By The Washington Post · Dana Hedgpeth, Antonio Olivo · NATIONAL, HEALTH
Last week, portions of Maryland and Virginia entered a second phase of their reopening plans, with restaurants allowed to offer dining indoors and group gatherings of up to 50 people permitted. At the same time, tens of thousands of people in Washington and elsewhere - some masked, some not - protested police brutality and the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody.
Local officials say they are watching virus-related data closely for signs of a resurgence - or for evidence that the pandemic may be receding in the region.
On Monday, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, said hospitalizations for the virus had fallen below 1,000 for the first time since April 10, to 979. The rate of people testing positive dropped to a new low of 7.38%.
The tally of coronavirus infections in the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia reached 119,044 Monday, with officials reporting 1,058 new cases.
But with the total number of cases partly driven by increased testing, local officials have been focused more on rates of infection, daily hospital admissions and the capacity of area hospitals to absorb a spike in cases.
They have also worked to increase testing and contact tracing, while beefing up their supplies of personal protective equipment. As the number of tests has increased, the rate of people testing positive has declined significantly.
Officials say the spread of the virus has not yet slowed enough in D.C. and its closest suburbs to lift Phase 1 restrictions that, among other things, limit restaurants to outdoor dining and gyms and fitness centers to outdoor exercise classes.
D.C. reported two new covid-19 deaths Monday - both of them older residents - for a total of 491 fatalities. According to D.C. health officials, the city has had seven days of a "sustained decrease in community spread." As of Saturday, D.C. had a 12% positivity rate. That marked four days of the city being at a less than 15% positivity rate.
Maryland reported 27 new deaths Monday, bringing the number of people who have died of covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, in the state to 659.
Montgomery County had three new deaths, and Prince George's County added four. The positivity rate in the two counties - which have been hit harder by the virus than anywhere else in Maryland - has dropped to 11.83% in Prince George's and 10.26% in Montgomery.
Maryland also reported the coronavirus-related death of a corrections officer who worked at a Baltimore City facility. The employee, whom authorities did not identify, was in his or her 60s and had been a correctional officer for 20 years, according to the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services.
AFSCME, the union that represents workers in Maryland's prisons, said the officer was the first union member in the state to die as a result of being exposed to the virus on the job and called for more protections for employees.
Virginia reported five new deaths, for a total of 1,477. Its statewide positivity rate was 10% as of Thursday, down from a high of about 22% in mid-April. In northern Virginia, the positivity rate was 14.3%, compared with 35.9% in mid-April.
With unemployment rates having spiked amid the prolonged coronavirus shutdown, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, a Democrat, announced a moratorium on all evictions through June 28, ordered by Virginia Supreme Court Chief Justice Donald Lemons. Northam said he will spend the next three weeks implementing "a comprehensive rent relief program for the thousands of Virginians facing housing insecurity in the midst of this public health crisis."
"Access to safe and stable housing is critically important, and this action will keep thousands of families in their homes as we work to get them the support they need," he said.