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Coronavirus in DC, Maryland, Virginia: What to Know on Nov. 21

NBC Washington D.C. logo NBC Washington D.C. 1 day ago NBC Washington Staff
a group of people standing in a parking lot: Volunteers carry food to be given to members of the community, sponsored by Linda Flowers, during a pre-Thanksgiving food handout in Fort Washington, Maryland on November 20, 2020. – Linda Flowers, a survivor of Covid-19, holds a community food handout each Friday to honor her late father, Bishop James N. Flowers, who passed away from Covid-19 in April 2020. (Photo by ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS / AFP) (Photo by ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images) © AFP via Getty Images

Volunteers carry food to be given to members of the community, sponsored by Linda Flowers, during a pre-Thanksgiving food handout in Fort Washington, Maryland on November 20, 2020. – Linda Flowers, a survivor of Covid-19, holds a community food handout each Friday to honor her late father, Bishop James N. Flowers, who passed away from Covid-19 in April 2020. (Photo by ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS / AFP) (Photo by ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images)

D.C.’s hospitals are already close to capacity as the pandemic worsens — and that’s a large reason why many health professionals are asking people to stay home over the Thanksgiving holiday.

We’re already seeing a spike in hospitalizations following weeks of climbing case numbers. Large, indoor gatherings could exacerbate the rising case numbers.

“Our actions now dictate what happens in the hospital two and four weeks from now,” said Dr. Glenn Wortmann, Director of Infectious Diseases at MedStar Washington Hospital Center.

The upcoming holidays could be a “perfect storm” that pushes hospitals to their limit, Wortmann said.

“Really, it’s in the control of the people of D.C. If people stay separated, wear their masks, we can keep the numbers down,” he said. On Saturday, D.C. hospitals said that were at 86.7%, a few points below the “red zone” threshold — 90% — that would indicate insufficient capacity.

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With the number of people in the D.C. region who are sick or hospitalized with coronavirus growing, it’s welcome news that vaccine development is moving forward.

“The vaccine news has just been phenomenal … This has been hard, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel,” Wortmann said.

Pfizer and BioNTech announced Friday they planned to file for emergency use authorization for their COVID-19 vaccine. That process is expected to take a few weeks.

The White House coronavirus task force has repeatedly said once the drug has approval, it can be mobilized for distribution within 24 hours, CNBC reported.

Operation Warp speed will separately send out ancillary kits containing syringes, needles and alcohol wipes — supplies localities will need to carry out a large vaccination program.

The Pfizer vaccine must be stored at -93 degrees Fahrenheit. Some counties in our area are asking states for help to secure freezers for storage.

Loudoun County is looking to create drive-up vaccination sites.

In general, the vaccine will first become available for certain groups until production can meet demand.

In Montgomery County, it will be health care workers, people over age 65 and those with complicated medical conditions.

D.C.’s “phase one priority population” will focus on health care workers and first responders, DC Health Director LaQuandra Nesbitt said.

In one encouraging data point, Maryland smashed its own record for coronavirus testing on Friday. A total of 51,510 tests were administered on Friday.

Gov. Larry Hogan said tests are available to whoever needs one. He encouraged testing for college students heading home for the holidays, anyone who will visit an older relative or anyone who traveled out of state.

Compared to two weeks ago, a higher proportion of tests are coming back positive — which indicates the surge in cases is not solely due to more testing.

What the Data Shows

Seven-day rolling averages of new cases are up across the board, reaching 164 in D.C., 2,269 in Maryland and 1,610 in Virginia.

D.C. reported 153 new coronavirus cases on Saturday.

Two of D.C.’s metrics measuring the level of community spread are in the red zone. The daily case rate has risen to 23.2 coronavirus cases per 100,000 diagnosed each day. The rate of transmission is 1.22.

A total of 122 coronavirus patients are hospitalized in D.C.

Maryland reported 2,885 new cases on Saturday.

Maryland’s hospitalizations continue the upward trend that began Sept. 20, when hospitalizations were at 281.

On Saturday, 1,229 people in Maryland were hospitalized with COVID-19 and 278 of those patients were in intensive care units.

Although several key metrics have been headed in the wrong direction for weeks, representing thousands of sickened Marylanders, testing is increasing.

A total of 51,510 coronavirus tests were administered in Maryland on Friday, the highest-ever on a single day.

Virginia reported 1,783 new coronavirus cases on Saturday.

The state has also reported a rush of more people being admitted to hospitals. Since Wednesday, the number of hospitalized people has increased by at least 90 each day.

The average number is 55.

Local Coronavirus Headlines

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How to Stay Safe

There are ways to lower your risk of catching coronavirus. Here are guidelines from the CDC:

  • Anyone over the age of 2 should wear a mask or face covering. Keep it over your nose and mouth.
  • Wash your hands often. When you do, scrub with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. As a backup, use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
  • Avoid close contact with anyone who lives outside your home. That means staying six feet away from anyone outside your circle, even if you're wearing masks.
  • Always cover coughs and sneezes.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces.
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