Leaders in Washington region ask White House to follow safety protocols as coronavirus outbreak spreads
The Rose Garden event Sept. 26 that is at the center of the outbreak came as the District’s seven-day rolling average of new infections had trended downward for weeks. The city this month has recorded its lowest number of caseloads since early July, averaging fewer than 40 daily cases with an infection rate lower than that of most states.
During a Monday news conference, Bowser said city leaders “have reached out to the White House on a couple of levels, a political level and a public health level, to make sure that any assistance we could provide could be rendered.”
She suggested that White House officials abide by local public health regulations, including avoiding large gatherings and self-quarantining while waiting for the results of a coronavirus test. The mayor said her administration would not comment on individual cases in the city linked to the White House outbreak.
“Obviously we are concerned about the spread of covid-19, period, but we are especially concerned with people following scientifically justified protocols to contain the spread of the virus and that’s for D.C. residents, that’s for D.C. workers, and that’s also for people who are on federal property, including the White House,” Bowser said.
The city government’s ban on gatherings of more than 50 people does not apply to federal property such as the White House, which hosted more than 150 attendees at the Sept. 26 event where Trump introduced Supreme Court nominee Judge Amy Coney Barrett. The White House is conducting its own contact tracing efforts.
LaQuandra Nesbitt, the District’s top public health official, cautioned Monday that a negative coronavirus test result does not excuse a person exposed to the virus from self-quarantining.
“You cannot test your way out of quarantine,” she said.
In Maryland, Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich (D) was critical of Trump’s weekend drive outside Bethesda’s Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, where the president was being treated for the coronavirus. Trump waved from the back of his vehicle Sunday after announcing he would “pay a little surprise to some of the great patriots that we have out on the street.”
In a Twitter message directed at the president, Elrich wrote: “We take COVID-19 seriously in @MontgomeryCoMD. We ask our residents to act responsibly with family & friends and we expect the same from our guests. Please think about those caring for you and stay in the hospital until you can return to the White House.”
Trump announced Monday on Twitter that he would leave the medical center later that evening. The outbreak linked to the White House expanded Monday, as press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said in a statement that she has tested positive for the virus.
In Maryland, the jurisdiction with the highest number of coronavirus cases since the start of the pandemic released a set of task force recommendations Monday for how to emerge stronger from the pandemic.
Prince George’s County Executive Angela D. Alsobrooks (D), who created the task force in the summer, accepted the vast majority of the recommendations, which cover the county’s health system, the economy, education, social services and government operations. The changes are scheduled to be implemented before Jan. 1.
“We are living in the milieu of what is truly a triple pandemic,” said Joseph Wright, chief medical officer of Capital Region Health, which oversees the Prince George’s Hospital Center in Cheverly, referring to the coronavirus, economic recession and racism.
Wright, who headed the task force’s health recovery subcommittee, said the effects of the coronavirus on the health of residents in the majority-Black county and the economic recession have made clear the “underlying structural and systemic inequities that lead to the disparities we all know so well.”
His group’s recommendations include highlighting funding gaps in the county health department, which a recent study by the Rand Corp. found was underfunded compared with those of neighboring counties; requiring groups that receive county funding through the departments of health, social and family services to collect specific data to address diversity; and requiring a streamlined procedure for acquiring personal protective equipment.
Among the economic recommendations were fast-tracking projects near completion to show the county is “open for business” and helping small- and minority-owned businesses apply for financial relief. The government operations team recommended transitioning from hard copies of documents to digital, the social services team recommended a mask distribution program and public service announcement alerting renters about their rights, and the education team urged public school students receive an iPad or laptop.
The work group will release two more reports with long-term goals and recommendations.
The greater Washington region Monday recorded 1,216 new infections and six additional virus-related fatalities. Virginia had 687 new cases and three deaths, Maryland had 501 new cases and three new deaths, while the District had 28 new cases and no new deaths.
The seven-day rolling average of new coronavirus infections across Virginia, Maryland and has ticked upward over the past week, standing at 1,451 cases Monday. That’s up from 1,293 one week ago.
The number of daily deaths in the region Monday was the lowest since Sept. 13, and well below the seven-day rolling average of 19.
The District announced changes Monday to its list of states that require visitors to quarantine for 14 days, adding New Mexico and removing Arizona from the list.
An order from Bowser identifies “high-risk” states as those with a seven-day moving average of new daily coronavirus cases at 10 or more per 100,000 people. The city requires anyone in the nation’s capital for nonessential activities from those states to quarantine.
The list, which exempts Maryland and Virginia, is updated Monday every two weeks.