“Our message today is very clear, that is to stay home,” Northam said during a news conference in Richmond, adding that “it is clear more people need to hear this basic message.”
The region is home to hundreds of thousands of federal workers, many of whom are already telecommuting as their agencies try to minimize their exposure to the virus. Hogan on Monday pointed to requests from himself, Northam and Bowser asking that the Washington metro area be designated a priority location for a “federally supported Covid-19 testing site,” arguing that the region was home to “national leaders who are actually fighting this battle for the nation,” including the agencies “on the front lines of the battle against the coronavirus.”
The leaders’ directives come a week to the day after they ordered all non-essential businesses in their states closed. At the time, Hogan defended his decision not to issue a stay-at-home order, saying Maryland’s guidelines at the time were “somewhat more restrictive than other states that are calling it shelter in place.”
All three, including Northam as recently as Friday, called debates over the severity of their restrictions a matter of semantics. In a news release announcing the D.C. order, Bowser said on Monday that the new directive “reinforces” her previous “direction to residents to stay at home except to perform essential activities.”
Asked what prompted his change of heart, Northam, a physician, said on Monday that the surge in cases was personal for him, pointing to his experience with “mass casualty episodes.” But the governor expressed outrage that over the weekend, the state’s beaches and recreational areas were “literally packed.”
“I also see people congregating on the beach that are completely ignoring what we’re doing,“ he said, “and I will remind these folks: You are being very very selfish because you are putting all of us, including our health care providers, at risk.”
Up until now, he added, shelter in place “has been a suggestion to Virginians. Today, it’s an order.”
His directive, which closes beaches except for exercise and fishing, extends until June 10.
Hogan told reporters on Monday that Maryland is up to 1,413 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus and that state has seen infections in individuals as young as one month old. Deaths in the state tripled over the weekend from five to 15, he said.
Hogan pointed to an outbreak of the respiratory illness, which is increasingly dangerous among the elderly and those with underlying health issues, at a Maryland nursing home where 67 residents have tested positive for the virus and 27 staffers are experiencing symptoms.
In Virginia, Northam’s administration said that there are now 1,020 confirmed cases in the state, telling reporters that he expects the commonwealth to see an imminent surge in patients who will require hospitalization because of the virus.
The trio of executive orders also came one day after President Donald Trump said he would extend federal social-distancing recommendations until the end of April, backing off a previous declaration that he hoped to reopen large swaths of the country by mid-April.
In the so-called DMV, which comprises Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia, Hogan said cases had quadrupled over the past week, and warned that the region could closely resemble the massive outbreak in the New York tri-state area in as little as two weeks. Hogan and Northam will join more than two dozen other states and numerous other cities with shelter-in-place orders.