The State of COVID-19 in D.C.: We Need to Rollback

Two weeks ago, I said D.C. would break the phase 1 threshold of 15 new daily positives/100,000 in one week. Well, I was wrong: it took eight days. And it was obvious, as there is no concrete plan to lower the prevalence, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

It was a disastrous week for COVID-19 in D.C. The entire city and all wards, including the ‘low prevalence bastions’ of Ward 2 and 3, are now well 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 0.106% 2.2% 0.202% 2.3%
2 0.123% 1.7% 0.225% 1.6%
3 0.083% 2.2% 0.139% 1.8%
4 0.172% 4.7% 0.290% 4.3%
5 0.146% 3.6% 0.229% 3.1%
6 0.198% 3.6% 0.285% 2.9%
7 0.130% 4.3% 0.210% 3.5%
8 0.140% 4.5% 0.218% 3.5%
D.C. total 0.136% 2.9% 0.224% 2.5%

Every ward has had an increase in the number of daily positives, ranging from ten percent (Ward 1) to 230% (Ward 6), with a 54% one-week increase of positives across the entire city. By the way, in column two, the ‘good place’, one new case per 100,000 people per day, is 0.007%. We’re nowhere near that now.

At this point, the city needs to rollback to phase 1. I’m hoping Bowser isn’t trying to wriggle out of that, by arguing that R(t) isn’t yet above 1.2, but I’m afraid she is (an R(t) of 1.2 means that every five days or so, the number of daily new cases would increase twenty percent). Not only does R(t) lag by ten days*, meaning it hasn’t ‘caught up’ yet to the new case data, but an R(t) greater than one but less than 1.2 still means the case load is growing.

You can’t bullshit the virus.

Meanwhile, our contract tracing is still unable to identify superspreading events. Without knowing where and when superspreading events are happening–though after months of the pandemic, we can hazard some good guesses–we have little choice but to use broad-brush measures. There seems to be little effort to find these superspreading events, but that’s not stopping the claims that the cases are occurring through community spread**. No doubt some are, but we’re not gathering the intelligence we need to fight this.

Adding to that, I’m also worried that, as many cases are acquired within households and family units, the D.C. government will excuse its own inaction by blaming individuals and community spread, rather than instituting measures that prevent the virus from ever reaching those households in the first place (I hope to write about this topic later in the week).

I’ll end with my usual, and remind everyone that, even with these horrible data, we still could be only four to six weeks away from returning to normal-ish, but we intentionally remain four to six weeks away from safely returning to normal-ish because we’re unwilling to do what it takes to make that happen.

Anger isn’t the appropriate emotion, rage is.

*D.C. is calculating it somewhat more accurately, by figuring out what day infections likely started, and de-duplicating positive results, but the downside is that, when the virus infectious new hosts after five days or so of the infection, this is two cycles out of date.

**Obviously, some cases are due to being in the wrong place at the wrong time while having bad luck. But the evidence to date suggests superspreading plays a large role.

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