D.C. schools:

BIRX ASKS CDC TO WORK WITH OF­FI­CIALS Leader says it has high­est rate of pos­i­tive tests in U.S.

The Washington Post - - FRONT PAGE - BY JULIE ZAUZMER, COLBY ITKOWITZ AND GRE­GORY S. SCH­NEI­DER

Some in-per­son classes could re­sume in Au­gust.

The lead co­or­di­na­tor of the White House coro­n­avirus task force said Fri­day that the District and its sub­urbs have the high­est rate in the coun­try of peo­ple test­ing pos­i­tive for the in­fec­tion, de­spite im­ple­ment­ing the same re­stric­tions and stay-at-home or­ders as other states.

Deb­o­rah Birx said she has asked the U.S. Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion to work with of­fi­cials in the na­tion’s cap­i­tal, as well as in Chicago and Los An­ge­les, which she said are in sim­i­lar po­si­tions, “to re­ally un­der­stand where these new cases are com­ing from and what do we need to do to pre­vent them in the fu­ture.”

Birx said 42 states now have a less than 10 per­cent pos­i­tive-test rate on a rolling seven-day av­er­age, be­low the av­er­ages in Mary­land, Vir­ginia and the District.

Vir­ginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) and Mary­land Gov. Larry Ho­gan (R) have said that the vast ma­jor­ity of in­fec­tions in their states are in the densely pop­u­lated sub­urbs clos­est to the District, and Vir­ginia’s pos­i­tiv­ity rate out­side of North­ern Vir­ginia does meet the 10 per­cent bench­mark.

Both gov­er­nors be­gan eas­ing some shut­down re­stric­tions in their states last week but ex­empted the D.C. sub­urbs or al­lowed lo­cal lead­ers to opt out, cit­ing the higher con­cen­tra­tion of cases there.

Lead­ers of the District and the Mary­land coun­ties of Mont­gomery and Prince Ge­orge’s have said their num­bers are mov­ing in the right di­rec­tion, how­ever, and an­nounced that the Phase 1 re­open­ing un­der­way in far­ther-out parts of Mary­land and Vir­ginia could be­gin in the District and its sub­urbs by late May or early June.

In North­ern Vir­ginia, the shut­down re­mains in place at least through Thurs­day. Northam has said he does not want to al­low in­di­vid­ual coun­ties to ease re­stric­tions un­til the whole re­gion is ready.

“As Gov­er­nor Northam has

made clear, North­ern Vir­ginia and the greater Wash­ing­ton area face unique chal­lenges — that’s why North­ern Vir­ginia lo­cal­i­ties re­main un­der a Stay at Home or­der,” Northam spokes­woman Alena Yar­mosky said via text mes­sage. “Our ad­min­is­tra­tion con­tin­ues to fo­cus on ex­pand­ing test­ing and trac­ing ca­pac­ity in these hard-hit lo­cal­i­ties, in­clud­ing free com­mu­nity test­ing for un­der­in­sured or oth­er­wise vul­ner­a­ble com­mu­ni­ties.”

As of May 18, Vir­ginia re­ported that 14.7 per­cent of all tests statewide were com­ing back pos­i­tive on a seven-day mov­ing av­er­age. For North­ern Vir­ginia, though, that seven-day av­er­age was 24.6 per­cent; it was 10 per­cent for the re­main­der of the state, ac­cord­ing to the Vir­ginia De­part­ment of Health.

Northam said res­i­dents of North­ern Vir­ginia, Rich­mond and Ac­co­mack County on the Eastern Shore — all of which were ex­empted from the Phase 1 re­open­ing be­cause of their high caseloads — should not travel out­side their re­gions dur­ing the Me­mo­rial Day hol­i­day week­end.

“Those three ar­eas are still un­der the stay-at-home or­der. Un­less it’s es­sen­tial, they need to be out, we don’t ex­pect peo­ple to be trav­el­ing,” he said.

Mary­land’s cu­mu­la­tive pos­i­tiv­ity rate was 19.77 per­cent as of

Fri­day af­ter­noon, ac­cord­ing to state data. De­spite ex­panded test­ing in re­cent days, the weekly pos­i­tiv­ity rate had dropped only to 18.2 per­cent as of Fri­day.

In hard-hit Prince Ge­orge’s County, which has the high­est num­ber of cases in the state, the weekly pos­i­tiv­ity rate last week was 28 per­cent, down from 41 per­cent on April 19, County Ex­ec­u­tive An­gela D. Al­so­brooks said Thurs­day.

A spokesman for Ho­gan said the de­ci­sion to be­gin re­open­ing Mary­land was based on the “key met­rics” for the state’s re­cov­ery — cur­rent hos­pi­tal­iza­tions and ICU bed use, which are “now at four­week lows.”

“The gov­er­nor said early on that the Cap­i­tal Re­gion would be a hotspot for covid-19, and the DC metro coun­ties have been a sub­stan­tial fo­cus of our public health re­sponse,” Mike Ricci said in an email.

About 60 per­cent of Mary­land res­i­dents live in parts of the state that have not fully im­ple­mented Ho­gan’s re­open­ing plans.

In the District, the cu­mu­la­tive pos­i­tiv­ity rate is now at 18 per­cent and has been on a grad­ual de­cline since late April, when it was at 21 per­cent. For tests con­ducted more re­cently, city data shows a lower share of pos­i­tive re­sults: 15 per­cent for the month of May and 11 per­cent over the past week.

City of­fi­cials orig­i­nally listed a cu­mu­la­tive pos­i­tiv­ity rate be­low 10 per­cent among their re­open­ing met­rics. But they no longer high­light that bench­mark, fo­cus­ing in­stead on com­mu­nity spread of the virus and not­ing that a large pro­por­tion of D.C. cases are in nurs­ing homes and other in­sti­tu­tional set­tings.

Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D), who will an­nounce Tues­day whether she will ease re­stric­tions slightly at the end of next week, laid out sum­mer plans Fri­day that in­clude the clo­sure of public swim­ming pools and the mod­i­fi­ca­tion of sum­mer camps and a city-spon­sored jobs pro­gram to avoid in-per­son con­tact.

The Sum­mer Youth Em­ploy­ment Pro­gram will be al­most en­tirely vir­tual, with teenagers and young adults work­ing re­mote jobs — such as tech sup­port or teach­ing chil­dren to read — and prac­tic­ing job skills through more than 200 hours of on­line train­ing through the D.C. De­part­ment of Em­ploy­ment Ser­vices.

In lieu of sum­mer camps, the D.C. De­part­ment of Parks and Re­cre­ation will give out sup­plies for up to 5,000 chil­dren to par­tic­i­pate in ac­tiv­i­ties such as cook­ing, art projects and sci­ence ex­per­i­ments.

If the city reaches Phase 2 of its re­open­ing plan this sum­mer — mean­ing only lo­cal­ized trans­mis­sion of the virus is tak­ing place — then the de­part­ment could of­fer in-per­son camps for small groups of chil­dren at 27 lo­ca­tions, of­fi­cials said.

Parks di­rec­tor De­lano Hunter said the mod­i­fied camps would have “a heavy out­door em­pha­sis on so­cially dis­tant ac­tiv­i­ties and games.”

D.C. Public Schools Chan­cel­lor Lewis D. Fere­bee an­nounced vir­tual grad­u­a­tions for all city high schools and vir­tual sum­mer school from June 22 to July 24. In Au­gust, if the city has reached Phase 2, the school sys­tem will of­fer a “bridge pro­gram,” an op­tional two weeks of school for the District’s 11,5000 ris­ing third-, sixth- and ninth-graders.

The need for cau­tion was un­der­scored by the daily re­port­ing of new coro­n­avirus cases in the re­gion: Vir­ginia re­ported 37 deaths on Fri­day, the high­est num­ber in 10 days. It also counted 813 new in­fec­tions, in­clud­ing 32 in Ar­ling­ton, 37 in Alexan­dria and 154 in Fair­fax County.

The District counted 105 new in­fec­tions and six new deaths, bring­ing the to­tal num­ber of vic­tims who have died of the virus to 418.

Mary­land recorded 48 deaths, in­clud­ing 12 in Mont­gomery County and 11 were in neigh­bor­ing Prince Ge­orge’s. The state also added 893 new in­fec­tions.

Bal­ti­more County, which lifted some so­cial dis­tanc­ing re­stric­tions on Fri­day morn­ing, added 35 new cases — the low­est num­ber since mid-april.

In to­tal, 87,267 peo­ple in the two states and the District have con­tracted the virus and 3,761 peo­ple have died.

In Mary­land and Vir­ginia, leg­is­la­tors and busi­ness peo­ple ex­pressed dif­fer­ent opin­ions Fri­day about what next steps are war­ranted.

Rich­mond Mayor Le­var Stoney and two union lead­ers sep­a­rately urged Northam to man­date maskwear­ing as a public safety mea­sure. Northam, a physi­cian, has en­cour­aged Vir­gini­ans to wear face cov­er­ings in public, but he has not re­quired them to do so.

“As the na­tion’s only doc­tor gov­er­nor, I know that you un­der­stand that this is not the time for us to let down our guard, which is why I am con­tin­u­ing to en­cour­age you to make it a re­quire­ment that Vir­gini­ans must wear a mask or face cov­er­ing while in a public space or vis­it­ing busi­nesses,” Stoney (D) wrote.

Both the District and Mary­land re­quire peo­ple to wear masks while in public spa­ces in­doors and on public trans­porta­tion.

“We’re ask­ing the gov­er­nor to man­date the wear­ing of face masks con­sis­tent with CDC rec­om­men­da­tions,” said Stoney spokesman Jim Nolan. The CDC rec­om­mends wear­ing cloth face cov­er­ings “in public set­tings where other so­cial dis­tanc­ing mea­sures are dif­fi­cult to main­tain,” which could in­clude in­side busi­nesses as well as out­door ar­eas, such as on a crowded side­walk.

Two union lead­ers asked Northam to re­quire Vir­gini­ans to wear masks in­side busi­nesses for the pro­tec­tion of es­sen­tial work­ers em­ployed there.

In Mary­land, a bi­par­ti­san group of state se­na­tors asked Ho­gan to is­sue an ex­ec­u­tive or­der to pro­tect small-busi­ness own­ers from po­ten­tial li­a­bil­ity from law­suits if they fol­low safety pro­to­cols. A spokesman for Ho­gan did not im­me­di­ately re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment.

“Those three ar­eas are still un­der the stay-at-home or­der. . . . We don’t ex­pect peo­ple to be trav­el­ing,” Vir­ginia Gov. Ralph Northam, about res­i­dents of North­ern Vir­ginia, Rich­mond and Ac­co­mack County dur­ing Me­mo­rial Day week­end

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