I Don’t Think D.C. Will Reach Herd Immunity in Time

Obviously, I hope I’m wrong. Over the last week, very disturbing news came out of Missouri, where hospitals in low vaccination coverage regions of the state had to move patients to other parts of the state because they couldn’t handle the COVID-19 patient load. I expected this, but I really didn’t think it would happen for a few weeks.

Like it or not, these low prevalence areas do have consequences for D.C. What happens in Vegas Missouri doesn’t stay in Missouri (though Nevada is having problems too). Eventually, more transmission events will happen in the D.C. area due to visitors from somewhere else (’embers’). My original time frame was things would blow up in low vaccination states starting in late July and ‘expose’ D.C. around late August, early September as people return from vacations, start college, and so on, though recent outbreaks make me wonder if that timeline should be accelerated.

Nonetheless, I think the ‘drop dead’ date (pun intended) is August 15, plus or minus a few days. That’s when things are locked in as to vaccination (remember it takes two weeks after the first shot to have even partial protection against the various, erm, variants). Meanwhile, here’s where D.C. is as of June 27 regarding fully vaccinated people (D.C. releases ward-level data weekly):


Now, the good news, if it can be called that, is D.C. is missing specific location information on about twenty five percent of fully vaccinated people. The number of partially and fully vaccinated people is higher. To get that figure, increase the the percentages in the figure by fifty percent. That’s the good news.

The bad news is that my assumptions, well, assume the ‘missing vaccinees’ are distributed equally across all wards. To me, it seems likely that the wealthier wards, which already have higher vaccination rates, have a disproportionate share of the ‘missing vaccinees.’ On top of that, we’re really only increasing the percentage of people who are fully vaccinated (and partially vaccinated) by about 0.1% per day.

That’s not enough. By August 15, Wards 3, 4, and 6 will be in a very good position, especially if we assume they get some of those extra ‘missing vaccinees’, which is to say, close to 80% partially and fully vaccinated.

Ward 2 will probably be fine too, and it’s ‘effective’ rate might be higher right now because the denominator (i.e., total population) includes students at Georgetown and GWU who aren’t here–you can’t count people as vaccinated if they’re not here (i.e., vaccinated at home). This same phenomenon probably will help Wards 1, 3, 4, and 6 as well (Catholic, AU, Gallaudet, Howard). Ward 1 will probably be fine too as it’s vaccination rate is pretty good. Ward 5 might have some problems.

Wards 7 and 8, however, will be too low. Ward 7 might break fifty percent, though that’s a stretch, and Ward 8, at the current pace, won’t get close. Because elderly and middle aged people are getting vaccinated, we likely won’t see too many deaths, but we will see a rise in hospitalizations and ‘long COVID.’

And none of this would happen if people got vaccinated–or were ‘strongly encouraged’ to get vaccinated.

I hope I’m wrong. I hope vaccination rates pick up–and the FDA formally approving the vaccines would help. But if I’m not, then September, if not a bit earlier, could be bad, at least east of the river.

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