Washington, DC, has not met the federal guidelines criteria for reopening after officials shut the nation’s capital down due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, the city’s Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) said this week, echoing a Breitbart News assessment.
During a press briefing on Wednesday, Dr. LaQuandra Nesbitt, the director of the DC Department of Health, presented a slide highlighting the “most-stringent” and “less stringent” plans to revive D.C.
In the “most-stringent” column, considered a worst-case scenario, D.C.would not be able to reopen for three months.
Under the “less-stringent” effort, which would be a best-case scenario, there would be “a phased-in approach to reopening in 2-3 months.”
One of the top hurdles preventing D.C. from opening back up is, in large part, the requirement of 14-days of a consistent downward trend in new coronavirus illness (COVID-19). They are just not there yet, despite some promising developments this week, including the ongoing improvements in testing and hospital capacity, and a short three-day drop in the average number of new cases this week.
In the official Reopen DC website that outlines the city’s plans to end the lockdown, the Bowser administration declared:
We now have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to thoughtfully build toward a more equitable, resilient, and vibrant city, but we will need to be measured, data-driven, and deliberate to ensure a safe and sustainable return.
“We want to get back to a new normal and not just the way things were,” Dr. LaQuandra Nesbitt, the director of the D.C. Department of Health, told reporters during a virtual town hall on Wednesday, without elaborating further.
Criteria and Timeline
To reopen, Dr. Nesbitt said:
We want to maintain or see a decrease in the number of new cases, seeing a decrease in the amount symptoms that people have for a two week period of time, but we also want to be mindful of how our hospital systems are tracking as well and making sure that we have the amount of personal protractive equipment [PPE] and that everybody who needs to be tested or has symptoms or has been close to people can get tested.
The Johns Hopkins University’s Public Health Principles for a Phased Reopening During COVID-19: Guidance for Governors, which echoes U.S. President Donald Trump’s plan, is guiding D.C.’s plans to bring the nation’s capital back to life.
As it stands now, the capital’s stay-at-home order will expire on May 15. D.C. needs more data to decide how long to extend the order, Nesbitt said.
D.C.’s plan focuses on tracking cases as a requirement to begin opening up, but it does not demand that hospitals “treat all patients without crisis care” like the White House’s plan. The D.C. government does not even report hospitalization data.
Cases, Fatalities, Hospitalizations
A Breitbart News analysis found that the actual number of deaths and cases, along with testing medical supplies, has continued to rise in D.C.
On Thursday, D.C. marked its deadliest day – with 19 new fatalities – since health officials announced the first coronavirus case in the city on March 7.
2/ DC reported 19 additional COVID-19 related deaths:
224 DC residents have lost their lives due to COVID-19. pic.twitter.com/8hWIb5i3zx
— Mayor Muriel Bowser #StayHomeDC (@MayorBowser) April 30, 2020
In a sign of good news, however, the hospitalization figures seemingly ignored by D.C. appear to have already hit a peak on April 22 and are steadily going down, the White House-touted Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) projected.
“We have lower levels of infection than we expected but we continue to see cases and growing cases, so we’re very very focused on making sure people are staying home,” Bowser told News4 this week.
“We’re not there yet,” she added Monday, referring to reopening.
“One of our criteria for reopening is, of course, to meet 14 days of sustained declines in cases. And you can see we are not there yet,” Bowser explained.
Bowser urged residents to continue following her administration’s mitigation strategies — stay home and practice social distancing.
DC Doesn’t Meet Criteria Yet for Reopening
Bowser reported a record 19 new fatalities on Thursday, bringing D.C.’s death toll to 233 as of Friday.
The mayor also revealed 217 new daily cases of the coronavirus illness (COVID-19) in the nation’s capital on Thursday, bringing the total number to 4,658 by Friday.
With 337 coronavirus deaths per million residents as of Wednesday, D.C. is well above the national average of 198 coronavirus deaths per million, Worldometer reported.
As of Friday morning, the 4,658 laboratory-confirmed cases in D.C. amount to about 5 percent of the 21,135 tests carried out across the city, the COVID Tracking Project revealed.
That is lower than the nearly 17 percent positive rate of the tests that health officials have administered across the United States as of Thursday.
Although the number of new daily cases fluctuates day-by-day, the 335 on May 1 more than doubles the 126 on April 17, again showing an increase in cases over the last 15 days.
The number of cumulative coronavirus cases has also increased dramatically by about 75 percent from 2,666 on April 17 to 4,658 on May 1.
It appears the increase in testing has prompted a substantial boost to the number of cases.
While the number of daily tests also fluctuates, it has increased by 36 percent, from 625 on April 16 to 850 yesterday, the COVID Tracking Project revealed.
D.C. had reportedly carried out 21,135 tests as of Friday, marking a nearly 67 percent increase from 12,643 on April 17.
The rate of positives from daily tests has slightly increased, from about 24 percent on April 16 to 26 percent on April 30. Meanwhile, current D.C. data suggest there are far more people testing negative than positive.
Bowser on Reopening: ‘We Are Not There Yet”
“One of our criteria for reopening is, of course, to meet 14 days of sustained declines in cases. And you can see we are not there yet,” the mayor explained.
Bowser urged residents to continue following mitigation strategies from her office.
“We have not begun to see a period of declines. So, it continues to be critical that D.C. residents stay at home and practice social distancing,” she said.
Bowser’s office has said the Johns Hopkins University’s Public Health Principles for a Phased Reopening During COVID-19: Guidance for Governors will guide its plans to bring the nation’s capital back to life.
The university’s guidelines for reopening mainly echoed the criteria in the White House’s “Open Up America Again” plan, with a few exceptions, including the phasing process.
According to Bowser’s office, D.C. is currently in Phase One of the university plan, dubbed the “Emergency Response.”
Unlike the White House plan, Phase One of the university guidelines does not allow for any reopening.
Before D.C. can proceed to Phase Two and begin its reopening, there must be a 14-day downward trajectory of cases, sufficient testing capacity, enough medical equipment, and adequate tracing capacity.
Bowser ordered all D.C. non-essential businesses to close on March 25. Less than a week later, she issued a stay-at-home order.