The following is an update on covid-19 in the region, and how it is affecting Maryland, Virginia and Washington both separately and collectively.
As of now, the District of Columbia has yet to determine that they are ready to upgrade from Phase 2 to Phase 3. Mayor Muriel Bowser has said that the upgrade may not happen until November, roughly timed along with the beginning of the second term for DC public schools. Health Director Dr. LaQuandra Nesbitt has estimated that the transition out of Phase 2 would take a much longer time than that of Phase 1. The advisory panel to the mayor’s office has identified several criteria for upgrading, and while many of those criteria have been reached, others of them have not.
Of those criteria, the ones that have been achieved include contact tracing new and close cases, a sustained positivity rate of under 5%, and the utilization of hospital beds. The ones that have yet to be achieved include sustained decreases in new cases and in transmission rate, as well as a sufficiently low percentage of new cases from quarantined contacts. While trends are moving in the right direction overall, the advisory panel is applying a rigorous standard and does not want to take any chances. Phase 3 signifies a significant lifting of restrictions and would be the status quo for the District until the mass-availability of a vaccine or effective treatment. Accordingly, it is crucial that the step up to Phase 3 only be taken if the mayor’s office is confident that serious containment of the virus can be sustained.
To help in the effort, at the end of July the District put forth a list of states from which travel is restricted. Were anyone to come to Washington from any of these states, they are required to self-quarantine for 14 days. The states currently on the list are: Arkansas, Alabama, California, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and Wisconsin. The list is being continuously updated.
Maryland officially moved to Phase 3 of their recovery on Friday, September 4. This will allow more businesses to reopen, religious services at 75%, and live performances at outdoor venues and outdoor movie theatres to partially reopen, all a maintained mandate to wear masks and socially distance. However, individual cities and counties are permitted to determine for themselves whether they will move on to Phase 3. Prince George’s County and Montgomery are among the counties that have determined they are not yet ready to enter Phase 3.
In Virginia, which has been in its own Phase 3 since July 1, the overall numbers in the state have been improving. Northern Virginia, however, has seen the least improvement of anywhere in the state. In the month of August, Virginia reported 30,000 new cases, the highest in any month since the beginning of the outbreak.
To aid in the effort, the Virginia state government has developed an app called Covidwise. Described as a “Bluetooth notification app,” anyone with the app could use it to alert others in their area if they received a positive test, and those with the app are alerted. As of now, other states are working towards issuing their own apps, while Apple and Google are working to make the technology widely available. Mb recommends the app to Virginia residents.
Overall, despite some challenges, the region has made progress and numbers are encouraging. Compared to the end of July, which saw peaks in all three regions, the virus is under tighter control.
Nationwide, however, Labor Day Weekend has seen a rise in cases in 22 states across the country, mostly in the Midwest and South. Another trend to watch closely is the rise in cases in colleges across the country, including the University of Maryland and James Madison University, where many students have already been sent home to lower the spread of the virus. The effects of the return to school and Labor Day Weekend festivities should come into fuller focus in the coming weeks.
The attached links provide detailed statistics in the three respective regions, as well as resources for testing and breakdowns by county. Thank you for your attention.