Cases in re­gion top 1,000 as virus’s spread, test­ing ac­cel­er­ate

The Washington Post - - FRONT PAGE - BY AN­TO­NIO OLIVO, OVETTA WIG­GINS, GRE­GORY S. SCH­NEI­DER AND DARRAN SI­MON

The tally of novel coro­n­avirus cases in the Wash­ing­ton re­gion climbed past 1,000 Wed­nes­day as Mary­land, Vir­ginia and the Dis­trict re­ported their largest sin­gle­day in­creases — a grim mark­erthat il­lus­trates both the con­tin­ued spread of the virus and the fact that more test­ing is be­ing done to de­tect it.

Mary­land an­nounced 74 ad­di­tional cases, bring­ing the state’s to­tal to 424, and ex­tended its clo­sure of pub­lic schools an­other four weeks, through April 24. Vir­ginia re­ported 101 ad­di­tional cases, for a to­tal of 392. The Dis­trict re­ported 48 new cases Wed­nes­day, in­clud­ing an eightweek-old in­fant, for a to­tal caseload of 235.

Over­all, the re­gion had 1,051 re­ported cases as of Wed­nes­day evening, with 20 deaths.

“It’s clear that we’ve got com­mu­nity spread now; that is quite ob­vi­ous,” said Vir­ginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D), a physi­cian by train­ing who on Wed­nes­day di­rected hos­pi­tals to stop per­form­ing elec­tive surg­eries so that sup­plies of masks, gloves and other per­sonal pro­tec­tive equip­ment are not de­pleted.

“We are just at the be­gin­ning of this. We are not at the mid­dle,” Northam said. “We are talk­ing about months, and we are go­ing to see these num­bers, un­for­tu­nately, con­tinue to rise.”

The 1,000-case mile­stone for the Wash­ing­ton re­gion hap­pened as the na­tion and coun­tries around the world con­tin­ued to bat­tle a pandemic that has caused more than 21,000 deaths. New York, the hard­est-hit state, re­ported an ad­di­tional 5,000 cases, and New York City’s pub­lic hos­pi­tal sys­tem said 13 peo­ple died of

the virus at one hos­pi­tal in Queens dur­ing a 24-hour pe­riod.

Among other de­vel­op­ments, Prince Charles, heir to Bri­tain’s throne, was re­ported to have tested pos­i­tive for the virus and was iso­lated with his wife, Camilla, prompt­ing tens of thou­sands of peo­ple to do­nate blood or vol­un­teer in other ways; New York and other states urged the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion to set up emer­gency morgues; and unem­ploy­ment claims filed in Cal­i­for­nia this month reached 1 mil­lion.

Both Min­nesota and Idaho is­sued two-week “stay at home” or­ders that will take ef­fect late Fri­day night, and Canada said all trav­el­ers re­turn­ing to the county must be quar­an­tined for 14 days un­less they are clas­si­fied as es­sen­tial work­ers.

In Mary­land, Gov. Larry Ho­gan (R) at­trib­uted much of the spike in cases to an ex­pan­sion of test­ing over the past two weeks, with re­sults of­ten tak­ing sev­eral days to be re­ported. But he, too, said the strin­gent so­cial-dis­tanc­ing mea­sures now in place through­out the Wash­ing­ton re­gion will take con­sid­er­able time to bear fruit.

“None of us can say in four weeks every­thing is go­ing to be great and it’s go­ing to be safe for all kids to go back to school,” Ho­gan said af­ter the school clo­sure was ex­tended. “It would be won­der­ful if we get to the point where we bend the curve, and we can, but ob­vi­ously we’re not go­ing to send kids back if we’re still climb­ing and peo­ple are get­ting in­fected.”

Northam has closed Vir­ginia schools through the end of the school year, while D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) shut them down through at least late next month. The city has or­dered a shut­down of all nonessen­tial businesses as of 10 p.m. Wed­nes­day, and the D.C. gov­ern­ment sent an emer­gency alert to all mo­bile phones in the city at 8 p.m. to re­mind res­i­dents of the or­der and urge them to stay at home.

Bowser said the city is not is­su­ing a stay-at-home di­rec­tive and res­i­dents can still leave their homes for “es­sen­tial trips.” At a town hall, she said city of­fi­cials will not stop peo­ple walk­ing down the street but may ask groups such as peo­ple play­ing bas­ket­ball or soc­cer to dis­perse.

Health ex­perts said signs that the virus is spread­ing in the re­gion in­clude clus­ters of in­fec­tions re­ported in­side long-term­care facilities, com­mu­ni­ties and re­li­gious in­sti­tu­tions.

Three for­mer res­i­dents of Can­ter­bury Re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion & Health­care Cen­ter out­side Rich­mond, for ex­am­ple, have died of covid19, the dis­ease caused by the novel coro­n­avirus. One of the deaths was an­nounced Wed­nes­day; two oth­ers were re­ported Tues­day night.

In gen­eral, it takes about two weeks for some­one who has been in­fected to be­gin to feel ill, and of­ten an­other week be­fore that per­son is tested and the re­sults are re­ported, said Eric R. Houpt, head of the Di­vi­sion of In­fec­tions Diseases and In­ter­na­tional Health at the Univer­sity of Vir­ginia Health Sys­tem.

“When we see an in­crease in cases day by day . . . it isn’t telling us what’s happening cur­rently,” Houpt said. “It’s really telling us what hap­pened a few weeks ago.”

As more peo­ple be­gin to ex­pe­ri­ence symp­toms, the num­ber of re­ported in­fec­tions will con­tinue to grow “sev­eral-fold,” he said.

“We’re not even talk­ing about all of the asymp­to­matic or presymp­tomatic in­fec­tions that are out there,” Houpt said. “No one has a great han­dle on how many of those in­di­vid­u­als there are or how im­por­tant they are for trans­mis­sion. But I’m sure there are a lot of them.”

State and lo­cal health of­fi­cials, along with com­mer­cial labs and sev­eral re­search facilities, have been ramp­ing up their test­ing. In Vir­ginia, 5,370 peo­ple had been tested as of Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon, ac­cord­ing to the state health depart­ment’s web­site. The Dis­trict had re­ported test re­sults for 1,857 peo­ple as of Wed­nes­day night.

Mary­land has not tracked the to­tal of num­ber of tests con­ducted in the state, of­fi­cials said. Fran Phillips, Mary­land’s deputy sec­re­tary of pub­lic health, said the state is “work­ing to get our arms around” that fig­ure. Some hos­pi­tals and com­mer­cial labs have not been re­port­ing their re­sults to the state, she said.

“While they must all re­port to us im­me­di­ately on a pos­i­tive case — and they do — what we want to know now is ex­actly how many tests they are do­ing that are neg­a­tive, so we can get a sense of the vol­ume and also the pos­i­tiv­ity rate for our state,” Phillips said.

Vir­ginia re­ported three other deaths Wed­nes­day, as well: an adult from the Danville-pitt­syl­va­nia area, along the state’s south­ern bor­der; and two women — one in her 80s and one in her 60s — from Vir­ginia’s Penin­sula in the eastern part of the state.

The Can­ter­bury fa­cil­ity had 14 res­i­dents and four health-care work­ers who tested pos­i­tive, in­clud­ing the three res­i­dents who died. That makes it the largest known out­break at a health-care fa­cil­ity in the greater Wash­ing­ton re­gion.

D.C. of­fi­cials said Wed­nes­day that they plan to launch a driv­ethrough test­ing site on the cam­pus of United Med­i­cal Cen­ter, the city’s only pub­lic hos­pi­tal, by late next week.

Chil­dren’s Na­tional Hos­pi­tal is also of­fer­ing drive-through test­ing, but only for chil­dren who have a doc­tor’s note say­ing they need the test and meet other cri­te­ria.

D.C. Health Depart­ment Di­rec­tor Laquan­dra Nes­bitt said the United Med­i­cal Cen­ter site will be able to test up to 300 pa­tients a day.

Peo­ple must fall into one of sev­eral pri­or­i­tized groups to get tested, Nes­bitt said: hos­pi­tal pa­tients, health-care-fa­cil­ity work­ers, pa­tients in long-term-care facilities, pa­tients over 65 and po­lice, fire or emer­gency med­i­cal ser­vices per­son­nel. They also must ex­hibit covid-19 symp­toms. Health-care work­ers and first re­spon­ders will be el­i­gi­ble for test­ing even if they ex­hibit only mild symp­toms, Nes­bitt said.

Amid the dire fig­ures for ris­ing in­fec­tions, some good news emerged Wed­nes­day.

Mary­land of­fi­cials said 17 peo­ple in the state have fully re­cov­ered. In the Dis­trict, 21 peo­ple so far have re­cov­ered, while the num­ber of D.C. fire­fight­ers un­der quarantine has gone down to 118, from 141 last week. Ten fire­fight­ers, in­clud­ing an as­sis­tant chief, have tested pos­i­tive, of­fi­cials said.

Vir­ginia health of­fi­cials said they are not track­ing the num­ber of full re­cov­er­ies.

Wash­ing­ton Na­tional Cathe­dral found 5,000 res­pi­ra­tor masks in stor­age that were pur­chased in 2006 and de­liv­ered them to Med­star Ge­orge­town Univer­sity Hos­pi­tal and Chil­dren’s Na­tional Hos­pi­tal.

But the spread of the virus re­mains un­pre­dictable, of­fi­cials warned.

Mary­land of­fi­cials noted that the ma­jor­ity of cases in the state are of peo­ple ages 18 to 64, with five un­der age 18. The youngest per­son in­fected in the state is a 10-month-old boy.

Phillips, the state health of­fi­cial, said none of the five chil­dren who are in­fected in the state have been hos­pi­tal­ized.

“But that makes the point of how very im­por­tant it is for peo­ple to stay home,” she said. “Chil­dren can ab­so­lutely have this dis­ease and can be spread­ers.”

Northam made the same point in a stern mes­sage Wed­nes­day to Lib­erty Univer­sity Pres­i­dent Jerry Fal­well Jr. about that school al­low­ing stu­dents to re­turn to cam­pus af­ter spring break ended last week. Fal­well had said 1,000 to 2,000 stu­dents were back on cam­pus. In keep­ing with state bans on large gath­er­ings, he said, most classes would be taught on­line.

In his mes­sage to Fal­well, the gov­er­nor cited a Bible pas­sage from First Corinthi­ans: “It is re­quired that those who have been given a trust must prove faith­ful.”

“Prov­ing faith­ful means pro­vid­ing clear and con­sis­tent guid­ance,” Northam said. “And it means re­spect­ing the duty that Lib­erty Univer­sity has to its stu­dents, its staff, the Lynch­burg com­mu­nity in which it is lo­cated and our com­mon­wealth.”

RICKY CARIOTI/THE WASH­ING­TON POST

Katja Leonardi keeps her dis­tance from peo­ple but at­tracts a crowd of pi­geons as she feeds them this week in South­west Wash­ing­ton. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) said that the Dis­trict is not is­su­ing a stay-at-home di­rec­tive but that of­fi­cials may ask gath­er­ings of peo­ple to dis­perse as they seek to con­tain the spread of the coro­n­avirus.

BON­NIE JO MOUNT/THE WASH­ING­TON POST

Don­ald Bryson mounts his bike af­ter paus­ing to take a pho­to­graph Wed­nes­day on the Mall near the Wash­ing­ton Mon­u­ment in the Dis­trict. Bryson, a Cal­i­for­nian, said he was vis­it­ing friends in the area and was wear­ing a mask as “a pre­cau­tion.” Crowds have thinned in pub­lic spa­ces amid the pandemic.

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