The State of COVID-19 in D.C.: It Has Become Worse. What Comes Next?

Just because we had an insurrection doesn’t mean that COVID-19 has stopped killing people. Prevalence has risen to horrifying levels–and this time there’s no excuse unlike March and April. 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% 4.8% 0.428% 4.5%
2 0.164% 3.5% 0.313% 3.6%
3 0.138% 3.3% 0.268% 3.5%
4 0.355% 7.8% 0.604% 6.7%
5 0.357% 6.9% 0.602% 6.1%
6 0.354% 5.4% 0.566% 4.9%
7 0.288% 7.4% 0.558% 7.6%
8 0.317% 7.1% 0.603% 6.4%
D.C. total 0.283% 5.1% 0.500% 4.8%

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. All wards are bad and have become worse in the last week, with Wards 1, 4, 5, and 6 getting hammered. These are almost certainly underestimates, as the percent positive rate is too high, especially in the hardest hit wards. We have had 23 deaths in the last week, but with the amount of cases we have had this week (and previous weeks), that won’t decline in any significant way for the next couple of weeks.

Needless to say, Insurrection Day didn’t help. D.C. is trying to get the National Park Service* to deny permits for federal property, in part to limit the spread of COVID-19. But the city is failing to do more. For context, from December 23 to January 15, the goal was to lower the prevalence of COVID-19, and restrictions were tightened somewhat.

This obviously has failed.

D.C. should ban all on-site dining, return to virtual schools, and shut non-essential businesses (i.e., everything other than supermarkets, pharmacies, and medical facilities). Even at this date, we still don’t understand exactly how spread works in D.C. (and elsewhere), but we are at break the glass levels, so it all has to go.

If not, we will kill 20-30 people, disproportionately Black, every week. Worse, given the delays in vaccine rollout along with the reality that many of our early doses are being administered to out-of-state medical and essential personnel, we can’t count on vaccination putting much of a dent into the death rate, never mind the mortality rate, for many weeks.

Even with this utter failure of governance–and it’s hard to understand why any of our current elected officials should be returned to office with this disastrous record–the good news, such as it is, is that we still could be only around six weeks away from returning to normal-ish, even though 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.

*Many parks in D.C. are federal parks, and the D.C. territorial government has no control over permitting. This even includes many glorified traffic circles such as Dupont Circle (the actual circle, not the neighborhood).

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