Travel, Gatherings Account for Most New COVID Cases

Situational Report: August 17

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Officials social distance at  Mayor Muriel Bowser’s (D) August 17 situational update. Screenshot: Facebook/Mayor Bowser

At Mayor Muriel Bowser’s (D) August 17 situational update, DC Health Director LaQuandra Nesbitt said DC Health is hiring an additional 175 contact tracers, bringing the force up to 450 employed tracers.

The department will implement the home visit component of its contact tracing program on August 20, visiting those who fail to complete interviews or are unable to be reached. Home visits will help potentially infected residents secure access to an isolation location, as well as walk residents through the quarantine process.  

Based on contact tracing data, Nesbitt said the District is seeing a high percentage of cases emerge from small gatherings of family and friends. These get-togethers, which typically consist of fewer than 10 people, may appear safer than mass gatherings but pose a significant risk, Nesbitt said. 

Of residents who attended small gatherings, the majority said they were not social distancing or wearing a mask the entire time. Infected people often display mild symptoms, Nesbitt emphasized, and should cancel plans if they experience any symptoms of COVID-19. Because 40 percent of people diagnosed with COVID-19 are asymptomatic, Nesbitt said wearing a mask is crucial. 

“It is not offensive to go to your friend’s home and sit on their porch and wear a facemask,” she said. “Take that as a sign you care about them.”

Nesbitt said a high proportion of cases are also coming from the workplace and travel. 

DC Health reported 53 new COVID-19 cases and no new deaths, bringing the total number of cases to 13,273 and the total number of deaths to 597. View COVID-19 data here

Ethics Review of Rashad Young 

On Saturday, Bowser requested an ethics review of Rashad Young, a former aide who discussed taking a job with Howard University months after negotiating a deal for tax breaks and public funding for a new hospital for the university, The Washington Post reported.

At today’s situational update, Bowser said she was informed of Young’s negotiations with Howard on July 31. Young left his position as DC city administrator Friday, August 14. Kevin Donahue, DC’s Deputy Mayor for Public Safety, will serve as interim city administrator.

Bowser said Young’s job should not affect his prior work with Howard University to build new hospitals replacing united Medical Center and Howard University Hospital, among other achievements. 

Shooting at Dubois Place

Bowser said there are no updates regarding an investigation of a shooting that killed 17-year-old Christopher Brown and injured 21 people last weekend. Metropolitan Police Chief Peter Newsham previously said an investigation into the MPD response is planned. Some criticized officers for not acting fast enough. 

Bowser said MPD is the only entity that has the ability to “sufficiently” respond to mass gatherings during the COVID-19 pandemic. She added that all District agencies should attempt to limit these events by contacting their organizers, repurposing public space and working with violence interrupters. 

USPS Crisis

In response to the Trump administration’s attacks on mail-in voting and the U.S. Postal Service, Bowser said she has “a lot of concerns” about the upcoming election. She said she intends to hold a meeting with representatives from the DC Board of Elections to discuss “unprecedented voter suppression efforts.”

Eva Herscowitz is a journalism student at Northwestern University currently interning with the Hill Rag. She writes for Northwestern’s student newspaper, The Daily Northwestern. You can reach her at eva@hillrag.com