As military jets streaked overhead in salute to covid-19 first responders, the District, Maryland and Virginia reported 103 additional coronavirus deaths Saturday, bringing the regional death toll to 2,107.
The increases in fatalities and cases have been on par with daily rises over the past week.
Maryland disclosed 59 more deaths and 1,001 newly confirmed cases. In all, Maryland has reported 1,251 confirmed and probable deaths from covid-19, the disease the novel coronavirus causes, and 24,473 confirmed cases.
Virginia added 35 deaths and 830 more cases. Virginia has 616 confirmed and probable fatalities and nearly 18,000 cases.
The District disclosed nine additional deaths and 139 newly positive test results. The nation’s capital has nearly 4,800 cases and has lost 240 residents to the virus.
Meanwhile, across sunny skies, the Navy’s Blue Angels and the Air Force’s Thunderbirds jet demonstration teams crisscrossed the area in tribute to those on the front lines of the pandemic.
On the Mall and along the Georgetown waterfront, among other places, people gathered in the pleasant spring weather to watch, as the 12 jets left twisting white contrails against the blue sky.
Elsewhere, a modest crowd of “Reopen Maryland” protesters staged a rolling demonstration from Frederick to Salisbury to pressure Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) to lift restrictions imposed to contain the pandemic.
The protest and car caravan began at Francis Scott Key Mall in Frederick and proceeded to Salisbury, where people were addressed by Rep. Andy Harris (R), who voiced his support.
Few wore masks. Many wore yellow “Reopen Maryland” T-shirts, which had been handed out in Frederick. One man wore a T-shirt that read, “Tyranny Response Team.”
The group wants to reverse the economic standstill caused by efforts to slow the virus, and protesters called for the reopening of schools and houses of worship, saying the measures are too broad and socially destructive.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” Harris said to those assembled at a Salisbury mall around 2:30 p.m. “I can’t go to church on Sunday. Because, unbelievably in America, I have been told that you can’t practice your religion.”
“And the state has decided if my religion is essential or nonessential,” he said, according to a feed from WBOC-TV in Salisbury.
“I didn’t wake up in Communist China. I didn’t wake up in North Korea this morning. And tomorrow morning, I should be able to go to the church of my choice.”
“I am a physician,” Harris added. “Let me tell you something: It is safe to begin to reopen Maryland. . . . There are not 2 million people going to die in the United States. In Maryland, the estimate would have been 20,000 to 40,000 people dying.”
The crowd chanted, “Open it up! Open it up!”
But others in the area disagreed.
“Everybody wants to get back to normal,” said Amy K. Liebman, director of environmental and occupational health for the Migrant Clinicians Network office in Salisbury. “Everyone would love to see a reopened Maryland.”
“But we’re not ready,” she said Saturday.
Covid-19 cases have risen sharply in the past two weeks in the Salisbury area, which is home to the Eastern Shore’s large chicken industry.
“We need to see it going in the other direction before we start taking measures to reopen,” Liebman said. “That really includes someone standing up for the workers who are fueling our local economy.”
“How do we reopen at the same time that all of our essential workers are fully protected?” she said.
The workforce in the area’s chicken processing plants is made up of many Hispanic, Haitian and African American employees, she said.
“I am very concerned about the workers who are on our front lines here, those who are scared, those who desperately need to earn a paycheck,” she said. “If you skim the racial breakdown of our [covid-19] cases, it’s disproportionately impacting Latino and Hispanic workers.”
“What we need to be looking at is, how can these workers work safely?” she added. “What changes need to take place? And what do they need to be provided?”
Safe distancing in the chicken plants needs to be enforced, Liebman said. Ventilation should be checked, reliable protective gear should be provided, and testing should be extensive.
“What we need to ensure is that we reopen safely and that we don’t cause more people to get sick and some people to die,” she said.
Teddy Amenabar and Sam Mallon contributed to this report
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