Mayor Critical of DC Council Budget Vote

Situational Update Report: July 8

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DC Hospital Association President Jacqueline Bowens urges residents to seek routine care as illnesses unrelated to COVID-19 rise. Screenshot: Facebook Live/Mayor Bowser

Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) criticized the DC Council’s first budget vote, which raised the gas tax by 10-cents per gallon and increased a tax on advertising during her Wednesday, July 8 situational update. Although these are intended to fund social programs, Bowser expressed concern about raising taxes when COVID-19’s long-term economic impact remains unknown.

DC Council had their first budget vote on Tuesday, July 7. A second budget vote is scheduled for Tuesday, July 21 before the budget is sent to Bowser.

Criticizing some councilmembers’ proposals to reduce the Metropolitan Police Department budget, Bowser said doing so would reduce “force strength” to 1990s-era levels and make the District “less safe.” Bowser’s comments come amid District-wide calls to defund the police and invest in community and educational programs. 

The council also passed an amendment transferring control over a contract for school security from MPD to DC Public Schools, which Bowser dismissed as a “shell game”. During the situational update, Bowser said she worries this decision will create an additional responsibility for DCPS administrators as they navigate reopening amid COVID-19, adding that managing a security contract is “not the best way to run schools.”

Importance of Preventative Care

Health experts urged residents to seek care for health issues unrelated to the coronavirus, stressing that hospitals and healthcare providers are equipped to safely treat non-COVID-19 patients. 

Comparing data from January to May 2019 with that from January to May 2020, DC Health Dr. Director LaQuandra Nesbitt said the District has seen a 40 percent increase in excess deaths. 

While 54 percent of those deaths are related to COVID-19, 46 percent are related to preventable conditions including pneumonia and influenza, cerebral vascular diseases, diabetes, cancer and overdoses. Nesbitt added that like in COVID-19 cases and deaths, Black and Latinx residents are over-represented in excess deaths unrelated to the coronavirus. 

While preventable conditions have not decreased among Washingtonians, 911 calls seeking treatment have, said Dr. Reginald Robinson, who holds a position on the Board of the Mid-Atlantic American Heart Association. 

“People are staying away from the hospital,” he said. “I’ve actually had to convince patients to get care.”

Robison said residents experiencing symptoms of a heart attack or stroke should immediately call 911, adding that stroke survivors and people with coronary heart disease and hypertension are among those most at-risk of experiencing COVID-19 complications. 

DC Hospital Association President Jacqueline Bowens said all DC hospitals are able to offer a full range of patient services, and residents should not delay routine care for risk of exposure to COVID-19. She added that primary care physicians and specialists are continuing to restructure offices, screen patients for COVID-19 and enforce mask wearing to reduce risk of transmission. 

“We cannot press pause on our health care,” Bowens said. “Don’t delay care. It could save your life.” 

The District reported 73 new COVID-19 cases and three additional deaths, bringing the total number of cases to 10,642 and the total number of deaths to 564 residents. 

More information on ways to seek healthcare treatment is available here

Eva Herscowitz is a journalism student at Northwestern University currently interning with Capital Community News. She writes for Northwestern’s student newspaper, The Daily Northwestern. You can reach her at [email protected]