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Coronavirus cases hit multiweek lows in D.C. region, but experts fear cold weather could reverse trend

But health experts cautioned that there’s no guarantee the numbers will continue to fall, as chillier October weather begins to usher outdoor activities indoors.

Taison Bell, an assistant professor of medicine specializing in infectious diseases and critical care at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, said the greater Washington region is “in a bit of a steady state” in its number of reported coronavirus cases. The region’s caseload had held steady for several weeks before starting to tick downward about 10 days ago.

He also cautioned that the arrival of cooler weather could increase the spread of the virus as people increasingly decide to congregate indoors.

Neil J. Sehgal, an assistant professor of health policy and management at the University of Maryland School of Public Health, urged residents to consider the pandemic as they make plans for the holidays. They should remember that this is “not the normal holiday season,” he said.

Sehgal said progress in some jurisdictions while battling the virus has started to slow, singling out Prince George’s County, where outbreaks have been reported at the University of Maryland. He said other college towns in the region, including Virginia’s Blacksburg and Charlottesville, also have seen caseloads rise as students go back to school.

“We haven’t controlled transmissions,” Sehgal said. “We’re still riding our first wave of the outbreak. We saw a summer dip, but we never stamped it out. There are still chains of transmission in the community.”

Short of a vaccine, Sehgal said, recent days are probably “as safe as it’s going to be” in terms of a lowered number of cases in the Washington region, also noting the likelihood of increased spread as the weather turns colder.

Still, D.C., Maryland and Virginia have made progress in battling the virus in recent days.

The seven-day rolling average of new cases in Washington’s Northern Virginia suburbs stood at 190 on Wednesday, with the region this week notching its lowest average caseloads since early August. Statewide, the number of new daily cases is the lowest since mid-July.

In D.C., the seven-day average dropped to 39 on Wednesday, the lowest in the city since early July.

Maryland’s seven-day average stood at 490 on Wednesday, up slightly in recent days but about half the number of daily cases as early August. Caseloads have held mostly steady in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties in recent weeks.

Montgomery County officials said Wednesday that they are continuing to accumulate supplies in preparation for a possible increase in coronavirus cases this fall or winter.

“We are in a lot better position than we were in the spring,” County Executive Marc Elrich (D) said at a news conference. “We made a decision in the beginning that we would accumulate enough supplies for a second surge.”

Among the supplies are 50 new ventilators that arrived this summer, officials said.

The seven-day rolling average of new cases in the county stood at 83 on Wednesday, with a test positivity rate of 2.6 percent. County health officer Travis Gayles