D.C. is ringing the warning bells, saying that residents may be getting a little too lax with health safety guidelines at social gatherings, a warning that is being echoed across other parts of the region and the country.
Dr. LaQuandra Nesbitt, director of the D.C. Heath Department, said at a briefing Wednesday that the District has been conducting interviews with residents who have tested positive for COVID-19 to figure out what they were doing in the days before their diagnosis.
In almost 25% of cases, residents reported that they had attended a social gathering hosted by a close friend or family member just before testing positive.
Around 63% of those who attended social gatherings reported that health safety guidelines — such as wearing a mask, standing 6 feet apart and keeping outside when possible — were not properly followed.
“This suggests to us … that people are very comfortable with becoming relaxed when they attend gatherings that are hosted by their friends and family,” Nesbitt said.
“These are just some things that we want people to have top-of-mind when they are thinking about hosting social events or attending social events and gatherings — that it is critically important that we continue to adhere to the social distancing guidelines that we have advised.”
Nesbitt said that residents should wear a mask and maintain social distance when around anyone who is not part of their household, even if they are close friends or family members.
Other activities commonly reported by residents who tested positive for COVID-19: Almost 22% reported going to work, nearly 21% said they had been to a bar or restaurant and nearly 18% said they had traveled outside of the District.
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A vaccine that provides protection against COVID-19 is still potentially months away, but D.C. is beginning to lay out their plans for vaccine distribution in the city, officials said.
Nesbitt said when doses first become available and are in limited supply, D.C. will focus on getting those most in danger of serious illness inoculated first.
“Early on, there is going to be a need to reach the groups who are the most vulnerable in terms of their risk of morbidity and mortality, as well as their exposure to the virus,” Nesbitt said.
She also said that assuring people that the vaccine is effective and safe will be a high priority.
“We need to ensure that [residents] actually have confidence in the vaccine,” Nesbitt said. “So if we have identified them as a priority group for getting the vaccine when there are limited quantities available, that they actually want to get the vaccine.”
Open enrollment for DC Health Link begins in November
A “window shopping” period is set to begin in the District to allow residents to compare health plans that they may like to purchase when the open enrollment period begins on Nov. 1.
Residents can go to the DC Health Link website between Oct. 15 and Oct. 31 to see potential health plans.
Mayor Muriel Bowser noted that 97% of the District’s residents are insured.
With a Supreme Court battle looming about the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, Mila Kofman, executive director of the D.C. Health Benefit Exchange Authority, warned that more than 80,000 residents of D.C. would lose their health insurance as various protections disappeared.