COVID cases in DC tip over into ‘medium’ levels

Amid an uptick in COVID-19 cases that includes the mayor and other political VIPs, the number of new coronavirus cases in D.C. tipped over the line into “medium” territory this week for the first time since late January, according to District data.

But for now, D.C.’s COVID guidance — modeled on policies from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — remains the same, and that means whether to wear a mask indoors or around others will remain a matter of personal choice.

“We’ve always been very clear that we are still in a pandemic, right?” D.C. Health Director Dr. LaQuandra Nesbitt told reporters Thursday outside a maternal health summit when asked about the rise in the COVID-19 case rate. “And we want our residents to have the information that they need to make decisions.”



The number of new cases per 100,000 residents over the past week is slightly more than 200 cases, which is the threshold for “medium,” per the CDC.

Amid an uptick in COVID-19 cases that includes the mayor and other political VIPs, the number of new virus cases in D.C. tipped over the line into “medium” territory this week. (Courtesy DC)

However, the two other factors that make up the public health guidance are new COVID-19 hospital admissions over the past week and the percent of hospital beds occupied by COVID patients.

In D.C., both of those metrics remain very low.

“Right now, we don’t have any indication that individuals in the District of Columbia are experiencing more severe illness along with that increased weekly case rate,” Nesbitt said.

Referring to the upcoming holiday weekend, Nesbitt said, “For most District residents, you can still engage with your friends, with your family, without wearing a mask, especially for activities that are outdoors.”

People who may be at risk for severe illness who have chronic conditions or live with someone with a chronic condition may want to consider masking up if they’re participating in indoor activities “or in dense congregate settings,” Nesbitt said. “And as always, for folks who are immunocompromised, we always want to make sure that they are having a conversation with their personal health care provider in terms of when it is appropriate for them to wear a mask.”

Other steps you may want to consider?

“It’s always great to take a test before you’re getting together for those gatherings, especially as we go into a holiday weekend,” Nesbitt said.

And if you haven’t received your booster vaccine dose yet, “get boosted,” she said.

Currently, just 2% of hospital beds in D.C. are occupied with COVID patients, compared to more than 24% during the height of the omicron surge in January. It would have to rise to 10% to shift D.C. into “high” levels at which point CDC guidance recommends people wear face masks regardless of vaccination status.

Jack Moore

Jack Moore joined WTOP.com as a digital writer/editor in July 2016. Previous to his current role, he covered federal government management and technology as the news editor at Nextgov.com, part of Government Executive Media Group.

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