WASHINGTON — There are now 257,773 cases of the coronavirus and 6,574 deaths due to the pandemic in the United States as of Friday afternoon, according to John Hopkins University’s Center for Systems Science and Engineering data dashboard.
The White House coronavirus task force advises that as many as 240,000 Americans will be killed by the virus.
US sees large unemployment rate increase
The national unemployment rate has seen its a dramatic spike, up from 3.5% to 4.4% in just a month, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The coronavirus pandemic has led to millions of Americans losing their jobs within the last few weeks.
This is the highest monthly increase in the rate in 45 years, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Maryland, pointed out in a statement Friday.
“Today’s unprecedented job losses will be tomorrow’s record of resurgence, accompanied by stories of courage and perseverance as we banded together to defeat this virus and defeat this virus and save countless lives,” Hoyer said.
“Those numbers and those hardships are going to get worse before they get better, but that’s an acknowledgement,” President Donald Trump said on the unemployment numbers.
Maryland requests urgent medical supplies from FEMA as COVID-19 cases soar
The Maryland congressional delegation is pleading for more resources to fight COVID-19 from FEMA, including ventilators, PPE, test kits and mobile labs. The request is a response to a rise in cases of the virus in Maryland and across the Washington metropolitan region.
“The first Maryland hospital reported that it will need additional ventilators because it is running extremely low,” the lawmakers’ letter to FEMA reads. “A lack of this precious resource will result in the deaths of patients who could have survived.”
They added that it’s “much easier and clinically efficient to manage the COVID-19 hospital surge if testing is scaled up and PPE can be distributed to those with the highest need.”
Because labs don’t currently have access to necessary testing chemicals, many aren’t operating at their full ability.
“Maryland has been proactive in setting up multiple testing sites around the state; however, Maryland lacks the testing supplies to test patients appropriately and stem the tide of this disease,” the delegation said in their letter addressed to FEMA Region III Administrator MaryAnn Tierney.
According to the delegation, mobile test sites, which are currently lacking in Maryland, are “critical for the state’s Alternate Care Sites” in that they provide a quick, on-site response to sick individuals relying on the system to help.
“Doctors cannot determine what support or treatment is needed for sick patients without laboratory capability,” the letter says. “A simple blood test can mean the difference between life and death when planning a patient’s treatment.”
The delegation is working to get these necessary supplies and more, according to the statement.
The delegation is also requesting approval of the Crisis Counseling Program (CCP) in Maryland, which assists communities in recovering from events declared major disasters by the president through educational services and community outreach. The state received a federal disaster declaration March 27.
Maryland’s department of corrections taking precautions amid coronavirus
Maryland’s Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services is stepping up precautions to protect prison inmates and staff from an outbreak of the coronavirus.
The department has canceled all visits to inmates, implemented grab-and-go meals and limited inmate movement throughout the facilities, according to spokesman Mark Vernarelli.
“We have undertaken enhanced cleaning procedures and given inmates extra soap at no cost,” Vernarelli said. The facilities have also “extended recreation periods, and have social workers and mental health professionals on the tiers to assist the incarcerated,” he said in an email.
Additionally, the corrections agency has implemented temperature checks for employees before shift changes. These changes were put in place “weeks ago,” according to Vernarelli.
But this has not stopped cases of coronavirus from entering prisons. Two members of a parole board, four correctional officers, three inmates and eight contracted employees have been infected by the virus in Maryland facilities as of Friday, according to Gov. Larry Hogan.
Inmates at Maryland prisons are also making personal protective equipment for staff and the community. They have produced 4,000 face masks, 5,000 face shields, gowns and hand sanitizer, according to DPSCS Secretary Robert Green.
Hogan offers coronavirus update
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan signed an executive order Friday to prohibit mortgage lenders from beginning the foreclosure process. Marylanders will also have expanded access to telehealth services during the pandemic.
Disabled services personnel are now going to be recognized as health care providers and will be deemed essential, the governor also said.
Hogan also announced during a Friday press conference that there are currently 2,758 cases of COVID-19 and 42 deaths in Maryland.
“We now have a widespread community transmission. The virus is everywhere,” Hogan said. The number of Maryland cases of coronavirus have tripled in the last week.
“We simply don’t know how long this will be or how bad it will get,” the governor said.
There are now two drive-thru style coronavirus testing sites, which are in White Oak in Montgomery County and Columbia in Howard County.
CASA to host car parade to protect incarcerated from virus
The non-profit organization CASA of Maryland will be hosting a car parade Sunday to persuade Howard County government officials to take measures to protect incarcerated individuals and undocumented immigrants at the Howard County Detention Center during the pandemic.
The choice to host a car parade is an effort on the part of community leaders and activists to practice social distancing while still fighting for change. The organization said its goal is to ensure the release of undocumented immigrants currently being detained by ICE in the detention center as well as improving protections against COVID-19 inside the facility.
Maryland gas prices drop during pandemic
The price of gas per gallon in Maryland is now less than $2. Gas prices in Maryland have seen a significant drop of six cents in the last week, 40 cents in the last month and 66 cents since this time last year.
The national average for gas has dropped to $2 per gallon for the first time in four years, according to AAA Mid-Atlantic.