WASHINGTON — It’s Monday, November 16, and each one of those 16 days so far this month has reported one of the 16 highest daily averages for coronavirus cases in Virginia. The 17th-highest day was October 31.
In Maryland, for the third time in four days the state set a new single-day record high – reporting 2,726 new cases of the coronavirus on Monday. Virginia also reported a new single-day high of 2,677 cases, although the Virginia Department of Health is attributing some of that number to data server maintenance over the weekend.
D.C., for its part, didn’t set any new records on Monday.
Welcome to the WUSA9 coronavirus blog, where we do our best to keep you up-to-date on how things are going with the pandemic in D.C., Maryland and Virginia
How are things going in the DMV?
In a word? Bad.
D.C. is now averaging 140 new cases of the virus a day. To put that in context, the city was averaging 92 cases a day on May 29 when it entered Phase 1 of reopening, and just 32 cases a day on June 22 when it entered Phase 2. Monday’s average number is nearly three times that.
Maryland is now averaging more than 1,700 new cases a day and Virginia is averaging just under 1,600 new cases a day – both record highs. The Maryland Department of Health said last week that one of the big drivers of that number has been new cases in people under the age of 30 – and that, unlike earlier in the pandemic, they’re also seeing hospitalizations in that age group rise significantly as well.
The governors of both states responded to the rising numbers last week by imposing – re-imposing, really – new restrictions. In Maryland, those restrictions mean indoor dining capacity is cut back again from 75% to 50%. Indoor gatherings of 25 people or more are strongly discouraged, and the state is advising residents to avoid nonessential travel to states with positivity rates above 10% – which is most states.
Virginia hasn’t so far reinstituted travel restrictions as Maryland and D.C. have, but on Monday a slew of other new measures went back into place, including slashing public and private gatherings from 250 to 25 people and the implementation of a new Class 1 misdemeanor penalty for essential retail stores that aren’t following state mandates.
What I’m keeping an eye on this week
Hospitalizations. The long and short of it is that they’re moving in the wrong direction all across the DMV.
In Maryland particularly, COVID-19 hospitalizations are skyrocketing. They’ve increased by 88% just since Nov. 1. As of Monday, 985 hospital beds in the state are occupied by coronavirus patients – of which more than 230 are on ventilators.
The situation in the state has gotten so bad that Gov. Larry Hogan’s most recent executive order activated the next level of the state’s hospital surge capacity planning. That means looking for more health care staffing and alternative care facilities.
Virginia now has more than 1,300 COVID-19 patients in hospital beds, which hasn’t been the case since early June. The commonwealth never really saw its hospitalization numbers drop the way Maryland did, though. It had been averaging between 900-1,000 beds in use for the virus consistently for months prior to the current spike.
D.C. last week briefly saw its citywide hospital utilization jump over the 90% mark, which is where DC Health draws the line to determine that the city has insufficient capacity.
I reached out to the mayor’s office and DC Health about those numbers on Friday. They said the city has additional surge capacity that isn’t reflected in the numbers on the coronavirus dashboard. They also told me that, as of Friday, there were no city hospitals on diversion – which means for now there are no hospitals that have said they’re so full they can’t take any more patients.
It was beautiful outside this weekend. Sunny and 66 degrees in D.C. I took advantage of it to take a long walk down to the Potomac and back.
Also on Saturday, Maryland set a new record high (since broken again) for average daily coronavirus cases. It was one of the top 10 worst days of the pandemic in Virginia.
In a month, it won’t be shorts weather. It’ll be cold, and we’ll all be stuck inside again. If things don’t change drastically, the record numbers we’re seeing now could just be the start of the peak we’ll see once winter comes.
Here's how you can help: wear your mask; keep social distancing; and, if you're going to do a Thanksgiving meal, keep the attendance small.