The State of COVID-19 in D.C.: Confused

The prevalence of COVID-19 is essentially unchanged in D.C. Wards 2, 3, and 6 had increases, while Wards 1, 5, and 7 decreased. The entire city, along with Wards 1, 4, 5, and 6, are above the German rollback threshold of 50 new cases per 100,000 per week (0.05% in the second column below):


Ward one-week prevalence one-week % pos. two-week prevalence two-week % pos.
1 0.061% 1.6% 0.128% 1.6%
2 0.038% 0.7% 0.064% 0.6%
3 0.032% 0.9% 0.058% 0.8%
4 0.074% 2.4% 0.151% 2.5%
5 0.066% 2.1% 0.141% 2.1%
6 0.059% 1.4% 0.102% 1.1%
7 0.048% 2.3% 0.105% 2.3%
8 0.046% 1.9% 0.089% 1.8%
D.C. total 0.055% 1.4% 0.109% 1.3%

Despite being months into the pandemic, we still don’t understand how spread is happening in D.C. We can repeat certain generalizations and bromides about particular activities, but what we need are cases that have been examined in detail, followed by communication of those cases to the public. Unless we believe–with absolutely no evidence to do so–that the transmission of SARS-CoV2 is fundamentally different in D.C., we are missing superspreading events. It’s tempting to joke about the White House Covidpalooza, but, were it not for leaks to the press, it’s doubtful our current system would have identified those cases either, other than (possibly) as another unknown rise in cases.

What the city must do is refocus some of its contact tracers and rapid testing capability to dive in deep into a case. Find out where this person shops for groceries and other supplies–and test everyone there. Do they take the bus? Find everyone who was on the bus with them. Are there other stores, restaurants, and other indoor activities where this patient has spent time? Trace and test people there. Are people supposedly in quarantine actually in quarantine? Run one of these cases down until there are no more threads. Some will be busts, but it’s likely you’ll eventually stumble across a superspreading event.

Without details of the natural history of transmission, we simply do not know which restrictions can be loosened and which should be tightened. Without understanding the current patterns of transmission, it is unconscionable that Mayor Bowser would push for sending more kids back to school.

Since White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows admitted on Sunday that there is no federal plan to control the spread of the virus (and Democrats seem unwilling to demagogue on this issue–not argue the point, but fire off some serious invective), we’re on our own, at least until early February, if the election goes well. There’s no cavalry coming, so D.C. will have to figure this out on its own–and our own elected officials are behaving as they have throughout this, and are failing in oversight.

Anger, if not rage, is the appropriate emotion.

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