The State of COVID-19 in D.C.: A Sort-of Shutdown

Well, the inevitable happened, but I’m getting ahead of myself. D.C. continued to level off this week, and the deaths, while entirely predictable, were horrifyingly high. The 22 deaths over the last week should be put in context of the 27 traffic fatalities in all of 2019. 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 0.240% 3.3% 0.469% 3.4%
2 0.139% 1.8% 0.252% 1.8%
3 0.085% 1.7% 0.199% 2.1%
4 0.280% 5.0% 0.565% 5.1%
5 0.295% 4.7% 0.550% 4.8%
6 0.235% 2.6% 0.474% 2.9%
7 0.251% 5.2% 0.590% 6.3%
8 0.343% 6.1% 0.708% 6.9%
D.C. total 0.241% 3.4% 0.483% 3.6%

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

Most wards remained the same, with Wards 2 and 7 seeing large decreases, though with Ward 7’s percent positive rate who knows what is actually happening there. Wards 2 and 5 had large increases. Outside of Wards 2 and 3, the percent positive rate is too high, meaning we’re likely undercounting.

If there is any good news, the city finally closed indoor dining, museums, and libraries (you can still pick up books); non-essential employees were ordered to work from home. Inexplicably, the city removed the 25%/250 person occupancy cap for food-sellers and big box stores–it’s unclear why the city wouldn’t keep this in place. It probably won’t contribute to that much spread, but we’re already in break-the-glass territory. Schools will still remain open (-ish).

While there’s anger over the closure of indoor dining in December and January, I’m not sure what people thought would happen. It’s clear that the rise in cases began in late October, coinciding with a surge in dining–and the surveillance data, such as they are, reflect this. Before we get too hung up on outdoor versus indoor dining, sitting three to four feet away from someone outside of your household and breathing at them is not something that should be happening regardless of whether you’re inside or outdoors (my HAWT TAEK is that we have been significantly underestimating the effect of outdoor dining on transmission).

That said, it remains to be seen what effect these policies will have. If these policies lower R(t) to around 0.8–and I have no idea whether that would even happen–these policies might cut the prevalence by two-thirds by January 15. That’s not nothing, but if restrictions are relaxed again, we’ll have to hope that the cold weather prevents a lot of face-to-face activities and keeps R(t) around one. Hard to see that happening, especially with the changeover in administrations, Congress leaving and then returning, and all of the travel that entails (second HAWT TAEK: without long-distance travel, most places would be able to lower prevalence significantly; in-migration of infected people is required to sustain the prevalence when competent public health measures are implemented).

As usual, even with these horrible data, we still could be only around six weeks away from returning to normal-ish, but we intentionally remain 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.

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1 Response to The State of COVID-19 in D.C.: A Sort-of Shutdown

  1. Pingback: The State of COVID-19 in D.C.: Deadly, and No Change | Mike the Mad Biologist

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