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COVID Blog: New restrictions go into effect across the DMV

In Montgomery County, which is closing indoor dining, County Exec. Marc Elrich says businesses "are victims of COVID like everyone else."

WASHINGTON — It’s Wednesday, December 16, and as of 5 p.m., indoor dining will once again be closed in three of Maryland’s largest counties.

Anne Arundel and Prince George’s counties announced last week they would be taking the measure in response to surging coronavirus cases in the state. On Tuesday, the Montgomery County Council voted unanimously to follow suit.

Other restrictions going into place today include new limits on retail establishments and other businesses, the closure of theaters and other entertainment venues and limits on non-professional sports. Read about all the new restrictions going into effect here.

During the county’s weekly coronavirus briefing Wednesday, Montgomery County Executive March Elrich said the decision to close indoor dining was “extremely difficult for me and the council.”

“I don’t want anyone to think that businesses are the enemy here,” Elrich said. “They’re not contributing to the problem willfully. They are victims of COVID like everyone else.”

Elrich echoed calls Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan has made repeatedly over the past few weeks for the federal government to provide relief.

“We need the federal government to step up,” Elrich said. “[Businesses] need to get relief. It’s that simple.”

In case you’re just here for the numbers, here’s where the DMV stands today:

  • D.C. reported 263 new cases of the coronavirus and 0 new deaths on Wednesday.
  • Maryland reported 2,405 new cases of the coronavirus on Wednesday and 64 new deaths. That’s the state’s highest single-day death count since May 12.
  • Virginia reported 3,931 new cases and 38 new deaths from the coronavirus on Wednesday. The commonwealth is now averaging 32 deaths from the coronavirus a day – more than twice what it was two weeks ago.

How are things in the DMV?

If you read yesterday’s blog, I talked about how the DMV could potentially have weeks still of rising numbers already baked in. That’s especially true if a significant percentage of people ignore gathering size restrictions during the holidays.

Here’s where we’re at before said holidays:

  • In D.C., the city is already at “insufficient capacity” with more than 10% of hospitalized patients testing positive for COVID-19. Citywide, more than 80% of all hospital beds in the District are currently occupied.
  • In Maryland, the state continues setting new hospitalization records. As of Wednesday, just under 1,800 people in the state were hospitalized with the virus. Hogan recently reactivated the Maryland Medical Reserve Corps, and this week announced he was mobilizing the Maryland National Guard as well to assist with the vaccination effort.
  • In Virginia, the commonwealth also has more people hospitalized with the virus than ever. It’s also seeing its average percent positivity for coronavirus tests rising – up to 11.3% as of Wednesday. That’s its highest rate since May, and it means Virginia is missing an increasing percentage of cases even as it reports more new daily cases than ever.

For health care workers in the DMV – who have been on the front lines of this virus for month – there is good news. Within the next two weeks, every hospital in Maryland is expected to receive doses of the coronavirus vaccine to begin inoculating their staffs with. Virginia anticipates it will receive enough vaccine by the end of the year to provide doses to all of its front-line health care workers. And both Maryland and Virginia have agreed to provide supplementary doses to D.C. health care workers who live in those states.

After health care workers, all three DMV jurisdictions will prioritize staff and residents at long-term care facilities, and then first responders and people with conditions that make them very susceptible to severe COVID-19 illness. The next group will be essential workers, and then, probably in several months still, the general public will get access to the vaccine.

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