The State of COVID-19 in D.C.: Deadly, and No Change

This week, while not worse than last, was still horrible with 31 deaths. 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 0.217% 2.6% 0.458% 2.9%
2 0.157% 2.0% 0.296% 1.9%
3 0.101% 1.6% 0.186% 1.7%
4 0.267% 4.1% 0.547% 4.5%
5 0.273% 4.1% 0.568% 4.4%
6 0.182% 1.9% 0.417% 2.2%
7 0.254% 5.7% 0.505% 5.5%
8 0.322% 6.5% 0.664% 6.2%
D.C. total 0.223% 3.0% 0.464% 3.2%

The ‘good place’, which is one new case per 100,000 people per day, is 0.007% in column two and 0.014% in column four. We’re obviously not near that. As usual, the percent positive rates in Wards 7 and 8 are high, meaning we’re missing a lot of cases in those wards, and we’re probably missing cases in Wards 4 and 5 too.

At the risk of stating the obvious, D.C. can’t average over 200 positives per day and not wind up with a lot of dead people. If every week had been like this, D.C. would have over 1,600 COVID-19 deaths, which would be about 1.25 COVID-19 deaths for every heart disease death (if you’ve blown by heart disease, or are even at a significant fraction of heart disease deaths, you know you have a problem).

To put this week’s 31 deaths in further context, D.C. had 27 traffic fatalities in all of 2019. If we had over 1,600 traffic fatalities per year, we would be launching drone strikes and A-10 Warthog runs against speeders, even in the car-centric U.S.

All we can do now is hope that the banning of indoor dining (though not ‘outdoor‘ dining) combined with some other restrictions and closed schools for winter break will be enough to get R(t) significantly below 1.0 (right now, it’s right around 1.0). As some asshole with a blog noted:

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.

Unfortunately, last week, when I would go for walks, it appeared people left for the holidays (at least in Ward 2), so that travel might counterbalance the effects of the restrictions. Nonetheless, 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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