The State of COVID-19 in D.C.: An Ongoing Failure of Governance

It was yet another 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 0.164% 1.6% 0.307% 1.9%
2 0.156% 1.5% 0.286% 1.5%
3 0.103% 1.4% 0.178% 1.5%
4 0.205% 3.3% 0.384% 3.7%
5 0.185% 2.5% 0.381% 3.1%
6 0.182% 1.5% 0.387% 1.9%
7 0.230% 5.3% 0.418% 5.7%
8 0.202% 4.6% 0.371% 4.9%
D.C. total 0.181% 2.2% 0.345% 2.4%

For context, in column two, the ‘good place’, which is one new case per 100,000 people per day, is 0.007%.

There are some marginal improvements in Wards 5 and 6, but those wards were doing so poorly to begin with, that’s not really saying much (Ward 5 did have a lower percent positive rate too, so testing seems to be improving there). All the other wards are worse–and objectively bad.

Meanwhile, the city’s new proposals are to further limit indoor dining starting December 14, and ban booze purchases after 10pm (apparently, COVID-19 is like Gremlins or something). There also will be further limits on houses of worship. And people are pretty good about wearing masks, so I’m not sure how much more we can squeeze out of that. I don’t think all of these new rules will be enough to lower R(t) to less than one (i.e., daily new cases will decrease). I hope it will, but I’m not convinced. At all.

While next week probably won’t be much worse, partly because travel-related COVID-19 cases won’t really start hitting the system until late this week, it’s going to be bad soon. Deaths are going to keep coming through–right now, we’ve had twenty deaths in the last two weeks–and D.C. will likely join the 1/1000 residents COVID-19 deaths club by the end of the year.

This is an utter failure of governance by both the mayor and the Council, the latter which seems to be focused on everything but the immediate crisis at hand. Why anyone currently holding office in D.C. should be re-elected escapes me. As some asshole with a blog noted:

The city won’t do that, however, because it needs revenue, so people will get sick and die for money. I’m not surprised Bowser has adopted this line because I expect Bowser to do her usual when faced with a crisis: hunker down and hope it resolves itself or is forgotten.

Unfortunately, you can’t bullshit the virus.

But the D.C. Council also is failing–if nothing else, members have a political opportunity here–and there’s nothing wrong when opportunism is aligned with good policy. My hunch about the D.C. Council’s actions is that it is one part hunkering down and one part stone cold ignorance of biology and math. They know lots of things, such as the ins and outs of housing policy. But here isn’t anyone on the Council or their staffs (or enough people on staff to break through) to know what to ask and how to ask it.

It is obvious what needs to be done, as painful as it might be economically: we need to shut down indoor dining (and bars), and other gathering places, and limit gatherings to households. If things get worse, we might have to consider schools too*, but that should be a last resort.

As usual, 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.

*I’m far less sanguine than some about the lack of spreading in schools–and from schools back into the commmunity. It appears to be an argument with little evidence to support it (and Israel’s experience contradicts it), and I fear that public health officials will rue making these claims so strongly.

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8 Responses to The State of COVID-19 in D.C.: An Ongoing Failure of Governance

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  5. Dan Lynch says:

    I guess I must be an asshole because if I were king I would not even consider opening schools, bars, or restaurants until we’re vaccinated.

    Any parent knows from hard experience that kids catch whatever is going around at school and bring it home to share with the family. There is no need to do studies to prove what parents already know.

    It’s not just D.C., it’s nearly the entire U.S. and the entire Western hemisphere. Only Asia, Australia, and New Zealand have handled the epidemic competently. It’s a shameful indictment of our species. and of our economic system that has us obsessed with chasing little chits of paper that have no intrinsic value.

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  7. RGH says:

    Thank you! I’ve been saying this for months. But the loud cries from the “I want my kid back IN SCHOOL EVERY.SINGLE.DAY” crowd is drowning out common sense management of a pandemic. Making doing what is best to save lives politically impossible.

  8. Pingback: The State of COVID-19 in D.C.: Miserable and Unclear as to How We Improve | Mike the Mad Biologist

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