Washington, DC is worst place for COVID-19 infections right now: NPR


A line of people wait for COVID-19 tests at a drop-in testing site hosted by DC Health in Farragut Square on December 23, a few blocks from the White House in Washington.

Jacquelyn Martin / AP


hide caption

toggle legend

Jacquelyn Martin / AP


A line of people wait for COVID-19 tests at a drop-in testing site hosted by DC Health in Farragut Square on December 23, a few blocks from the White House in Washington.

Jacquelyn Martin / AP

Washington, DC is experiencing a major pandemic wave, making it the most at-risk location for COVID infection in the country.

DC has seen an average of 1,192 new cases per day for the week and 169 cases per 100,000 people on Monday, according to data from the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University.

Despite relatively high vaccination rates, DC is seeing an increase due to several factors, according to Dr. Neil J. Sehgal, assistant professor of health policy and management in the School of Public Health at the University of Maryland.

“I suspect what we are seeing in DC is the collision of increased transmission opportunity due to district demographics, missed political opportunity to prevent transmission, and the dynamics of omicron transmission – so that vaccinated people are less likely to contract or transmit, with omicron both clearly occur, ”he told NPR.

Demographically, the DC region is younger than the rest of the country, with around 50% of the district’s residents between the ages of 20 to 49. Maryland and Virginia, which are experiencing a similar increase, have about 4 in 10 residents in the same age group.

“Before the vaccines were available, we learned that transmission in the United States was largely due to adults between the ages of 20 and 49,” Sehgal said. “People between the ages of 20 and 49 are simply more efficient in terms of transmission.”

This is thanks to an increased likelihood of working in person, a greater likelihood of transmission at home due to raising young children, and a greater chance of socializing outside the home, especially during the holidays, he said.

What actions is DC taking


COVID-19 test site manager Nardos Amare checks a patient for a COVID test outside the Benning Stoddert Recreation Center on December 23 in Washington, DC

Alex Wong / Getty Images


hide caption

toggle legend

Alex Wong / Getty Images


COVID-19 test site manager Nardos Amare checks a patient for a COVID test outside the Benning Stoddert Recreation Center on December 23 in Washington, DC

Alex Wong / Getty Images

Like many places across the country, finding a home COVID test in the district meant long lines. The city began distributing free test kits to residents ahead of the holidays as the number of COVID cases reached new highs, while offering on-site testing.

DC COVID-19 Public Test Sites are about to be closed on New Years Eve and New Years Day, but the city will continue to distribute test kits in some locations.

An indoor mask warrant would have helped reduce transmission before they got so bad, Sehgal said. But the city dropped the requirement in November (it had put in place a mask and a social distancing notice instead).

Sehgal said he and other health experts called on Mayor Muriel Bowser to reinstate the tenure when cases began to rise in the district just after Thanksgiving.

“We now know that omicron was operating alongside delta at that time, and the reluctance to keep reasonable, science-based precautions in place sowed the transmission we see today,” Sehgal said. “At this point, we were on the ‘flat’ part of the exponential growth curve, but with each infected person transmitting the virus to more than one other person on average, you can see how the cases would continue to rise.”

Now the city has again cracked down on mask and vaccine requirements. On December 21, the city reduced the mask’s mandate to at least January 31. At the time, Bowser said she had no regrets about giving up the mandate earlier and that “as the terms warranted, we changed our interventions, and we are changing them again.”

Starting January 15, DC businesses – including restaurants, bars, gyms and concert halls, and some meeting spaces – will need to ask customers 12 and older for proof of vaccination to enter. When the execution begins, customers will only need to show proof of a shot to enter. By February 15, two photos will be required for entry.

For the latest news on the coronavirus in the DC area, follow the coverage of the WAMU member station here.

Leave a Comment