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Leaders in Maryland, Virginia, District of Columbia, work to get in sync on coronavirus response

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and state officials observe social distancing Monday as he announces a "stay-at-home" directive. Hours later, Virginia and Washington, D.C., leaders issued similar orders.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and state officials observe social distancing Monday as he announces a "stay-at-home" directive. Hours later, Virginia and Washington, D.C., leaders issued similar orders.(Pamela Wood / Baltimore Sun)

Not long after Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan issued a stay-at-home order for state residents, his counterparts in Virginia and Washington, D.C., followed suit with similar orders.

While the timing of the orders Monday wasn’t planned, the leaders of the three jurisdictions have been in regular contact, discussing the best steps to slow the spread of the coronavirus that has sickened more than 181,000 Americans.

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Hogan, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam and District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser talk every several days, and their top aides are in touch on a near-daily basis.

“It was important to the three of them that they be unified in this,” said Mike Ricci, a spokesman for Hogan.

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The jurisdictions are markedly different in size, geography and demographics, and the leaders have different political goals — Hogan is a Republican, while Bowser and Northam are Democrats. But they share the Washington metro region, with its 6.2 million residents and hundreds of thousands of federal workers.

Hogan’s order came first, in a 10:45 a.m. news conference in Annapolis. He then placed a call to Northam and Bowser at 1 p.m. to discuss the action he took in Maryland.

John Falcicchio, Bowser’s chief of staff, said that call led his team to “put the finishing touches on everything” related to the district’s order, which was issued later Monday afternoon.

“We had been talking about it before,” Falcicchio said.

The orders — including Northam’s order in Virginia, issued at 2 p.m. — are similar. Residents are asked to stay at home, though people are allowed to go to work at essential jobs, to get food or supplies, to seek medical care and to get exercise.

Violations of the orders in all three jurisdictions are punishable by jail time and fines.

Maryland’s order is open-ended, while Virginia’s order runs through June 10 and the district’s order is in effect through April 24.

The goal, all three leaders said, is to keep people home to stop the spread of COVID-19 disease.

Northam’s office did not respond to requests for comment. But when he announced his order, he said: “It is clear more people need to hear this basic message: Stay home."

Having nearly uniform rules across the Washington metropolitan region helps because residents and workers “cross those invisible borders all the time,” Falcicchio said.

Said Ricci: “It’s easier to walk people through this if you have unity."

While Hogan has discouraged Marylanders from taking out-of-state trips, that advice doesn’t apply to state residents who work across state lines in the district or Virginia — including people who work for the federal government or federal contractors.

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Keeping the federal workforce healthy is a priority for the region’s leaders. About one-fifth of the federal workforce is in the region — a point that Hogan has made repeatedly in national TV and radio interviews.

“He thought it was important to take united action to protect the region,” Ricci said.

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