- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 24, 2020

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser on Tuesday joined the governors of Maryland and Virginia in ordering the closure of some non-essential businesses such as salons, barber shops and tattoo parlors.

“We have virtually shut down economic activity in our city in an effort to contain the spread of the virus,” Miss Bowser said at a press conference.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam announced closures for non-essential businesses Monday.

In all three jurisdictions, residents are being urged to stay home as Metro has significantly reduced service, restaurants and bars are open only for carryout and delivery services, and personal care businesses, fitness centers, entertainment venues and schools are closed.

On Tuesday evening, Metro announced the closing of another 17 rail stations, effective Thursday, in “an effort to conserve critical resources and protect the health and safety of Metro employees and the public.”

Nine of the stations Metro is closing have another station within 1 mile and the other eight stations have seen ridership decline by 90%.

Additionally, Metro will close some of the entrances at stations that are open to conserve cleaning supplies. For example, at Metro Center the 12th and F St. entrance will be closed and the other three entrances will remain open.

The Maryland Department of Health announced Tuesday the state’s fourth death from the coronavirus, a Prince George’s County man in his 60s who had underlying medical conditions.

More than 800 coronavirus cases and 13 deaths attributable to the disease have been recorded in Maryland, Virginia and District, and officials expect those numbers to increase as more people are tested for COVID-19.

“The feedback I am hearing from Virginians is supportive,” Mr. Northam said Tuesday at a press conference. “You understand that while these changes are difficult, they are necessary. You understand that we are fighting a biological war and to have economic recovery we have to get through this health crisis first.”

Mr. Northam said he is allowing some brick-and-mortar retail businesses to stay open as long as they limit customers to 10 at a time and follow hygiene and social distancing protocols.

As D.C. students officially started distance learning Tuesday, Miss Bowser announced an equity fund that already has raised $1 million to provide students with Wi-Fi and internet-linked devices to help them learn from home.

D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Lewis Ferebee said an informal count revealed that about 30% of the almost 48,000 students are without internet access or a device. DCPS has about 18,000 devices on hand to give students.

Mr. Ferebee said that not all of the lessons are internet based and that DCPS printed about 75,000 copies of materials for children to take home, 75% of which were picked up by students.

State Superintendent of Education Hanseul Kang said emergency day care facilities up and running for the children of health care workers by the end of the week. And Miss Bowser said that, depending on how well the emergency program operates, the day care services could be offered to the children of workers in other essential jobs such as transportation.

The mayor also launched a $25 million grant program for small businesses that have been affected by COVID-19.

Businesses, nonprofits, independent contractors and self-employed workers will be available to apply for grants of up to $25,000 to help pay for employee wages and benefits, rent and other operating costs.

In Virginia, Mr. Northam said that President Trump’s desire to resume business as usual as early as Easter is not consistent with medical data about the course of the coronavirus.

“While it would be nice to say this will be behind us two weeks, that’s not really what the data tells us, it says it will be with us for two to three months or even longer,” the Democratic governor said, adding that the commonwealth has not even come close to reaching the peak number of cases.

Meanwhile, Liberty University in Lynchburg is welcoming students back to campus, as most other colleges and universities are sending students home to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Although the university — which is the largest evangelical institution in the country — had transitioned to all online classes, it is still allowing students to return to campus after spring break.

Liberty officials said more than 1,000 students were back on campus Tuesday.

The new Metro closures include stations in all three of the system’s major jurisdictions.

In the District: Federal Center SW, Federal Triangle, Mount Vernon Square, Judiciary Square, Archives and Cleveland Park. In Virginia: Greensboro, Eisenhower Avenue, Virginia Square, Clarendon, East Falls Church, McLean and Van Dorn Street. In Maryland: Grosvenor-Strathmore, Cheverly, College Park and Morgan Boulevard.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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