New coronavirus infections across the greater Washington region hit an 11-week high Wednesday, mirroring a rise seen across large swaths of the country as the pandemic’s spread worsens ahead of the cold winter months.
The rolling seven-day average of new infections across D.C., Virginia and Maryland stands at 1,949 cases, the most since the average reached 2,001 new cases on Aug. 9. Health experts said adherence to health precautions will limit further spread, but warned that residents might want to reconsider travel during the busy holiday season.
Despite the rise, caseloads in the capital region are far below those in many other states. Virginia is recording 14 new daily cases per 100,000 residents, a number that drops to 12 in Maryland and 10 in D.C. — about half the national average of 22.
By comparison, the state with the lowest rate is Vermont, at three new cases per 100,000 residents, while new daily infections have surged to 104 per 100,000 in North Dakota and South Dakota — more than 10 times the rate as the nation’s capital.
[Places in the U.S. with highest daily reported cases per capita]
Health experts said Wednesday that while the Washington region’s number of infections might rise further, they don’t expect large spikes like those in other parts of the country — assuming residents continue to follow standard guidelines of wearing a mask, maintaining social distancing and not traveling for nonessential reasons.
Costi Sifri, director of hospital epidemiology at UVA Health in Charlottesville, said “virus fatigue” has started to set in, with some people opting out of precautions they took earlier in the pandemic. Cold weather is another factor, prompting residents to spend more time indoors and in closer proximity, creating an ideal environmental for the virus to spread.
“We are starting to see an uptick in the DMV of cases,” Sifri said. “But we’re fortunate that we’re one of a handful of states — Maryland, D.C. and Virginia — that are not seeing surges.”
[Coronavirus cases and metrics in D.C., Maryland and Virginia]
He credited the region’s success with the widespread following of health guidelines, which he said were accompanied by less political tension than in other parts of the country.
Sifri said that as Halloween and Thanksgiving approach, actions taken now will help to determine how the virus is spreading as the December holidays and New Year’s get closer. Combating any virus is generally more difficult during the fall and winter months, he said, and the coronavirus is no exception.
“If we don’t do things well now, it could lead to a very bad holiday season,” he said.
In Virginia, Sifri said rural parts of the state continue to see a rise in infections, a shift from more densely populated areas hit early in the pandemic.
Virginia Department of Health data shows Northern Virginia saw its average number of new daily cases rise Wednesday to 271 — the highest in that region since mid-June. But much of the state’s rise is coming