Region hits 1 million COVID infections as vaccination efforts ramp up

It seems that every few weeks, the U.S. hits another sobering milestone in its battle with the coronavirus — and the D.C. region is no exception, having recently reached over 1 million cases.

But there’s growing hope that the addition of a third vaccine will help bring those numbers down.

As of Monday, March 1, the District had reported a total of 40,684 coronavirus cases, while Maryland was at 382,703 and Virginia at 577,174, according to the latest figures compiled by WTOP. That brings the regional total to over 1 million infections since last March.

According to The Washington Post, six out of every 100 residents of the three jurisdictions have tested positive in the past year, slightly lower than the national rate of eight infections per 100 people.

Like the rest of the country, the area has experienced fluctuations in the number of cases over the past year, including a large spike after the holidays.

But hopes are high that after a rocky start, the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines may finally be ramping up.

On Monday, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced that 40% of Marylanders 65 and older had been vaccinated. (That demographic makes up roughly 16% of Maryland’s total population of 6 million.)

So far, the state has administered over 1.3 million doses and fully vaccinated nearly 700,000 people, with another 900,000 partially vaccinated. It is now averaging a record 35,072 shots per day.

Meanwhile, Virginia has administered nearly 2 million doses. More than 685,000 people have been fully vaccinated, while nearly 1.3 million have received at least one dose. The commonwealth is now administering an average of 42,000 shots per day.

And D.C. has administered roughly 165,000 doses, fully inoculating 56,788 people, with more than 108,000 partially vaccinated.

Yet the demand for vaccines still far outstrips the supply from the federal government. There has also been widespread frustration with the region’s vaccine rollout, which has been plagued by problems such as long wait times and tech glitches that have prevented residents from registering for appointments.

But local health officials have expressed optimism that the approval of a third COVID-19 vaccine could be a game-changer.

On Feb. 27, the Food and Drug Administration granted emergency use authorization for Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine, which will now join the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines that are already on the market.

But Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine only requires a single dose and can be stored at normal refrigerator temperatures, making it easier to transport and faster to administer.

It’s been found to be 85% effective against severe COVID-19 cases and offered “complete protection against COVID-related hospitalization and death, 28 days post-vaccination,” according to the company.

Initial supplies will be limited, but the company said it can deliver 20 million doses by the end of March.

Officials in D.C., Maryland and Virginia have said they will begin administering the single-dose vaccine this week. The District plans to deliver 6,000 doses this week, while Maryland will deliver 49,600 doses and Virginia 69,700 doses.

“The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is safe, effective, and made right here in Maryland,” Hogan said in a press release, referring to the company’s plant in Baltimore.

“Our plan is to get this vaccine into the community right away and right into arms so that we can continue increasing our vaccination rate.”

Anna Gawel

Anna Gawel joined WTOP in 2020 and works in both the radio and digital departments. Anna Gawel has spent much of her career as the managing editor of The Washington Diplomat, which has been the flagship publication of D.C.’s diplomatic community for over 25 years.

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