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Mayor Talks Testing, Flood Damage 

At Mayor Muriel Bowser’s (D) September 14 situational update, DC Health Director LaQuandra Nesbitt and Director of Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency (HSEMA) Christopher Rodriguez provided updates. As of Sept. 13, 30 new cases of the COVID-19 virus were reported within the District of Columbia with no deaths reported since Wednesday, Sept. 9. 

COVID-19 Testing Updates 

Bowser provided updates to locations and schedules for testing in the District. The mayor said that engine companies would now provide testing on alternate days throughout the week, rather than only in the first or second half.

“We have broken up those groups,” Bowser said. “So instead of being available Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday at the same stations, they’re now available Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and so forth for the engine companies that were available Thursday through Saturday.”

COVID-19 testing in the District decreased last week as a result of several weather events that forced centers to close early. Rodriguez said that these decreases do not reflect issues with testing capacity in the city.

“There are no there are no issues at this time with our testing capacity,” said the HSEMA Director,”[or with] our ability to test all those who come up and don’t have an appointment.”

Learn more about testing and view more COVID-19 data here.

Testing centers in the District. Screenshot: coronavirus.dc.gov

Sewage Flooding 

Bowser specifically addressed the flood damage in the Riggs Park and Edgewood neighborhoods and encouraged residents to visit dcwater.com to learn more about the rebate program and how to file claims for flood damage. 

Bowser expressed concern about these floods and sewage backups but said before immediate action is taken more research needs to be done by DC Water.

“(We need to) review that after action (report) so we know what exactly happened and what we can do to help prevent neighbors from going through what they experience,” Bowser said. “All of us can empathize and imagine how disturbing a situation [it] is to have water and sewage backup in your home.”

There are also COVID concerns linked to sewage issues. Many residents have expressed concern about recent reports raising the possibility of the COVID-19 virus spreading through sewage. Nesbitt addressed these concerns and reminded attendees of the primary risks associated with respiratory transmission of the virus. 

“I would not have concerns at this point that there is active virus that has the ability to transmit the virus in wastewater,” Nesbitt said. “Again, we need to be mindful that the primary mode of transmission of the SARS Leachman virus is through the respiratory particles.”

Internet for All and School Reopening 

Bowser reiterated the that  internet access is available at no cost to qualifying families in the District. 

“Last week, we announced that through this program 25,000 different families who qualify will get free high speed internet access,” Bowser said. “Eligibility includes households that are currently receiving SNAP and TANF benefits, and have a child enrolled in a DC public school or DC Public Charter School.” 

Bowser addressed concerns about the reopening of the schools in the District, her decision to push back the reopening and the concerns flagged by the DC Nurses Association. 

“The bottom line is that our employees will be asked to do their jobs in to serve the residents of the District of Columbia,” Bowser said. “And we are working very diligently to make sure that we can support conditions where they feel confident.” 

Lost Wages Assistance

As individuals express concern about unemployment and the federal unemployment benefits, District residents will get some assistance from the Lost Wages Assistance (LWA) Program. Federal officials approved District participation Sept. 8.

Bowser explained that the federal unemployment stimulus payments are an addition to what unemployed DC residents will receive. 

“I don’t want to call it a bonus payment, but it’s on top of traditional unemployment,” Bowser said. “That program expired at the end of July so now the president has come up with another executive program that taps into FEMA funds for lost wages and the loss of wages program will pay $300 if the state can show that it has already paid $100 or match or $100.”

National Maternal and Infant Health Summit 

Nesbitt said as a physician and “life-long learner” she is excited about the opportunity to engage more in continuing medical education in virtual conferences like The Maternal & Infant Health Summit, which will take place from Sept. 15 to 17. Faith Gibson Hubbard is Executive Director of the Thrive by Five initiative, which organized the conference together with the Mayor’s Office of Community Affairs, also spoke about the event citing that this year the number of RSVPs for the event have doubled totaling more than 6,500. 

“People are very, very excited,” Hubbard said. “It allows us to take the work that we’re doing here in the District of Columbia, the vision of the mayor, the work of Dr. Nesbitt at DC held out to the rest of the world in ways that we can show them that innovation is happening here in the District of Columbia. And it also allows us to engage with people who may have never made it to the convention center in the first place.”

Sarah Payne is a History and Neuroscience student at The University of Michigan interning with the Hill Rag. She writes for and serves as an assistant news editor for Michigan’s student newspaper, The Michigan Daily. You can reach her at sarahp@hillrag.com.

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