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COVID Blog: It's a mixed bag as testing numbers hit record highs ahead of Thanksgiving weekend

People are getting coronavirus tests in record numbers ahead of the holiday – which may bode poorly for adherence to the CDC's no-travel recommendation.

WASHINGTON — It’s Monday, November 23, and the District of Columbia will soon be under new coronavirus restrictions as the city sees its 20,000th case of the virus.

Last week, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced his state would be reverting to Phase 2 in an effort to curb surging COVID-19 cases there. On Monday, Mayor Muriel Bowser followed suit, laying out a host of new restrictions in Washington, D.C.

Those restrictions include halving the limit for outdoor gatherings to 25 people, stopping alcohol sales after 10 p.m. and suspending indoor group exercise classes. You can read about all of D.C.’s new coronavirus restrictions here.

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

  • DC – Over the weekend D.C. reported its 20,000th case of the coronavirus. That’s more cases than four states: New Hampshire, Hawaii, Maine and Vermont. The city is now averaging 175 new cases of the virus a day – less than 20 under its all-time high.
  • Maryland – Maryland is now averaging more than 2,300 new cases of the coronavirus a day. Monday marked its fifth consecutive day averaging more than 2,000 cases. The state is now averaging 19 deaths a day from the virus as well – more than double where it began November.
  • Virginia – Virginia reported a new all-time high of 3,242 new cases of the coronavirus on Monday – although the Virginia Department of Health says at least some of that number is due to its data system being down for upgrades over the weekend.

How are things in the DMV?

All across the DMV case counts are way up. Virginia is averaging 63% more cases than it was two weeks ago. D.C. is averaging 90% more. Maryland is averaging 92% more.

With the except of D.C., which is still averaging one death a day from the virus, death counts are skyrocketing as well. Maryland is now averaging 19 deaths from the coronavirus a day – up 111% from two weeks ago. Virginia is also averaging 19 deaths a day, which is an astounding 171% increase over the same period.

The numbers are troubling enough on their own, but even more so going into a Thanksgiving holiday that could act like jet fuel to case counts if enough people decide not to follow CDC recommendations and stay home.

If you are going to travel, though, we have compiled a guide of all the rules and restrictions in the DMV.

What I’m watching this week

Testing. Tests are spiking ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday, with Maryland reporting its highest single-day count ever on Saturday of more than 51,000 COVID-19 tests. D.C. also saw a record high of more than 9,500 tests on Saturday, and Virginia set its own record last Thursday of just under 34,000 tests in a single day.

That would normally be good news, except that, even as test numbers are hitting their all-time highs, the DMV is also seeing an increase in its average percent positivity. That means:

  • The recent rise in case numbers can be solely explained by an increase in testing, and
  • Despite testing more people than ever, the DMV is probably still missing cases – meaning those individuals won’t know to quarantine and will likely continue spreading the virus further.

A question to look for an answer from me on this week is how the increase in testing is affecting the time it takes you to get your test results back. Stay tuned.