WASHINGTON — As the holidays approach, COVID-19 cases across the DMV are surging.
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser tweeted Friday that D.C. Health Department reported 844 new coronavirus cases on Thursday. Robert Mayfield, a spokesperson for D.C. Health Department confirmed in an email to WUSA9 that this is the highest case count reported throughout the entire pandemic.
The mayor was asked about COVID-19 cases increasing at a news conference Thursday afternoon in Southeast D.C.
Bowser told reporters her team was having conversations to see whether or not they should make changes in the District's response to the pandemic.
"But no one should be surprised that in the winter months cases go up," Bowser said. "They're going up across the country and in the world."
She said that vaccines have minimized the number of hospitalizations and deaths due to the virus. D.C. Health Department reported Friday that there were nine new hospitalizations and two new deaths on Thursday.
Despite opposition from 10 councilmembers, Bowser lifted the District's mask mandate on Nov. 22, before the city confirmed the first four cases of the omicron variant.
Bowser said, "[We're] seeing the pretty rapid transmissibility of omicron. I expect that is going to warrant some changes in course for us around our emergency response and when I know more we will report it to the people of the District."
One of the council members who opposed lifting the mask mandate in D.C. was Trayon White (Ward 8) who wrote on Facebook that he tested positive for COVID-19.
"We are getting too many calls about Covid outbreaks," White wrote. "Our kids and families are not safe. We need to shut it back down and should not be unmasking. It’s flu season and the holiday season."
Bowser stopped short of agreeing to reinstate the mask mandate on Thursday.
"Let me be clear about masks," Bowser said. "We have a mask advisory that says everyone should wear a mask indoors. Everyone should be wearing a mask indoors due to our health guidance."
Bowser issued the "mask advisory" on Dec. 6. The advisory doesn't require people wear masks indoors, but rather strongly encourages people to do so.
Bowser urged D.C. residents to get a booster shot, reconsider going to crowded events, and get tested before seeing family. She said her team was not talking about issuing capacity limits.
COVID-19 cases hitting Maryland and Northern Virginia
Virginians and Marylanders are also seeing an increase in COVID-19 cases.
Alexandria Health Department (AHD) issued a statement Friday saying the city has been experiencing a surge since Thanksgiving and has even seen "the highest number of new cases in a single day since January."
The statement says, "Based on a recent AHD analysis of November cases, unvaccinated people are 4 times more likely to get COVID-19, and 5 times more likely to be hospitalized compared to fully vaccinated people. However, with the significantly increased transmission rates, there is also a rise in cases among those who are fully vaccinated."
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) issued a statement Friday confirming that the state surpassed 1,200 hospitalizations. He wrote most of the beds are occupied by unvaccinated patients, but warned that the omicron variant is believed to be more transmissible than other coronavirus strains.
Schools across the state are seeing an uptick in cases. Prince George's County announced it will move to virtual learning on Monday. Montgomery County Public Schools sent a letter to the community Friday announcing it was suspending non-athletic extracurricular activities through Jan. 7.
The letter says, "COVID-19 cases are on the rise in Montgomery County and are also increasing in many areas of the country. While our student case rate is lower than most other school systems in Maryland, we have witnessed rising numbers of COVID-19 positive cases among MCPS students and staff in recent weeks."
As increased transmission is affecting schools and hospitals, the Maryland Department of Health hasn't reported any new daily coronavirus cases for almost two weeks because of a "network security incident." Some of the data has been restored but it is unclear when MDH will resume reporting daily cases.
MDH launched a webpage with updates about the security incident that says it is working to restore its "full level of [COVID-19 data] reporting."
A message on the page says, "Investigation and restoration efforts are ongoing. We have been able to bring certain systems back online, our vaccine, hospitalization, and congregate and school outbreak data reports are up to date."