The State of COVID-19 in D.C.: A Tale of Three Cities

Or maybe two. Before we get to that, the entire city and all wards, with the exception of Wards 2 and 3, 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 0.074% 2.5% 0.168% 2.6%
2 0.023% 0.5% 0.077% 0.7%
3 0.038% 0.9% 0.076% 1.0%
4 0.074% 2.1% 0.160% 2.3%
5 0.092% 2.1% 0.240% 3.0%
6 0.088% 2.2% 0.184% 2.2%
7 0.187% 4.6% 0.390% 5.0%
8 0.168% 3.3% 0.385% 4.1%
D.C. total 0.092% 2.1% 0.208% 2.4%

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–and we’re still no near that in most wards.

The good news is all wards saw decreases in prevalence. Ward 2 had a huge decrease, and Wards 1, 4, 5, and 8 had large decreases. The percent positive rates were good in all wards (and extremely low in Ward 2), except in Wards 7 and 8 (as usual, unfortunately). R(t) bounced between 0.8 and 0.9, meaning we’re lowering the prevalence. And in more good news, deaths finally took a nose-dive, with only three in the last week: weekly deaths were far too high for far too long.

The reason I call the current state “A Tale of Three Cities” is due to vaccination and its effects. According to the CDC, 54.3% of those 18 and older have been partially or fully vaccinated. Remember that people vaccinated in the last two weeks won’t be protected at all, and those with one dose or who have had their second dose within two weeks will have good but not full protection against non-B.1.1.7 and other E484K COVID-19, and limited protection against B.1.1.7 and other E484K COVID-19 (in terms of avoiding disease and transmission; even partial dosing appears to prevent most hospitalizations). That means the number of currently ‘protected’ people is somewhat lower than 54.3%.

I think Wards 2 and 3 have had enough vaccination that it’s really affecting daily new positives*. Wards 1, 4, 5, and 6 are intermediate in terms of vaccination and are in a kind of middling position**. Unfortunately, Wards 7 and 8 probably haven’t had enough people vaccinated to really put a dent in the daily new positives data.

D.C. really needs to figure out a way to help get people to the vaccine. I don’t think hesitancy is the primary problem, it’s access. Bizarrely, we’ve seen a massive expansion in pharmacies offering the vaccine, especially in Northwest D.C., which would have been more useful a couple of weeks ago (and freed up some doses in Wards 7 and 8). Now I’m concerned that people in the low vaccine coverage areas won’t be able to get to these pharmacies which have available appointments***. There also needs to be a shift to local institutions and physicians and away from the mass vaccination centers to break down the access barriers.

Given these distribution problems (and I think the Biden administration could have offered more guidance here to states), D.C. shouldn’t relax restrictions further for the next couple of week since vaccination rates just aren’t where they need to be.

That said, if Wards 2 and 3 are any indication, there is a light at the end of this tunnel, hopefully by the beginning of June, even if too many people had to die to get there.

Anger is still the appropriate emotion.

*The D.C. government data only account for about 75% of vaccinated people. My very strong hunch–though it is just a hunch–is that the bulk of that ‘unknown’ 25% largely has wound up in Wards 2 and 3, and to a lesser extent in Wards 1, 4, and 6. What that would mean is that most of those eligible in Wards 2 and 3 (possibly 75%) have been or are in the midst of being vaccinated, which would really crush the curve. It’s frustrating since I’m pretty certain the CDC has the data at the zipcode level and could answer this question. The incomprehensibility and conflicting nature of the vaccine data released by D.C. doesn’t help either.

**Unclear if this is an averaging between well-off and low-income places in these wards.

***It’s not clear if someone with access problems in Ward 8 would be able to get to Dupont Circle, where there is now a surplus of appointments. Somehow, some way, that needs to happen.

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1 Response to The State of COVID-19 in D.C.: A Tale of Three Cities

  1. Pingback: The State of COVID-19 in D.C.: Getting Better, but Bowser’s New Guidelines Might Not Help | Mike the Mad Biologist

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