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COVID Blog: DC's mayor says new restrictions likely coming. Just not yet.

As Maryland pulls back to Phase 2, cases continue surging across the DMV.

WASHINGTON — It’s Wednesday, November 18, and Maryland is reimplementing a slew of restrictions in response to surging coronavirus cases. D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said the city will likely have to do the same – but not yet.

On Tuesday, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan functionally took the state back to Phase 2, saying the state “is in the red zone.”

It was the latest in a series of bad days for Maryland, as coronavirus cases have skyrocketed over the past several weeks. On Tuesday alone the state reported more than 2,100 new cases of the virus. It reported another 2,000 on Wednesday and, between the two days, more than 40 deaths from COVID-19.

In response, Hogan said the state would resume restricting visitation at hospitals and nursing homes statewide, would advice hospitals against elective procedures and would, on Friday, mandate that all bars, restaurants and clubs in the state close at 10 p.m. You can read more about Maryland’s new COVID-19 restrictions here.

In D.C., which has also seen a sustained upward trend in new cases, Mayor Muriel Bowser was asked Wednesday whether the city would follow suit.

“So no, we will not likely to be able to maintain this posture,” Bowser said, “but we want to be able to make recommendations that are successful.”

In case you’re in a hurry and just looking for the numbers, here’s how things look today:

  • DC – The city reported five deaths from the coronavirus on Wednesday. That’s its highest single-day count since June 16, though the city is still averaging only one death a day from the virus. As of Wednesday, D.C. has now averaged more than 100 new cases of the virus a day for eight days straight.
  • Maryland – The state is now averaging more than 1,900 new cases of the coronavirus a day. Wednesday marks the third day in a row, and the 11th day this month, that Maryland has set a new record-high seven day average. It’s also the third day in a row the state has reported more than 2,000 new cases in a single day.
  • Virginia – For the third day in a row, Virginia reported more than 2,000 cases of the coronavirus on Wednesday. Virginia is now averaging more than 1,700 cases of the virus a day. Wednesday marks the third consecutive day the commonwealth has set a new record-high daily average.

How are things going in the DMV?

In D.C., as you may have gleaned, things continue going in the wrong direction. As of Monday – the most recent date available – the city was averaging more than 23 cases of the coronavirus per 100,000 people. That’s its worst case rate since mid-May – at the height of the first wave of the pandemic – and nearly twice where it was on November 1.

In response to that, Bowser announced Wednesday that the city would be adding a new COIVD-19 testing site at the GEICO Garage at Nationals Park and would be adding an extra hour of operating time at testing sites citywide.

Back on the subject of new restrictions in D.C., Bowser deferred on the need for new measures at the local level, saying the piecemeal approach hasn’t been working and that a national strategy is required.

“Having said that, we have been very deliberate with how we have loosened restrictions over the summer – never going to Phase 3,” she said. “We’ve never had bars open. We’ve never had spectators at sporting events. So we’ve been very steady at Phase 2.”

In Maryland, for the third consecutive day the state set a new record-high daily average – now more than 1,900.

Statewide, hospitalizations continue increasing at an alarming rate. Maryland hospitals added nearly 100 new COVID-19 patients between Tuesday and Wednesday alone. There are now more than 1,100 patients hospitalized in the state for treatment of the coronavirus. That’s the most since June 2.

Credit: Jordan Fischer
As of November 18, Maryland had more than 1,100 patients hospitalized for treatment of the coronavirus – its highest number since early June.

In response to that, Hogan announced Wednesday the Maryland Department of Health would be issuing a “surge order” instituting a new program allowing hospitals to move patients between facilities as a means of maximizing the number of acute and critical care beds available for coronavirus patients.

Down in Virginia, the numbers aren’t any better. Hospitalizations continue rising in the commonwealth, and it continues setting new record-highs for coronavirus cases. Gov. Ralph Northam has issued several new guidelines over the past week in response to the surge, including mandating that children 5-and-up are required to wear masks, even in schools, and making it a misdemeanor offense for businesses to ignore the state’s COVID-19 mandates.

Unlike D.C. and Maryland, though, Northam said Wednesday that Virginia would continue having no travel restrictions. He did, though, encourage Virginians to consider having a virtual Thanksgiving as the holiday approaches.

About Thanksgiving…

Looking to travel? Thanks to the researchers who built the Georgia Tech COVID-19 Event Risk Assessment Planning Tool, we’ve got a nice map you can look at to determine your relative risk of contracting the coronavirus in gatherings of different sizes in different parts of the country.

The bad news is that, essentially no matter where you are in the DMV, you have at minimum a 1-in-5 chance of catching the coronavirus in a group as small as 15 people.

The good news, to the extent that the pandemic requires us to redefine our notions of “good news.” Is that the rate is much higher elsewhere in the country. It would be a nearly 100% chance of catching the virus, for example, in large swathes of the Dakotas.