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District Transmission Increases as Test Results Delayed

DC Health Director Dr. LaQuandra Nesbitt said the District-wide turnaround time for COVID-19 test results is currently around 3.87 days. That metric comes in response to reports from residents who say their test results have taken up to seven days to be returned. 

Delays in testing come as the District reports an increase in the rate of transmission, or the number of people infected per case. The rate has been above 1 since June 28, an increase that began in mid-June. The transmission rate was 1.12 for July 3 and 1.06 for July 4, the last dates the data was reported.

Responding to concerns about delays in receiving results from District-administered COVID-19 tests, Nesbitt said that there was not currently plans to re-introduce priority testing. “You’ll recall that we used to present to you all a priority list, and no one really grasped that,” Nesbitt told reporters at the July 16th situational update. “Now we communicate to people: if you need a test, get a test. The diagnostic tests that are widely available are intended for people who have a reason who need to be tested,” she said.

Nesbitt said that people going for testing in the District are usually those who have symptoms of COVID-19 or who are asymptomatic, but have a known exposure. When people get tested out of curiosity but with no known exposure or symptoms, they strain the system, Nesbitt added, increasing wait times and placing those people with identified need behind them in the queue.

Graph tracking rates of transmission in the District. The District wants to have 5 consecutive days less than 1. https://coronavirus.dc.gov/page/coronavirus-data Screenshot: 3:30 p.m. July 16

No Activities Identified as Cause of Rise

Nesbitt said that DC Health cannot identify clusters of infection associated with particular locations or venues, making it difficult to make recommendations on specific activities or sectors. “We have indoor dining, we have personal care services, we have a host of activities –none of which at this time are rising to the top on our radar at DC Health,” she said.

DC Health will continue to examine the data to see if there are specific interventions are needed. At this time, Nesbitt said, cases are widespread across the District with no real sense of connectivity.

Nesbitt said that while the world awaits a vaccine, there are measures that everyone can and should take to fight the spread of COVID-19. “When you’re going out, ask yourself as the Mayor says: do I really need to be there? Do I really need to go? and if you do, you need to wear a face mask,” she said. “You need to keep 6 feet of distance from people who aren’t in your household. If you don’t feel well don’t go to work. We need people to still be making those types of decisions.”

As transmission in the District increases, Nesbitt said DC will release “additional guidance” on mask wearing in “the coming days.” The District currently requires people to wear a mask inside businesses and when social distancing is impossible. Updated guidance could be issued by tomorrow morning, Bowser’s Chief of Staff and Acting Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development John Falcicchio said after the conference.

DC has seen the highest COVID-19 caseload in weeks. Data from Wednesday, July 15 indicates 50 new positive cases and three additional deaths, bringing case and death totals to 11,076 and 574, respectively. 

More information about COVID-19 data is available here

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

Elizabeth O’Gorek is the General Assignment Reporter for the Hill Rag. You can reach her at Liz@hillrag.com

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