, up from about 860 a day now, unless government officials take action.
Maryland, D.C. and Virginia have thus far recorded more than 259,000 confirmed cases and more than 7,000 deaths.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.