Health officials urge attendees of White House event to get tested for coronavirus

The health officials urged people who worked in the White House in the past two weeks, attended the Supreme Court nomination announcement in the Rose Garden or have had close contact with people who did, to get tested and use their local health departments as a resource. The letter contains contact information for the departments.

“As an additional reminder, if you are identified as a contact, having a negative test does not limit the time period within which you are required to quarantine,” the leaders wrote, citing guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that recommend a 14-day quarantine.

The letter was distributed to people and organizations in each health department’s network, which in D.C. included Advisory Neighborhood Commission members, the D.C. Council and the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, city officials said.

D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) said Wednesday that Nesbitt had spoken with the White House about contact-tracing efforts after the mayor sent a stern letter to the Trump administration seeking cooperation on tracking the outbreak. Nesbitt and the White House began talks on contact-tracing efforts in the region shortly afterward.

In Virginia, Gov. Ralph Northam (D) said Thursday he is allocating $220 million in federal coronavirus aid to help public schools handle their response to the pandemic.

The money will be divided among the state’s 135 school districts to pay for testing supplies, personal protective gear, sanitizing, long-distance learning efforts and other expenses.

“Students, teachers, principals and parents are going to great lengths to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic amid a new school year, and we must do everything we can to support them,” Northam said in a statement.

The money will be drawn from about $1.3 billion in federal Cares Act funding that remains from the roughly $3.1 billion sent to the state earlier this year. It will be distributed based on enrollment, at a rate of $175 per pupil or a minimum of $100,000 for each school division, the governor’s office said.

The spending supplements $238.6 million in Cares Act funding that Virginia’s public K-12 schools received in May. The state’s colleges and universities received $343.9 million, also in May, while another $66.8 million in federal Governor’s Emergency Education Relief funding was split between K-12 schools and higher education institutions.

Northam’s decision to send the money to public schools comes as the General Assembly is working to finish changes to the state budget in response to the pandemic during a special legislative session.

The House of Delegates and state Senate adopted spending plans that call for $200 million in Cares Act money for K-12 schools as they combat the virus. Northam has clashed with lawmakers over spending priorities, warning state lawmakers in a letter Wednesday that he would not sign a budget that restricts his ability to manage Virginia’s virus response efforts.

In Maryland, a scheduled public appearance with Gov. Larry Hogan (R) was postponed Thursday to avoid a possible exposure to the coronavirus.

The event was meant to celebrate the Associated Builders and Contractors of Greater Baltimore, an organization that has helped expand a state apprenticeship program Hogan (R) has championed.

Mike Henderson, the group’s president, said a child of a staffer at his organization had potentially been exposed to the virus. He postponed the event out of an abundance of caution — even after the child tested negative.

“We felt like it was the right thing to do,” Henderson said.

Hogan, like most public officials, has dramatically curtailed his public appearances since the pandemic began and instituted mask and symptom screenings for the events he does attend. The governor and first lady Yumi Hogan are tested weekly for the virus using a lab-based polymerase chain reaction, or PCR, test that is considered the most sensitive and definitive test for the coronavirus. Neither have tested positive, his staff said.

The governor, 64, is a cancer survivor who has said he considers himself a part of the population that is vulnerable to the virus.

All but the governor’s core staff work remotely, and social-distancing protocols are required in his office.

Also Thursday, figures released by the Labor Department show that the number of unemployment claims filed by residents in D.C., Maryland and Virginia hit 24,327 last week, up from 20,546 one week earlier.

Dana Hedgpeth contributed to this report.

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