Bowser said during a news conference that the city will offer a single $1,200 stimulus payment to residents who are receiving Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, which she said will provide temporary, immediate relief as federal benefits are set to expire at the end of the month.
The funding is intended to help those who are not eligible for traditional unemployment benefits, such as gig economy workers, contractors and self-employed residents, Bowser said. Those who filed for PUA by Nov. 30 are eligible for the stimulus, which is funded through the federal Cares Act.
“We estimate we can reach about 20,000 Washingtonians with these payments,” Bowser said.
The aid comes two days after Bowser’s office sent a letter to President-elect Joe Biden that offered a grim look at challenges the city is facing amid the pandemic. In the letter, Bowser argued that D.C. was shortchanged in its Cares Act funding because it lacks statehood status. She also highlighted other priorities for the District — including the need for renewed federal unemployment assistance.
She estimated that more than 75,000 residents will lose federal unemployment benefits when the Cares Act provision expires.
“Unemployment benefits have been critical to ensuring thousands of families within the District could make ends meet during the pandemic,” Bowser wrote. “These losses in benefits will prove disastrous not only for the recipients but the essential businesses these families frequent.”
Bowser on Monday announced the suspension of high school sports, which also applies to private schools, while a ban on high-contact sports includes basketball, football, lacrosse, martial arts, rugby, soccer, wrestling and hockey. Children can continue to practice sports without contact in groups no larger than 12, she said.
The restrictions are in addition to those Bowser ramped up two weeks ago, banning live entertainment, indoor exercise classes, indoor gatherings of more than 10 people and outdoor gatherings of more than 25, plus other capacity restrictions on restaurants and places of worship.
Since then, coronavirus metrics in D.C. and the region have worsened.
On Monday, the District reported four new virus-related deaths, bringing the city’s total to 701 fatalities, while adding 183 new daily infections. Its caseload has increased 40 percent since last week, with the seven-day average hitting a new high of 252.
The city unveiled new data Monday about coronavirus outbreaks in the nation’s capital, shedding light on which types of gathering places have been most problematic. Officials define an outbreak as two or more coronavirus cases stemming from one location within a 14-day period.
City data showed universities, schools, daycares and restaurants have been the leading sources of outbreaks between Aug. 1 and Nov. 26. In that time, the city identified 109 outbreaks, including 30 at universities, 19 at D.C. schools and 15 each at daycares and restaurants.
Only two outbreaks were linked to places of worship during that time, and one was linked to nonessential retail.
The data provides the most comprehensive look yet at coronavirus clusters and is collected through case investigations and interviews with infected residents. It does not specify locations and names of establishments where clusters occurred.
In Virginia, the Department of Health on Monday cited “substantial levels of community transmission” in urging local health departments to prioritize contact tracing for certain groups — indicating how surging caseloads are straining the limited time and resources of workers.
Health officials said contact tracers should prioritize those diagnosed with the coronavirus within the past six days, plus their household members. Other groups receiving priority will be people who live, work in or visit congregate living facilities; those tied to a known outbreak; and people at increased risk of severe illness.
“As cases of covid-19 increase across the commonwealth, this change will allow us to deploy resources where they will have the most impact,” said Virginia State Health Commissioner M. Norman Oliver, referring to the disease the virus causes.
Also on Monday, Bowser and hospital officials continued to plead with the federal government for more vaccine doses for front-line health workers, saying the city is likely to be shortchanged based on the proposed distribution formula.
She has said about 80,000 health-care employees work in the District, with about 75 percent commuting from Maryland and Virginia. Under the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s formula, which prioritizes health-care workers, Bowser said the District would receive fewer than 8,000 vaccine doses.
“To solve these circumstances, we ask the federal government to apportion Washington, DC’s early vaccine allotment on our workforce population, rather than our residential population,” Bowser wrote. “Public health resources must extend beyond residency to help keep all those who work and live in Washington, DC safe.”
In a letter last week, Jacqueline D. Bowens, president and CEO of the District of Columbia Hospital Association, outlined the same proposal in a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and acting defense secretary Christopher C. Miller.
Failure to change the formula to account for the city’s unique circumstances, she argued, “would have a detrimental impact on our ability to provide this most important protection to our health care workers given the time it would take to reach even a simple majority of the health care workforce.”
Their pleas come as hospitalizations in the region are on the rise in the past week, up 11 percent in D.C., 14 percent in Virginia and 2 percent in Maryland, with the number of daily deaths also rising.
The greater Washington region added 6,302 new infections Monday, with the past four days registering the highest level of daily infections since the start of the pandemic.
In Maryland, health officials reported 19 deaths and 2,302 new cases. The state’s caseload is up 30 percent since last week, with the seven-day average also setting a record, at 2,708.
Virginia added 3,817 new cases and eight deaths on Monday. Its recent average for new daily cases topped 3,000 for the first time.