- The Washington Times - Monday, December 20, 2021

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser declared a state of emergency for COVID-19 and reinstated a mask mandate on Monday, after Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced he has tested positive for the disease.

Meanwhile, several schools around the metropolitan area have resumed online instruction amid a surge of coronavirus infections.

In the District, the citywide mask order starts at 6 a.m. Tuesday and lasts until Jan. 31. Under the state of emergency, the District will expand testing and require city government workers to get boosters as part of the vaccine mandate with no test out option.

“I think we’re all tired of it [COVID-19],” Miss Bowser said. “But we have to respond to what’s happening in our city and what’s happening in our nation. And we have to continue to focus on keeping the critical parts of our government open starting with schools, our other government operations and making sure our vulnerable populations can be supported as well.”

The District is adding nine more COVID-19 test pickup and drop-off sites, which opened at noon Monday: Deanwood Recreation Center, Kenilworth Recreation Center, Ridge Road Recreation Center, Ferebee Hope Recreation Center, Southeast Library, Northeast Library, Palisades Neighborhood Library, Takoma Park Neighborhood Library and Riggs-Lasalle Recreation Center.

The D.C. Health Department has ordered 1,050,000 rapid antigen tests, according to Patrick Ashley, the agency’s senior deputy director. He said 42,000 tests are on hand and 200,000 are in transit.

SEE ALSO: Moderna says COVID-19 booster offers ‘reassuring’ protection against omicron

Starting Wednesday, the rapid tests will be available six days a week at eight neighborhood libraries: Mt. Pleasant Library, West End Library, Cleveland Park Library, Petworth Library, Woodridge Library, Shaw (Watha T. Daniel) Library, Capitol View Library and Anacostia Library.

Each library will have 1,000 kits a day, but that will increase as supply increases. Residents can get two free rapid tests per day and will need to show proof of residency.

As part of a return from winter break, students, teachers and staff at D.C. public schools and public charter schools will be given rapid antigen tests. The schools will receive 100,000 rapid tests.

D.C. public schools will be closed for instruction Jan. 3-4 so that staff and families of students can use those days to pick up rapid antigen tests.

The city reported a daily case rate of about 43 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents as of Thursday, a metric that is in the “red zone” and an increase from a rate of about 12 cases the month prior, the most recent health data shows. About 3% of the COVID-19 infections are from the omicron variant, according to Dr. Anjali Talwalkar from D.C. Health Department.

In Maryland, Mr. Hogan announced he’s tested positive for COVID-19 on Monday, a day after he said the state would not shut down again as a coronavirus precaution.

SEE ALSO: Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan tests positive for COVID-19

“This morning, as part of my regular testing routine, I received a positive rapid test for COVID-19. I have been vaccinated and boosted, and I am feeling fine at the moment,” Mr. Hogan tweeted.

In Prince George’s County, public school students transitioned to virtual learning Monday, which will last until Thursday before winter break starts. Virtual learning will continue Jan. 3-14.

In-person instruction will resume Jan. 18 after the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, and students in the K-6 virtual program will return Jan. 31, said Monica Goldson, the school system’s chief officer.

Montgomery County Public Schools said Monday it is trying to keep its schools open. Interim Superintendent Monifa McKnight said officials will consider individual school closures in January if 5% or more of unrelated students, teachers and staff (for a minimum of 10), test positive in a 14-day period.

Maryland reported a 15% test positivity rate on Sunday, an increase from about 4.5% on Dec. 1, according to state health data. The state this month is reporting more than 1,000 daily new COVID-19 cases for the most part, with some days exceeding 2,000 and 3,000 new infections. Comparatively, there were usually fewer than 1,000 cases reported during the month of November.

For more information, visit The Washington Times COVID-19 resource page.

• Tom Howell Jr. can be reached at thowell@washingtontimes.com.

• Shen Wu Tan can be reached at stan@washingtontimes.com.

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