The State of COVID-19 in D.C.: What Comes Next? Because This Isn’t Working

D.C. appears to have leveled off, but in a horrible place. 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 0.188% 4.2% 0.405% 3.1%
2 0.149% 3.7% 0.306% 2.6%
3 0.130% 3.7% 0.232% 2.4%
4 0.248% 5.5% 0.515% 4.7%
5 0.245% 5.2% 0.518% 4.6%
6 0.212% 4.2% 0.394% 2.7%
7 0.271% 7.9% 0.525% 6.7%
8 0.287% 5.8% 0.608% 6.2%
D.C. total 0.218% 4.4% 0.441% 3.6%

The ‘good place’, which is one new case per 100,000 people per day, would be 0.007% in column two and 0.014% in column four–obviously, we’ve blown by that. No ward is good, it’s simply a matter of how awful things are. The percent positive rate is high, though that is likely an effect of low testing due to the holiday, and as usual, highest in Wards 7 and 8. Adjusted R(t) has floated right around 1.0 this week, so it’s not clear things are getting better. D.C. had 26 deaths this week, and this week will probably be just as deadly (in D.C., when the percent positive rate is less than 2.5%, deaths are usually between 0.8% and 1.2% of cases from two weeks ago; a higher percent positive rate usually increases that to around 1.5%).

Speaking of deaths, while about twenty percent of deaths in D.C. during the pandemic have occurred in long term care facilities, between October 1 and December 31, only five residents died from COVID-19, while 153 people outside of long term care facilities also died. I bring this up, because it’s unclear that D.C. will do anything else to stem the outbreak–I would love to be wrong about this, but the inauguration is coming up, and I don’t see tightening restrictions further. Instead, the policy appears to be to hang on and hope for vaccination.

Unfortunately, D.C., because it has a high number of out-of-state medical and essential workers, will be vaccinating far fewer of its residents, especially early on in the vaccination program. We’ll be lucky if, in the first ten percent of doses administered, we end up vaccinating four percent of the D.C. population, which means we’ll be several weeks behind in getting indirect protection from vaccination relative to other states. Adding to this, a disproportionate number of early vaccine recipients will be in long-term care facilities. We absolutely should prioritize them and their caregivers, but that means vaccination will likely have a marginal effect on infection prevention at least through the end of February–and that’s being incredibly optimistic.

So it seems like the new normal is a weekly number of COVID-19 deaths that’s comparable to the number of D.C. traffic fatalities in all of 2019 (27), with the number of ‘long-haulers’ equal to five to ten times that number.

The inability to confront this carnage is both a failure of the state’s political system as well as most (not all) local journalism. The next two months are going to be awful, barring a miracle, but, apparently, D.C.’s local version of American Carnage is not worth covering or bothering elected officials about it.

Even as horrible as things are, 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.: What Comes Next? Because This Isn’t Working

  1. RGH says:

    Well, from what I can see in my neck of the woods, I WISH we had DC’s numbers. Ours are about double that for one-week-prevalence.

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