A national spike in coronavirus infections continued to make its presence felt Thursday in the greater Washington region, which recorded its ninth-highest number of new cases in a single day since the start of the pandemic.
The 2,492 new infections in Virginia, Maryland and D.C. lifted the seven-day rolling average of daily cases above 2,000 for the first time since early August. Local leaders say the spike is halting any possibility of lifting more pandemic-related restrictions anytime soon.
The seven-day average of new infections across the region stands at 2,003 cases, the highest since it reached 2,007 cases Aug. 8. It comes as each jurisdiction has seen a rise in infections this month that health experts attribute to colder weather, family gatherings and pandemic fatigue.
In Maryland, Prince George’s County Executive Angela D. Alsobrooks (D) said Thursday that the county will stay in the second phase of reopening, citing an uptick in the number of new cases and increases in the county’s test positivity and infection rates.
The suburb, which has reported the most coronavirus cases in Maryland, reported 852 new infections from Oct. 18 to Oct. 24 — the most in a week since the beginning of August, Alsobrooks said.
[D.C. region hits 11-week high in coronavirus infections but avoids spikes seen elsewhere]
The county’s weekly test positivity rate ticked up from 3.9 percent a week earlier to 4.3 percent last week, while the rate of infection — measuring the number of people, on average, infected by someone with the virus — ticked up to 1.07.
“These increases are not unique to us,” she said. “We will continue to do everything we can to keep Prince Georgians safe.”
Alsobrooks urged residents not to let their guard down during the holiday season and to avoid large gatherings at Halloween — including trick-or-treating — and Thanksgiving, warning that contact tracing has found that many new cases originate from family gatherings.
“This is a holiday season like no other,” she said. “These large holiday gatherings with people outside your household are just dangerous.”
County Health Officer Ernest L. Carter said he is concerned about the numbers, adding that officials are “bracing” for another potential spike in cases.
Maryland’s seven-day average of new infections Thursday jumped to 773 cases — the state’s highest since Aug. 7 — while the 962 new cases was the most in a single day since Aug. 1. D.C.’s average rose to 76 new cases — the highest since Aug. 14 — while the 101 new cases was the most in a day since Oct. 6.
[D.C. region’s coronavirus caseload hits two-month high; officials say small gatherings are fueling rise]
Virginia’s daily average Thursday approached a record.
The state’s seven-day average stood at 1,154 cases, which is 44 cases short of a record set Aug. 8. The 1,429 new cases reported Thursday was the sixth-highest in a single day in Virginia since the start of the pandemic.
More than 30 percent of Virginia’s cases in recent days have come from the rural southwest part of the state — a region Gov. Ralph Northam on Wednesday called a “hot spot” for the virus. Average caseloads in that region set another record Thursday, while Northern Virginia continued to see its average rise to the highest level since mid-June.
The 2,492 new infections Thursday across Virginia, Maryland and D.C. was the most in a single day since July 27 that didn’t involve a health department reporting issue. (Higher totals on Aug. 7 and Oct. 8 were inflated after Virginia health officials reported backlogs that included numbers for previous days.)
Despite the recent increase, the region’s numbers are about half the national average. The rate of infection in D.C. is less than one-tenth the rate of states with the highest amount of spread.
[Places with highest daily reported cases per capita]
Jesse Goodman, a professor of medicine at the Georgetown University School of Medicine, said the region’s increase appears to be part of the national rise, but he said the area is likely to avoid spikes seen elsewhere.
Goodman said several factors are contributing to the regional increase, including people spending more time indoors as the weather turns colder, as well as people tiring of the virus and safety protocols that health officials say slow its spread.
“The whole country and every person I know is tired of this,” Goodman said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s some lapsing in the degree of caution that’s part of the problem in our caseloads rising.”
Goodman credited leaders in the Washington region with getting word out this spring about measures to slow the virus’s spread. He said the region is better prepared now to deal with a future rise, but warned that it “doesn’t mean we can handle an all-out crisis like what’s occurring in the rest of the country.”
[Coronavirus cases and metrics in D.C., Maryland and Virginia]
Virus-related hospitalizations have followed case counts upward, with 502 patients in D.C., Maryland and Virginia receiving treatment Thursday — up from 331 at the start of October.
In addition to 2,492 new coronavirus cases, the greater Washington region Thursday also reported 33 deaths. Virginia added 20 deaths, Maryland had 12 deaths and D.C. added one fatality. The seven-day average number of regional deaths has changed little in recent days.
The pandemic’s economic toll was also on display Thursday, as the Labor Department reported that 25,879 people in Maryland, Virginia and D.C. filed for unemployment claims last week. That was up slightly from the 24,533 filing for jobless benefits a week earlier.