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Surging Coronavirus Cases in D.C. Region Shut Down Libraries, Museum and Football Viewing

December 16, 2020 2:44 PM | Office IFCPP (Administrator)

Reposted from The Washington Post

In Prince George’s County, where officials on Thursday halted indoor dining and ordered new caps on crowds in retail businesses and casinos, the library system said Friday it too would shut down. The National Museum of the U.S. Army is temporarily closing, while NFL games at FedEx Field will be without spectators the rest of the season.

The greater Washington region added to its growing list of restrictions and closures this week — days that also coincided with the largest number of coronavirus infections since the start of the pandemic. The seven-day average of new cases across Virginia, Maryland and D.C. stood Friday at 6,887, down slightly from Thursday’s record high.

In Prince George’s, library staff members who had been working in buildings to check out books to customers via curbside pickup service will work at home from Dec. 21 to Jan. 12, the library system announced.

“The public health conditions right now require that we adjust operations to keep staff and customers safe during the surge,” the county said in a statement.

Patrons can still check out e-books and audiobooks virtually, but cannot check out or return printed books or other physical materials.

The Prince George’s County library system, like others in the region, has offered curbside pickup but has not allowed patrons into buildings during the pandemic. D.C. is an exception: Many of its library branches have been open for limited book pickups and computer use since the summer, although librarians have expressed concern about their safety.

Infections have risen sharply across the region throughout the fall and as temperatures have turned colder.

As of Friday, the steepest weekly caseload rise was in Virginia, where 60 percent more infections were reported than the week before. The state’s average new daily case rate per 100,000 residents hit an all-time high of 46, with Maryland recording the same rate of spread. The District’s rate per 100,000 residents was 39 on Friday.

Virginia reported 3,395 new daily cases and 35 deaths from the virus Friday. Maryland reported 2,616 cases and 52 deaths, and D.C. reported 259 cases and one death.

The region’s leaders have responded to the surge in infections by introducing new restrictions throughout the week. Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) announced a nighttime curfew Thursday. D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) banned high school sports and recreational contact sports Monday.

Some Maryland jurisdictions announced bans on indoor dining and lower caps at retail establishments in a week that included a joint call with leaders of the state’s eight most populous localities.

In Virginia, Army officials announced Friday that a coronavirus outbreak at the National Museum of the U.S. Army at Fort Belvoir will force it to temporarily close the facility, starting Monday.

In a statement, the Army said “a small number” of museum employees recently have tested positive. The museum sees as many as 560 visitors daily, officials said.

The museum will remain open Saturday and Sunday, with precautions that include timed entry tickets to reduce capacity.

A museum guard, who spoke on the condition of anonymity out of concern for his job security, said he is one of four guards who have tested positive since late November. His symptoms, including a fever and chills, have begun to subside.

“I’m in constant contact with the public,” said the guard.

The Washington Football Team also joined the parade of cancellations Friday, announcing that after discussing the safety of allowing fans in the stadium with the Prince George’s County Health Department, the team decided to play its remaining two home games in front of empty seats.

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