DCPS Begins Phased Reopening as Cases Surge

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Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) speaks about the rising COVID-199 cases during the Nov. 18 situational update. Screenshot: Facebook Live.

In the situational update Wednesday, Nov. 18, Mayor Bowser (D), DC Health Director LaQuandra Nesbitt and Director of Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency (HSEMA) Christopher Rodriguez spoke about the recent rise in COVID cases in the District. 

Today, the District reported 156 new cases of COVID-19 and five deaths as the DC Public Schools welcomed students back into classrooms for the first time this year.

Updates on Testing

Bowser emphasized the importance of taking precautions for the virus even as the District offers a “robust” testing system.  

“Getting tested doesn’t stop you from getting COVID,” Bowser said. “You still need to do everything you can do to avoid contact with the virus.”

The District is working to expand its testing abilities as record numbers of residents are seeking tests for the novel virus. Rodriguez said that while the number of residents getting tested has increased that there are still enough tests for anyone who needs one. 

“Right now we have no issue with testing materials,” Rodriguez said. “In talking with our laboratory contractor we don’t foresee having any issues at this time.”

Nationals Park (16 N Street SE) has been added as a new testing site and will be open Monday through Friday 2:30-7:30 p.m. Additionally, the District is expanding hours for its firehouse testing locations. Sites previously open from 3:00 p.m to 7:00 p.m. will be open from 2:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Morning and daytime sites (F Street, UDC-CC and Anacostia) will open half an hour earlier at 8:30 a.m. and continue to close at 1:00 p.m. Monday through Friday. All of these changes will go into effect on Monday Nov. 23. 

All of these changes will go into effect starting Monday Nov. 23. 

Following Thanksgiving, Engine 4 (531 Sherman Avenue NW), Engine 8 (520 C Street SE), Engine 10 (1342 Florida Avenue, NE) and Engine 31 (4930 Connecticut Avenue NW) will be open on Sunday Nov. 29 from 12:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. 

Also starting Monday, individuals with health insurance will be required to provide their information in order to get a test. Bowser said that this change was made in an effort to “make better use of District resources” as insurance companies are covering the tests. Individuals without insurance, however, are still able to get tested for free. 

“I want to be clear (that) anyone who needs this test will get this test for free,” Bowser said. “No one will be turned away and no one will be charged a copay.”

Economic Impact of the Virus

COVID-19 has also put a strain on the District’s economy with 56,400 jobs lost since Dec. 2019. More than 60 percent of these jobs came from the accommodation and food service, retail and entertainment industries. 

“We know that businesses right now are struggling,” Bowser said. “We also know that the days ahead can be significant for them too.”

Earlier this year, the DC Council passed the “Business Support Grants Emergency Amendment Act of 2020” to provide financial support to local businesses and aid in their pandemic recovery.

The Bridge Fund, which allows the District to provide up to 100 million dollars of financial support, offers an opportunity for the District to strategically invest to sustain these aspects of the economy and aid workers and businesses as the pandemic continues. 

Approximately 75 million dollars will be allocated to restaurants and hotels with an impact of over 800 District businesses, 20 million dollars for entertainment and 15 million dollars for retail businesses. Additionally, there is seven and a half million dollars set aside for equity and inclusion that will include businesses that are eligible to be a resident-owned business and a small business and either owned by 51 percent or more economically disadvantaged individuals or 51 percent or more owned by women. 

Flu Shots

Bowser also encouraged all District residents to get flu shots this year as DC Health partners with more than 25 pharmacies across DC’s eight wards to provide vaccines to the community. Next Monday, Nov. 23, is senior flu shot day where all seniors living in the District can receive a flu vaccine. Visit (dchealth.dc.gov) to learn more and to find your nearest vaccination site.

Sarah Payne is a History and Neuroscience student at The University of Michigan interning with HillRag. She writes for and serves as an assistant news editor for Michigan’s student newspaper, The Michigan Daily. You can reach her at [email protected]