“Everything you have done has truly made a difference — we flattened the curve [of infections] and our hospitals have not been overwhelmed,” Northam said. “I am keenly aware that it has come with a tremendous cost. Now we can start to move into a new phase of our response.”
Neither Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) nor D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) has said they are close to rolling back restrictions, a departure from the coordinated approach the three leaders have taken during the pandemic so far.
But Northam’s chief of staff said Monday that Northam, Hogan and Bowser discussed a possible May 15 start to the process during a conference call last week and will speak again Tuesday. Northam has also discussed reopening plans with leaders in Kentucky, West Virginia, Tennessee and Delaware, chief of staff Clark Mercer said.
Maryland, the District and Virginia added 67 new covid-19 deaths on Monday as case numbers exceeded 50,000 for the first time. Per capita deaths are far higher in the District and Maryland — 38 and 22 per 100,000 residents, respectively, compared to 8.1 per 100,000 in Virginia.
“Each state has their own situation, their own challenges,” Northam said. “We’re probably not going to do everything on the exact day but we’re working as close as we can.”
A spokesman for Hogan (R) said he had no update on when Maryland might lift restrictions. The governor has said he was targeting early May, but is closely watching metrics including hospitalizations and ICU bed use. Hospitalizations ticked up slightly in Maryland on Monday after three days of small declines; ICU bed use has remained flat.
Bowser expects to hear recommendations next week from an advisory group on how to reopen the District. But the city has not seen the sustained decreases in new cases and rate of residents testing positive that officials say are needed to reopen.
The order that closed most nonessential businesses in Virginia was set to expire Friday. Northam said he would extend the order one more week to ensure that current favorable trends hold. He also say he “may adjust” a separate stay-at-home order thatexpires June 10.
But after May 14, Northam said, the state hopes to begin a cautious reopening of some businesses under managed conditions.
That would mean people could resume going to get haircuts, he said, “but you’ll need an appointment, and you’ll see new safety measures in the salon.” Restaurants would have to use less seating and keep patrons farther apart, and staff would wear face coverings.
Retailers and gyms would admit fewer customers and conduct more cleaning.
This phase of reemergence should last about three weeks, Northam said, before the state would consider moving to another degree of slightly more permissive conditions.
Republicans who had generally supported Northam’s managing of the crisis have clamored for a resumption of business. The pandemic is expected to cost the state some $3 billion in expenses and lost revenue over the rest of this fiscal year and the next two.
“We hope the Governor is serious about reopening next Friday,” House minority leader Del. Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah) said in an emailed statement. “Virginians need a light at the end of this tunnel.”
Gilbert added that rural parts of the state with few outbreaks should emerge first.
But Northam said he will take a unified approach.
“I have made the decision to go into phase one — unless something drastically changes — next Friday, and we’ll do that together,” he said.
Virginia health commissioner Norm Oliver said the state expects the number of new cases to continue to rise once restrictions are eased. His department aims to hire 1,000 contact tracers to help track down anyone who comes into contact with an infected person; exposed people will be quarantined.
Northam said the state will not be truly safe until scientists develop a vaccine against covid-19, a process that he said could be done by the end of the year or take as long as two years.
In Maryland, Hogan has made widespread testing a cornerstone of his plan to lift social distancing requirements and reopen the state’s economy. His goal is to increase capacity to 10,000 tests per day; as of last week, state-directed labs were working to ramp up to 2,200 per day.
Despite Hogan’s high-profile acquisition of 500,000 coronavirus test kits from South Korea, insufficient medical and lab supplies has limited how widely they can be deployed. For now, Hogan has focused on tamping down hotspots and testing all nursing home residents and workers, as well as making sure medical and public safety workers have access to tests.
The state opened the first drive-through coronavirus testing facility at a vehicle emissions testing site in Western Maryland on Monday, bringing the number of such sites statewide to eight. Only patients who are both symptomatic and have underlying conditions that put them at high risk of coronavirus complications are eligible to be tested there.
In the District, Bowser said she was optimistic that the city is on track to hit goals for hospital capacity and protective gear for health care workers, but cautioned that the city health department — not business interests — will drive decisions about next steps.
“When people ask us or ask you, ‘Are we any closer to being able to reopen?’, a good question is, ‘Are we doing everything we can to limit our travel to essential trips and following the guidelines?” Bowser said at her news conference.
The city continues to face stark disparities in cases of infection, officials said Monday.
The impact on African Americans — who make up 46 percent of the city but nearly 80 percent of covid-19 fatalities — has drawn the most attention.
But LaQuandra Nesbitt, the director of the D.C. Health department, said the per capita infection rates have been worse among Latinos and Hispanic residents, and the heavily Latino Columbia Heights neighborhood has become among the hardest hit.
The city has seen about 1,200 infections per 100,000 Latino and Hispanic residents. That compares to about 820 cases per 100,000 for black residents and 175 cases per 100,000 for white residents. Latinos also have also been disproportionately affected in Virginia’s Fairfax County, making up 55 percent of 4,615 cases.
Nesbitt said the share of D.C. cases linked to congregant settings such as nursing homes has declined from nearly a third in mid-April to about 16 percent, though such facilities continue to see high death rates.
As of Monday, 70 residents of D.C. long-term care facilities have died of covid-19, city officials said. That’s more than a quarter of all covid-19 fatalities in the District. In all, 247 residents of long-term facilities and 85 staff members have tested positive. Two employees have died.
D.C. hospitals reported 447 covid-19 patients on Monday, with 130 in intensive care and 91 on ventilators. That’s a slight increase from last Monday, when 435 were hospitalized, with 124 in intensive care units and 84 on ventilators.
“This virus has not left the District,” Bowser said. “We need to be mindful that we can only contain the virus if we don’t spread it to one another.”
D.C. reported seven new covid-19 deaths Monday, for a total toll of 258. It also added 154 cases, down from 219 on Sunday.
Maryland added 36 new deaths and 946 new infections, with more than half of those positive tests located in the D.C. suburbs.
Virginia added 24 new deaths — the lowest number in six days — and 821 new infections.
The D.C. Council is scheduled to vote Tuesday on emergency covid-19 legislation that would cap commissions charged by meal delivery services, require landlords to offer payment plans and force insurers to pay business interruption claims.
Erin Cox, Antonio Olivo and Rebecca Tan contributed to this report.