Test Site Closures Could Impact Contact Tracing

Situational Update: July 20

DC Health Director LaQuandra Nesbitt speaks at  Mayor Muriel Bowser’s (D) July 20 situational update.

With District COVID-19 testing locations closed due to a heat emergency, DC Health Director LaQuandra Nesbitt said she has “some concern” that reductions in testing will impede DC’s contact tracing efforts. During Mayor Muriel Bowser’s (D) July 20 situational update, Nesbitt said that residents in need of testing should contact their healthcare provider.

DC Health conducts around 40 percent of testing in the District, Nesbitt said. 

“Whether or not that full capacity is in [healthcare providers] today, I don’t want to emphasize it to that extent,” she said. “But there is some capacity that sits in our existing healthcare infrastructure.”

Around 2.6 percent of new COVID-19 cases in the District result from household transmission, Nesbitt said. She added that reaching a metric of 60 percent of new cases resulting from “quarantine contacts” would indicate progress toward containing the virus.

While cases in the District remain unconnected, clustered cases would signal reduced transmission, she said. As part of its contact tracing effort, the District is activating a COVID-19 home visit team with a focus on the “highest risk populations.” The team, which will begin work next week, aims to ensure people exposed to COVID-19 have the resources to self-isolate.  

Responding to concerns about delays in test results, Nesbitt said delayed results “impact” the District’s ability to develop a contact list for infected people, emphasizing that regardless of a delay people should quarantine immediately after getting tested. 

As of July 20, D.C. reported one death related to COVID-19 and 78 new positive cases, bringing the total numbers to 579 and 11,339, respectively.

Visit heat.dc.gov for more information on the heat emergency and cooling centers, and visit https://coronavirus.dc.gov/page/coronavirus-data for COVID-19 data. 

Budget Updates

Bowser said she has “some concerns” about the proposed budget cuts to the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) that DC Council approved last week. Although Bowser’s initial budget proposal increased money for MPD, the Council reduced this sum by $9.6 million, capping MPD’s budget at $568 million.

City Administrator Rashad Young said cutting the number of MPD personnel without increasing “force strength” would place “pressure” on a smaller MPD to police the District. Bowser added that a reduced force may increase overtime costs. 

Gun Violence

Bowser said she expects to further discuss District strategies to prevent gun violence in the coming days. Homicides in the District are up by 20 percent over the last year. On Sunday, one person was killed and eight were injured in a shooting in Columbia Heights. 

“We’re too high, and we have an increase over last year,” she said. “That trajectory doesn’t look good.”

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 [email protected]