The State of COVID-19 in D.C.: The Data Have Gone to Sh-t

Usually, I throw up a bunch of numbers about the prevalence and other data, and then discuss them. But looking at the data for this week, I can’t really trust the data. I’m not accusing anyone of malfeasance, but there’s no way to take seriously data when Ward 2, in the last week, recorded 452 cases, and Ward 8 recorded -5 cases.

No, minus five is not a typo or an error. It strains credulity to think that the two wards with the highest case counts, far and away, are Wards 2 and 3, when that is the exact opposite of everything we have ever seen for more than two years (Ward 2 blows everyone out of the water, but that’s likely because GWU and Georgetown University do lots of testing). If you essentially declare COVID ‘over’ and shut down a bunch of testing locations, well, you’re going to massively undersample, especially in lower-income areas.

Unfortunately, D.C. never decided to collect asymptomatic hospital patient intake data. At this point, we’re flying blind, so I guess we can just stick our arm the window and see how much COVID there is. The DCPS data in theory could give us something useful, but they’re released so infrequently, and lag by over a week, so they just don’t help much.

To be clear, I’m not angry at the people at DC Health who work within a crappy data collection system: this is a political failure. We simply aren’t collecting the data we need right now. As I’ve detailed many times, D.C.’s political leadership on the whole simply has been inadequate to the task at hand, and has treated the pandemic as something which can be argued out of, as opposed to a reality that must be confronted head on. So the state of COVID in D.C. is probably better than it was a few weeks ago–COVID ICU admits are down. But who really knows.

Meanwhile, no one in the local press corps has asked Bowser about long COVID (to the best of my knowledge). A couple of months ago, she deflected the issue by saying that D.C. was focused on lowering hospitalization and deaths. Well, since they already removed the vaccination requirement for many indoor activities a week ago and the mask requirement ends March 1, it seems time to ask the question again.

Anger is still the appropriate emotion.

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