- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 19, 2020

Regional leaders provided updates Thursday on how their jurisdictions are dealing with the coronavirus, with Maryland reporting about an infected child and Virginia about new confirmed cases and the District about sickened first responders.

D.C. Fire Chief Gregory Dean announced that three firefighters have tested positive for COVID-19 and 141 other emergency specialists are quarantined.

“Part of the reason that we are so focused and that we have gone through pretty substantially drastic measures to contain [COVID-19] in our city is to make sure that we blunt the spread of this virus and we especially blunt it to protect our first responders,” Mayor Muriel Bowser said at a press conference.

Chief Dean said the third firefighter tested positive an hour before the press conference and the 141 quarantined personnel are not those who came in contact with that firefighter.

“If you are having a cough or sore throat or fever, those are considered non-life-threatening,” the fire chief said, noting that shortness of breath is life-threatening. “Call a clinic and talk to them instead of calling 911 and exposing our members.”

Metropolitan Police Chief Peter Newsham said no officers have tested positive and none has been ordered to quarantine, but about 70 officers have self-quarantined on their own initiative or on the recommendation of a doctor.

No one at the D.C. Jail has tested positive, but about 65 inmates have been quarantined due to contact with a U.S. marshal who tested positive for the disease. Miss Bowser said she is not considering releasing people from jail.

The District has tallied 71 confirmed coronavirus cases including Catholic University President John Garvey. Just on Thursday, the D.C. Department of Health (DOH) announced 32 new cases, one of which is an 8-year-old boy.

This week, the District and Maryland closed theaters, restaurants, bars and health centers to stem the spread of the disease.

Earlier Thursday, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced that a 5-year-old girl in Howard County had contracted the disease and a man in his 60s with a health condition in Prince George’s County had died, the state’s first coronavirus death.

Mr. Hogan ordered all shopping malls and entertainment venues closed, starting at 5 p.m. Thursday and ban on gatherings of 10 or more people. He also said the state’s Transportation Department was limiting access to Baltimore Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport to ticketed passengers, employees and people assisting passengers with disabilities.

He strongly urged people to use transit such as MARC, Amtrak, Metro and buses only for essential travel.

“Despite all of our repeated warnings for weeks, and despite the rapid escalation of this virus across our state, the region, the nation and the world, some people are treating this like a vacation, or a spring break with parties, and cookouts and large gatherings at some of our parks,” the governor said at a press conference. “Let me be very clear: If you are engaged in this type of activity you’re in violation of state law and you are endangering the lives of fellow Marylanders.”

The state saw an 88% increase in individuals with COVID-19 in the last 48 hours, totaling 107 cases.

Mr. Hogan said that 900 hospital beds are currently available and an additional 1,400 beds will be available by early April as hospitals reopen closed floors and facilities.

Meanwhile, Virginia now has 94 confirmed cases of COVID-19, mainly in its northern and eastern regions, and nearly 2,000 residents have been tested. Two Virginians at different assisted living facilities — Westminster Canterbury Richmond and The Kensington Falls Church — have tested positive for the coronavirus, officials said.

Gov. Ralph Northam encouraged Virginians to donate blood during the pandemic, noting that the American Red Cross is experiencing shortages due to canceled blood drives. He gave blood Wednesday.

Mr. Northam also took action to expand access to health care for Virginians by expanding access to telehealth, eliminating co-payments for services covered by Medicaid and Family Access to Medical Insurance Security, including COVID-19 treatment, and other measures.

The governor addressed ways to spread COVID-19 among jail populations by allowing sentences to be modified, diverting people from being admitted to jail before trial and using house arrest.

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