The State of COVID-19 in D.C.: The Vaccine Can’t Come Fast Enough, but Will It?

Before we get to D.C.’s vaccination issues, D.C. still seems to be in a plateau. The entire city and all wards, are still well above the German rollback threshold of 50 new cases per 100,000 per week–which also is the threshold the CDC suggests schools for all grades can reopen (0.05% in the second column below):

Ward one-week prevalence one-week % pos. two-week prevalence two-week % pos.
1 0.127% 3.0% 0.222% 2.6%
2 0.053% 1.4% 0.152% 1.6%
3 0.054% 1.5% 0.108% 1.5%
4 0.118% 3.4% 0.198% 2.8%
5 0.122% 2.7% 0.251% 2.7%
6 0.143% 3.5% 0.274% 3.2%
7 0.149% 4.1% 0.336% 4.3%
8 0.178% 4.0% 0.394% 4.1%
D.C. total 0.120% 2.9% 0.242% 2.8%

Wards 2, 7, and 8 saw large drops (Ward 2’s drop was massive), but Wards 7 & 8 still have high percent positive rates, so the prevalence is probably higher than the numbers indicate. Meanwhile Wards 1 and 4 saw massive spikes in new cases, and Ward 6 had a smaller spike–and all of these wards also saw their percent positive rates nudge into high territory. R(t) was high early in the week, but has since declined to around 1.0, which would be expected with virtual no change in prevalence. In the last week, D.C. has seen 14 people die, which is an increase.

Unfortunately, from the vantage of preventing COVID-19 spread, the weather has turned nice, so we’ll see a lot of people socializing a couple of feet away from each other without wearing masks (this includes the activity known as dining). This will not help matters. But seeing as the city, not to mention the country, essentially has given up on controlling the virus through any means other than vaccination, let’s turn our attention to the state of vaccination in D.C.

The end of last week and the weekend got all het up over various reports about vaccination woes. Without walking through some of the misreporting and misstatements by the various parties involved, it appears that only about 22% of the doses supplied by two federal programs, the Federal Retail Pharmacy Partnership and the Federal Community Health Center Partnership, have been used–though hopefully these numbers will get better later today, after D.C. updates the data. The Federal Community Health Center Partnership has used about 2,800 out of 5,600 doses. While that’s not optimal, these doses are specifically targeted towards hard to reach groups, and we shouldn’t expect vaccination rates to be particularly high.

The catastrophe is the Federal Retail Pharmacy Partnership, which is being administered through Giant Pharmacies (Giant is a regional supermarket chain). Here, it appears that only around 8,000 of 49,000 doses have been administered. Those 40,000 doses (assuming two doses are required) could completely vaccinate 3.5% of D.C. 18 years or older or partially vaccinate seven percent. Worse, the backlog means that D.C. isn’t getting more doses through this plan, so we’re missing out on vaccine doses.

The weekend drama involved Giant first claiming that the D.C. registration portal was the problem*, only to admit that they didn’t have enough personnel to administer the vaccine. By comparison, the socialized infrastructure D.C. uses for its state allocation administers over 85% of its received doses, better than either Maryland or Virginia.

D.C. will have to be creative here, and send some personnel to these pharmacies under the guise of being ‘Giant pharmacy interns’ to get these shots administered (and why CVS, which is the dominant pharmacy in D.C., isn’t involved at all is a mystery). Because right now, D.C. is on the knife’s edge, and could go either way. Yes, vaccinating the elderly will lower the mortality rate–though it hasn’t happened yet–but that won’t prevent ‘long COVID’ in unvaccinated people (or deaths, for that matter).

As usual, I’ll remind you that the good news is 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.

*This probably is an issue, but certainly can’t account for most of the doses.

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1 Response to The State of COVID-19 in D.C.: The Vaccine Can’t Come Fast Enough, but Will It?

  1. Pingback: The State of COVID-19 in D.C.: Cases Are Rising and Vaccination Mistakes Are Being Made | Mike the Mad Biologist

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