Why Isn’t D.C. Releasing Its Information About the Delta COVID-19 Variant?

And so there’s no confusion, I’m referring to D.C., not Wor-Shing-Tun. More than a few people noticed this paragraph in a Washington Post story:

The District has sequenced every positive coronavirus test sample for the past few weeks, D.C. health director LaQuandra Nesbitt said, but city officials have declined to say how many delta cases have been identified in the city.

There is no technical reason for this. D.C. Health knows how to do sequencing–I heard a virtual online talk a few weeks ago by Anthony Tran, the former director of D.C.’s Public Health Laboratory, and D.C. can do the sequencing. In terms of analysis, the C.D.C. has bioinformatics experts on call for state and local public health labs. There also are online tools (e.g., the web version of Pangolin) that can be used easily for variant typing.

There could be some concerns about sampling, in that the samples aren’t a ‘representative’ sample, but that’s the case for virtually all COVID-19 sequencing/typing in the U.S. So why hasn’t the D.C. government released these data?

I can’t help but think back to November 2020, when the city had had six weeks of non-stop growth, culminating in blowing by the ‘red line’ threshold in early to mid-November and then skyrocketing in late December and January.

And the city did nothing (and the Council said nothing) for six weeks in November and December. It’s not hyperbole to assume this delay and the resulting increase in COVID-19 spread likely killed at least two hundred people: for context, that’s more than a bad homicide year in a few months. It was clear that the Mayor’s office and the Council were too timid and gormless, too afraid of shutting things down, too afraid of angering businesses.

Given that murderous track record–one which should lead most of D.C.’s elected officials to resign (but won’t)–I think it’s likely Bowser et alia don’t want to release these data because they would be forced to do something (Bowser likes painting stuff on streets and enriching ‘the Green Team’; hard decisions, not so much). Delta variant rates comparable to those in Maryland and Virginia (according to the Washington Post, Delta is at around ninety percent of samples) would put pressure on the city to reinstate masking and get far more serious about ‘encouraging’ D.C. residents to vaccinate–not the happy talk approach, but some very mild coercion (admittedly, this isn’t something the Biden administration wants to do either–timid moderates will kill us).

This is not something the Mayor or the Council want to do. Given their past performance, I see no reason why one should assume good intentions and not bad ones, when hard decisions, especially those that might be perceived as coercive, need to be made.

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