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Deadliest coronavirus day in D.C., as pressure mounts on Hogan to open Maryland

The Washington Post logo The Washington Post 30/04/2020 Antonio Olivo, Ovetta Wiggins, Fenit Nirappil
a man standing next to a car: Protesters with the group Reopen Maryland, shown at a rally in the state capital earlier this month, plans to demonstrate again on Saturday to pressure Gov. Larry Hogan (R) to lift stay-at-home restrictions and allow businesses to reopen. © Drew Angerer/Getty Images Protesters with the group Reopen Maryland, shown at a rally in the state capital earlier this month, plans to demonstrate again on Saturday to pressure Gov. Larry Hogan (R) to lift stay-at-home restrictions and allow businesses to reopen.

The greater Washington region reported nearly 2,000 new novel coronavirus cases Thursday, with the District recording its worst day for fatalities, as Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan came under increasing pressure from fellow Republicans to reopen his state’s economy.

With the virus having killed 1,910 residents of the District, Maryland and Virginia, area leaders said it’s unlikely that they would soon lift shutdown orders that have stunted the local economy — even as nearly 119,000 more local residents lost their jobs last week.

D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser said the District's 19 new reported COVID-19 fatalities and 217 new known infections “highlights for everybody that we are not done with this virus in this city.”

The District’s previous daily record for COVID-19 fatalities was 15, which officials reported on several other days in April, according to The Washington Post tracker of known cases in the region.

District officials said Thursday that more than 85 per cent of the city’s 225 fatalities so far were residents with underlying health conditions.

Seventy per cent had hypertension, while half had diabetes. The majority of those residents — 70 per cent — had more than one preexisting health problem.

Bowser (D) said residents “have to continue to heed the guidelines by staying at home, wearing a mask when going out, especially to do our essential work, and listening to symptoms that your body is telling you to get tested.”

Pictures: Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak around the world

The region’s overall tally of known coronavirus infections climbed to 41,956 on Thursday, the result of increased testing in the area and the virus’s continuing spread.

In Virginia, officials reported 885 additional infections and 30 more deaths.

Maryland recorded 893 more infections and 62 additional COVID-19 fatalities, most of which were in the Washington suburbs.

With more than 647,000 area residents losing their jobs during the past six weeks, Hogan (R) is facing calls from Republican lawmakers and others to lift his state’s shutdown orders.

The governor released a plan last week that outlines how to reopen the state in three stages.

Both Bowser and Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) have released similar plans, with all three leaders planning to coordinate a gradual, regional relaunch.

Hogan has estimated that the first phase could happen in early May, saying he is primarily focused on a downward trend in hospitalizations and intensive care unit bed use, neither of which has happened.

a man standing in front of a brick building: A note to customers is taped to the door of Solly's Tavern in Washington, D.C. © Leah Millis/Reuters A note to customers is taped to the door of Solly's Tavern in Washington, D.C.

A group called Reopen Maryland said it wants the governor to lift the restrictions sooner, and is planning a 150-mile trek across the state on Saturday to demand that Hogan allow nonessential businesses to reopen.

U.S. Rep. Andy Harris, the state’s only Republican member of Congress, is expected to participate, along with Dels. Dan Cox (R-Frederick) and Warren E. Miller (R-Howard), underscoring the fraying support Hogan is facing within his party as he works to manage the crisis.

Miller said “there is a lot of frustration” from small business owners and residents who have lost their jobs. He also criticized Hogan’s calls for a regional recovery strategy.

“First it was numbers in the state, now it numbers in the region,” Miller said. “We’re tied to Virginia and the District. Some parts of our state have barely been impacted at all. How long do we have to do the quarantine? Is it a month? Is it a year?”

Reopen Maryland — which is similar to groups that have organized rallies in Virginia, Michigan and several other states — held a demonstration earlier in April that drew several hundred people to Annapolis.

A Hogan spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment. But the governor has said he doesn’t want to create a situation where restrictions are lifted in a less-impacted area and then people from hard-hit locations travel to that area to patronize reopened bars and restaurants and other attractions.

Hogan has tried to lessen the economic pain for Maryland residents in other ways. An executive order he signed Wednesday bars creditors and debt collectors from garnishing federal stimulus checks issued under the $2 trillion economic relief package signed by President Trump last month.

Child support payments can still be garnished under that order, state officials said.

Hogan tweeted Thursday that the checks — meant for food, housing and other essential needs — “are providing critical assistance to Marylanders.”

The governor also extended an earlier emergency order prohibiting utilities from shutting off electric, water, phone or Internet services. That order is in effect until June 1 or unless the state of emergency is lifted before then, state officials said.

Hogan ordered that state flags be flown at half-mast until Sunday to honour the 1,128 Maryland residents who had died from COVID-19 as of Thursday and the health care workers and first responders working to help those who’ve been infected.

“We’re still kind of climbing that curve in Maryland,” he said during a Washington Post Live interview.

In Virginia, several tenants’ groups plan to stage simultaneous protests Friday that is meant to pressure Northam into forcing landlords into waiving rents until the economy is reopened.

The demonstrations in Northern Virginia, the Richmond area and Hampton Roads also mirror protests elsewhere in the country. They will be done by cars and from residents’ homes, with participants honking or banging pots and pans during the evening, organizers said in a news release.

Hogan said the widespread shutdown has slowed the spread of the virus so that hospitals have not become overwhelmed. But, he added, the consequence of a slower moving pandemic is that it will take longer before it stops.

“We’re anxious to get our economy back on track and put people back to work, but we want to make sure we do so in a safe, effective, and a gradual way,” Hogan said.

Erin Cox, Dana Hedgpeth and Rebecca Tan contributed to this report. 

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